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Devils aim to continue improved play vs. Predators

by Corey Masisak

PREDATORS (8-6-2) at DEVILS (4-7-5)


Last 10: Nashville 5-3-2; New Jersey 4-4-2

Season series: This is the first meeting between the Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils since Oct. 15, 2011, a span of 142 regular-season games for each team. It won't take as long for the next meeting, which will be Jan. 31 in Nashville.

Big story: These teams have faced each other seven times since the advent of the shootout, and four times have needed the format to decide a winner. That could be a problem Sunday. Nashville and New Jersey have no goals in 22 combined attempts in the shootout this season.

Team Scope:

Predators: It has been a wild ride since Pekka Rinne was lost to hip surgery. Nashville has won three of the six games without its world-class goaltender, including impressive victories against the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche.

There have also been some serious lows. The St. Louis Blues beat the Predators 6-1 on Oct. 26, and the Winnipeg Jets cruised past them 5-0 on Friday. Carter Hutton has made eight appearances this season. He has four great games (a .921 save percentage or higher) and four not-so-great ones (.871 or lower).

Devils: New Jersey has played better since losing the first seven games of the season, but the Devils are still struggling to score goals. They have four in the past four games and began the day Saturday tied for 28th in the League at 1.88 per contest.

Goalie Martin Brodeur is expected to start for the ninth time this season, which would be one more than Cory Schneider (though he missed a couple of games with an injury). Brodeur posted his League-record 122nd shutout Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Predators are among three teams he has never blanked in his career. The San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers are the others.

Who's hot: David Legwand leads the Predators with 14 points this season, and seven have come in the past four games. Rookie defenseman Eric Gelinas has four points in his first seven NHL games, including one in each of the past two contests.

Injury report: Rinne (hip) reportedly could end up missing two months, which puts his return near Christmas. Forward Matt Hendricks (upper body) and Mike Fisher (lower body) missed the game against the Jets, though Hendricks reportedly hopes to play against New Jersey. … Devils forwards Patrik Elias (back) and Ryane Clowe (head) and defenseman Bryce Salvador (foot) are on injured reserve. Rookie defenseman Jon Merrill (face) has not played since his NHL debut Nov. 3 after crashing into the boards awkwardly.

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