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Devils receive challenge from surging Predators

by Mike G. Morreale /
PREDATORS (16-8-6) at DEVILS (9-19-2)


Last 10:
Nashville 7-1-2; New Jersey 4-6-0

Season series -- This is the first and only meeting of the season between the teams. The clubs split two games in 2009-10. The Devils earned a 5-2 victory in New Jersey on Feb. 12 when Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first goal as a Devil to snap a 2-2 tie at 8:24 of the third period; the Predators came away with a 3-2 shootout decision in Nashville on Nov. 19.

Big story -- The Predators won their fourth straight and seventh in their last eight (7-0-1) on Wednesday following a 3-2 victory over San Jose in Nashville. During their four-game streak, Nashville has received 12 goals from 11 different players, including two apiece from Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn. While goalie Anders Lindback missed his chance at notching his third straight shutout, he still made 25 saves against the Sharks and improved his record to 5-0-1 since taking over for injured starter Pekka Rinne (knee). Lindback, who will likely be matched against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur on Friday, is 8-1-2 overall.

Team Scope:

Predators --
Nashville's penalty kill has been a thing of beauty in the month of December. The Predators stopped the Islanders on all three of their power-play attempts in a 5-0 victory on Dec. 13 and have been perfect in 12 of the last 14 games and 14 of the last 17 dating back to Nov. 11. The Predators have killed 48 of the last 50 power plays faced, a 96-percent success rate. For the season, coach Barry Trotz has him team working at an 85.6-percent success rate on the PK, fifth-best in the League.

Devils -- Left wing Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice Wednesday to record his first multiple-goal contest in 61 games as a Devil, including playoffs, in a 3-0 victory over Phoenix. Kovalchuk now has 7 goals for the season -- his career low was 29 as a rookie in 2001-02. In addition to Kovalchuk's offensive outburst, Brodeur was the defensive catalyst, notching his third shutout of the season and the 113th of his career with 29 saves.

Who's hot --
Kostitsyn is riding a career-high seven game points streak (3 goals, 6 assists), marking the longest by a Predators' player this season. … Devils center Travis Zajac is finally beginning to heat up with 5 assists and 6 points over the last five games.

Injury report --
The Devils are without defensemen Mark Fraser (broken hand), Bryce Salvador (concussion) and Matt Taormina (high ankle sprain) and forwards Zach Parise (knee surgery) and Jacob Josefson (thumb). … Rinne (knee) and forwards David Legwand (lower body) and Matthew Lombardi (concussion) are still out for Nashville. Hornqvist was a late scratch against San Jose on Wednesday with an undisclosed upper-body injury and is day-to-day.

Stat pack --
The Devils have scored a League-low 36 even-strength goals in 30 games. They've scored one or no goals in 15 of those contests and two goals or less in 23 while averaging a League-low 1.80 goals per game.

Puck drop --
When asked if there was any significance to earning the 113th shutout of his career on Wednesday following a 3-0 victory over Phoenix, Brodeur said, "I guess we'll just keep climbing to make it harder on the guys behind me."

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