A solid defensive performance highlighted the Nashville Predators' latest victory. They could have similar results against a team that has struggled to score all season.
The Predators seek their second straight win as they host the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
Nashville (5-4-1) ranks among the highest-scoring teams in the NHL, scoring at least three goals in nine straight games and tallying 35 overall. That success, however, has been countered by a defense that has yielded 36 goals.
But the Predators played solidly during a 3-1 home victory over Edmonton on Thursday. Shea Weber contributed a goal and an assist, and Ryan Suter added two assists as backup Pekka Rinne - starting in place of the injured Dan Ellis (back) - made 27 saves to help Nashville collect at least a point for the third straight game (2-0-1).
"We still had a few breakdowns, but we were much better than we had been for the 60 minutes," coach Barry Trotz told the Predators' official Web site. "I thought we did a great job, which hasn't been the case all the year."
Weber has four goals and is second on the team with 11 points, while Suter is fifth with eight points. They lead a defensive unit that has accounted for nine of the Predators' goals this season.
Ellis was hurt in Tuesday's shootout 4-3 loss at Washington could have played Thursday, but Trotz went with Rinne as a precautionary measure. It is unclear which goaltender will start Saturday, but neither has much experience versus Florida (4-5-0).
Rinne has never faced the Panthers, while Ellis - 4-4-1 with a 3.28 goals-against average in nine games this season - made 24 saves in a 4-3 home victory on Oct. 27, 2007.
It likely won't matter which netminder Nashville starts as Florida hasn't been generating much offense much lately.
Among the lowest-scoring teams in the Eastern Conference with 20 goals, the Panthers have been outscored 6-1 and outshot 62-43 en route to losing back-to-back contests for the first time this season.
Keith Ballard was responsible for the only goal in that stretch, notching a first-period power-play tally in a 2-1 loss to visiting Ottawa on Thursday. Ballard, a defenseman, leads Florida with seven assists and is tied with Cory Stillman for the scoring lead with nine points.
"You're not going to win in this league with one goal," Panthers first-year coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got some injuries up front, but, hey, at the end of the day, you've got to score to get points in this league."
Stillman leads the Panthers with five goals, but has failed to register a point in his last two games. He has a goal and seven assists in his last five games against Nashville dating back to March 4, 2003.
The Panthers' official Web site reported that backup goaltender Craig Anderson would start on Saturday. He is 2-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA in seven all-time starts versus the Predators, and 1-1-0 with a 2.51 GAA in the three games he started in place of Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 29 shots on Thursday.
Florida won the first four games in the all-time series against Nashville, but has since gone 1-2-1 with three ties.
|G. De Vries||11||1||0||1||-5||12||0||0|