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Ducks bookend four-game homestand for Predators

by Brian Hunter
DUCKS (16-17-7) at PREDATORS (24-14-3)

Last 10: Anaheim 5-4-1; Nashville 6-3-1

Season Series:
Second of four meetings this season. The teams will meet again at the Sommet Center in Nashville one week from Saturday. Jonas Hiller turned in a sparkling, 40-save effort for his fifth career shutout and Teemu Selanne scored twice as Anaheim won 4-0 at the Honda Center on Nov. 5.

Big Story:
Nashville enters the new year 10th in the League with a 2.78 goals-against average, impressive for a franchise that ranked 24th in that category last season and got off to a slow start offensively in October, being shut out four times in its first 14 games.

Martin Erat, who leads the Predators with 14 goals, is currently out with a knee injury, but they still scratched and clawed their way to a 2-1 overtime win in Columbus on New Year's Eve, keeping within six points of Chicago in the Central Division. They begin a four-game homestand that will see Calgary and Carolina also come to town before Anaheim makes a second visit to close it out.

Team Scope:

Ducks: It won't be an easy task making up a 10-point deficit and climbing over at least five other teams to get back into the playoff picture, but that's the task staring Anaheim in the face over the next three-plus months. The Ducks were victimized by Loui Eriksson's hat trick in a 5-3 loss to the Stars on Thursday, as two goals by Saku Koivu and another by rookie sensation Dan Sexton weren't enough for a victory.

"We're this far into the season and we keep repeating the same answers in situations like this," captain Scott Niedermayer said. "A lot of it is done to ourselves. Simple mistakes that we talk about pretty much every day about how to play, how we want to defend and those types of things. We keep straying from it."

Predators: Even when it wasn't looking like Nashville's night against Columbus on Thursday, the Predators continued to believe. And why shouldn't they have, considering their uncanny knack for success against the Blue Jackets in recent years. Sure enough, Andreas Thuresson scored his first NHL goal with 7:21 left in the third to tie the score and David Legwand netted the winner 28 seconds into overtime. The 2-1 victory gave Nashville a 22-2-1 record against Columbus over the last four years.

"I knew we were going to be able to get one (goal) at some point if we just stayed with it long enough," a confident coach Barry Trotz said.

Who's Hot:
Koivu has two goals and two assists in his last two games for the Ducks. Sexton has recorded six goals and five assists in 13 games since being called up. Bobby Ryan, named to the U.S. Olympic team Friday, has three goals and two assists in his last three games.

The Predators will need balanced offense with Erat out, and they've received just that with six different players scoring goals in wins over St. Louis and Columbus. Forward Joel Ward (one goal, two assists) and defenseman Shea Weber (three assists) led the way.

Injury Report:
Selanne remains out for Anaheim following surgery on his left hand. Forward Joffrey Lupul had back surgery and joins him on injured reserve. Forward Ryan Getzlaf (lacerated right leg) and defenseman Steve Eminger (flu-like symptoms) are day-to-day.

Nashville will be without Erat for the next 7-10 days. Defenseman Kevin Klein (head) is day-to-day. Forwards Jerred Smithson (broken hand), Jordin Tootoo (broken foot) and Colin Wilson (groin) are all on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
The Ducks have won the last three meetings with the Predators dating back to last season. … Erat tied a Nashville franchise record with 10 goals in December.

Puck Drop:
"You always want to end the year on a winning note. To go into the new year with that same momentum is big for us," Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis said after making 31 saves against Columbus. "We've got a big homestand coming up. We want to be hitting on all cylinders."

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