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Front-running Predators host struggling Devils

by Robby Stanley

DEVILS (21-25-9) at PREDATORS (37-12-6)


NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne will try to add to his NHL-leading 32 wins against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.

Rinne is 13-1-1 in his past 15 games and leads the League with a 1.99 goals-against average. His 32 wins in 41 games played have made coming to the rink every day a fun experience.

“You can’t deny when you’re winning, it is fun,” Rinne said. “The way we are playing as a team, I think that’s fun. Getting results and playing with confidence, I think that’s what makes this game fun, and it’s fun to come to the rink every game and practice days. It makes a big difference.”

The Predators are 23-3-1 at home and have won 12 of the past 13 games here. They won 19 games at home last season.

“We have really good fans,” Rinne said. “They’re loud, always behind us and supporting us. That makes a difference. Obviously the rink is familiar with us. We practice here, and we try to make it a tough place to play against. You try to establish that right away in the beginning of the season, and we were able to do that.”

Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm will return to the lineup against New Jersey after missing two games with an upper-body injury.

“I got a little headache after the game in Florida, and we’ve been through the protocol that the League requires,” Ekholm said. “I feel good right now, so I’m excited to get back.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette tweaked his forward lines at the morning skate. He said he wants to see more offensive zone time and hopes the different line combinations will make that happen.

“Maybe a little bit more of an attack and just a different look,” Laviolette said. “We’ll monitor it as the game goes on, but I think just trying to get back to a game that tilts a little bit more toward the offensive zone.”

Nashville forward Filip Forsberg has four goals and seven assists in the past 11 games and set a franchise record for goals in a season (19) by a rookie (Alexander Radulov had 18 in 2006-07).

New Jersey lost 3-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday at United Center. Defenseman Peter Harrold scored the only goal for New Jersey, and goaltender Cory Schneider made 32 saves.

Jaromir Jagr leads the Devils in scoring with 29 points on the season. Jagr’s ability to produce offensively at 42 years old has earned respect from his opponents.

“It just shows how dedicated you have to be, how much you have to love the game,” Rinne said. “Just willing to put your body in the best shape as possible just to be able to take that load, it takes a special guy like Jagr.”

Here are the projected lineups:


Adam HenriqueScott GomezSteve Bernier

Patrik EliasTravis ZajacJordin Tootoo

Tuomo RuutuMike CammalleriJaromir Jagr

Dainius ZubrusJacob JosefsonMichael Ryder

Andy GreeneAdam Larsson

Jon MerrillMarek Zidlicky

Eric GelinasPeter Harrold

Keith Kinkaid

Cory Schneider

Scratched: Martin Havlat, Mark Fraser

Injured: Stephen Gionta (hand), Damon Severson (ankle), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Ryane Clowe (concussion)


Colin WilsonMike RibeiroJames Neal

Matt CullenMike FisherCraig Smith

Filip ForsbergCalle JarnkrokTaylor Beck

Eric NystromPaul GaustadGabriel Bourque

Roman JosiShea Weber

Anthony BitettoSeth Jones

Mattias EkholmVictor Bartley

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Viktor Stalberg, Olli Jokinen, Anton Volchenkov

Injured: Ryan Ellis (lower body)

Status report: New Jersey did not hold a morning skate. … Nashville went with new combinations on all four lines at the morning skate. … Rinne was the first goalie off the ice for Nashville and is expected to start. … Ellis participated in morning skate for the first time since being injured on Jan. 8 against the Dallas Stars.

Who’s hot: Harrold has one goal and one assist in his past three games. … Forsberg has 11 points in the past 11 games and leads all rookies with 50 points on the season.

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