DUCKS (18-19-7) at PREDATORS (26-15-3)
Anaheim 5-5-0; Nashville 6-4-0
Third of four meetings this season and the second visit by Anaheim to Nashville in as many Saturday nights. The Predators won 3-1 last Saturday as Jason Arnott scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period. The Ducks won the lone meeting so far as Honda Center, as Jonas Hiller
authored a 40-save shutout in a 4-0 victory on Nov. 5.
Anaheim hopes to welcome back a key piece to the puzzle in veteran sniper Teemu Selanne, who has missed 17 games after breaking a bone in his left hand. Selanne still ranks third on the Ducks with 14 goals and is tied with Bobby Ryan
for the team lead with seven power-play goals.
"I'm expecting to play tomorrow," Selanne said after taking part in Friday's practice. "Let's see what happens. I'm very excited. It's been a long time since I played last. It's good to be back and it's going to be fun."
Since Selanne was hurt in a Dec. 3 loss to Dallas, Anaheim has gone 8-6-3 -- not a bad showing without one of their top players, but only enough to lift the Ducks into 12th in the Western Conference, 10 points behind Los Angeles for eighth. Ryan, named to the U.S. Olympic team for the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver, has averaged a point per game in Selanne's absence. That includes nine goals, including the game-tying tally in the third period Thursday of what became a 4-2 win over the Blues.
"Teemu is a 30-goal scorer, who is always tough to replace," Ryan said. "When Getz [Ryan Getzlaf
] went down [for four games recently], that was another 100 points and 20-plus goals. I feel like everybody needs to step up and contribute in ways. I've always felt that the best way I can contribute is to shoot and ask questions later."
It's anticipated Nashville will also get a big contributor back Saturday, as forward Martin Erat
looks to return from a knee injury that cost him four games. Erat was leading the Predators with 14 goals when he got hurt -- the red-hot Patric Hornqvist
is now two ahead of him. Erat's 27 points are one behind Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont for the team lead. Sullivan might take his place on the injured list after leaving Thursday's game against Carolina following a hit from behind by Andrew Alberts.
"You look down the bench and there's not a lot of veteran presence any more,'' coach Barry Trotz told the Tennessean in regards to the team's recent injury woes. "But the young guys are giving you what they've got. Those guys had good schooling in Milwaukee and now they have to step up and play more determined roles.''
Anaheim rookie Matt Beleskey
has scored in consecutive games, his first NHL goals. Forward Saku Koivu
has a goal, three points and a plus-5 rating in his last two games. Hiller has allowed two goals or less in eight of his last 10 starts.
Hornqvist has 10 goals in the last 12 games for Nashville. Defenseman Shea Weber
has a goal and seven assists in his last five games. Sullivan has a goal and three assists during a three-game points streak.
Assuming Selanne is back in the lineup, that will leave forward Joffrey Lupul as the only Ducks player still out. Lupul had back surgery in December and is likely out for at least another month.
Game time will determine if Erat and/or Sullivan take the ice for the Predators, in addition to forward Joel Ward, who has been day-to-day with a wrist injury. Forwards Jordin Tootoo
(broken foot) and Jerred Smithson
(broken hand) are on injured reserve.
Selanne has scored nine goals and averaged an assist per game in his last 13 meetings with Nashville. … Arnott finished with three points and a plus-3 rating in last Saturday's game against Anaheim.
"I'm expecting a lot from this team in the second half and so is everybody else," Selanne said. "There is a mission right here, right now."