By Kyle Shohara
The Ducks find themselves in the city known as “Smashville” tonight to take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. This kick-starts a five-game road trip through the Central Division, which continues with stops in Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis.
Word from the morning skate is that Anton Khudobin is expected to get the start in net tonight for Anaheim. Khudobin, of course, helped the Ducks to their first win of the season on Sunday in a 34-save performance against the Wild. The 29-year-old made his Anaheim debut on October 14 vs. Arizona, but was relieved by Frederik Andersen after giving up three goals on eight shots in a 4-0 loss.
Veteran goaltender Pekka Rinne will be in the cage tonight for Nashville. The normally reliable netminder had his troubles with Anaheim last season, going 0-2-0 with a 4.16 goals-against average in those two games.
“Anaheim is just a solid team,” Rinne said. “They have a lot of size and play a physical game. They want to play that puck possession game. It plays to their strength. Their record isn’t great, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re an extremely dangerous – and experienced – team. It’s going to be a good matchup.”
Nashville enters tonight’s game with a 5-1-0 record, including a 3-0-0 mark on home ice. In their most recent game, the Predators erased three one-goal leads by Tampa Bay to send the game to overtime and an eventual shootout, where Filip Forsberg scored the winner to give the Preds a 5-4 victory.
This is only the second time in franchise history that the Predators have won five of their first six games to start a season (6-0-0 in 2005-06). Nashville is also getting scoring throughout its lineup, with 16 different players recording at least one point through the first six games. Pacing the Preds is James Neal (5-2—7) and the aforementioned Forsberg (2-4—6). Elite defensemen Roman Josi (2-3—5) and three-time Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber (1-3—4) pace the backend in point production.
“There is no weak hole on that team,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “Their speed and overall gameplay is really good. They get a lot of offense from their defense, which makes them more dangerous.”
Carl Hagelin is familiar with Predators bench boss Peter Laviolette from his time in the Eastern Conference. The former New York Ranger says Laviolette (who previously served as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2009-14) emphasizes speed and movement as a five-man unit. “The whole team is usually involved in all the plays,” Hagelin said. “You can see the D joining the rush a lot of the time. They like to go low to high in the offensive zone, and use their heavy shots on the blueline.”
Andrew Cogliano is one game shy of 300 as a Duck and 628 overall. The NHL’s reigning Ironman has never missed a game in his NHL career dating to Oct. 4, 2007 with Edmonton. Only two players in NHL history have played more games to start their careers: Doug Jarvis (the NHL’s all-time Ironman with 964 consecutive games played from 1975-88) and Andy Hebenton (second with 630 consecutive games from 1955-64). Cogliano is just the eighth player in NHL history to have a consecutive games streak of 600 of more.
The 28-year-old is three games away from tying Hebenton for seventh place on the all-time consecutive games played list.