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Preview: Predators at Penguins

Kris Letang could return for Pittsburgh; Nashville hoping to continue strong play

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

PREDATORS (24-17-8) at PENGUINS (30-13-5)

7 p.m. ET; ROOT, FS-TN, NHL.TV

 

Predators team scope

The Nashville Predators will attempt to carry their strong play from before the All-Star break into their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. The Predators won four of their final five games (4-0-1) before the break, partially because of goalie Pekka Rinne. Before allowing three goals on 33 shots in a 4-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 26, Rinne surrendered fewer than three goals in seven of his previous eight appearances. He is 19-12-6 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 37 games. The Predators' offense also has ignited. Since being shut out 1-0 against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 17, they have scored at least four goals in four of their past five games. "We're just playing the right way," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "I think guys have bought in and we're gelling well in our team as well." Defenseman Roman Josi likely will miss his eighth straight game because of an upper-body injury. He was injured in the first period of a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins on Jan. 12. Predators coach Peter Laviolette said he has been impressed with his players' response to various injuries this season. "We've picked up guys off of waivers and stuff just to cover ourselves from an injury standpoint," Laviolette said. "I think whoever's been in there has done a pretty good job. It's allowed us to look at young players. It's allowed us to look at players in different positions."

 

Penguins team scope

The Penguins could have defenseman Kris Letang back Tuesday, but will play a second straight game without forward Evgeni Malkin. Coach Mike Sullivan said Malkin is making progress in his recovery from a lower-body injury. Malkin, who is three assists shy of 500 in his NHL career, had been the Penguins' most consistent offensive contributor before the injury with eight goals and nine assists in his past 13 games. "We're encouraged with where he's at," Sullivan said. "We're hopeful he'll get on the ice here soon and that's the next step." Sullivan labeled Letang a game-time decision. He hasn't played because of lower-body injury sustained Jan. 14. "You don't want to pace yourself," Letang said. "You want to go as hard as you can go and build your conditioning." After a resurgent 2015-16 season, Letang has missed 18 games because of three separate injuries. He has four goals and 19 assists in 30 games. Goalie Matt Murray is expected to start a seventh straight game despite allowing seven total goals in two consecutive losses. 

 

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Austin Watson -- Mike Fisher -- Craig Smith

Colin Wilson -- Calle Jarnkrok -- James Neal

Cody McLeod -- Colton Sissons -- Harry Zolnierczyk

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin -- Ryan Ellis

Anthony Bitetto -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Brad Hunt, Derek Grant, Mike Ribeiro

Injured: Petter Granberg (lower body), Roman Josi (upper body), Miikka Salomaki (lower body)

 

Penguins projected lineup

Conor Sheary -- Sidney Crosby -- Bryan Rust

Carl Hagelin -- Carter Rowney -- Patric Hornqvist

Jake Guentzel -- Nick Bonino -- Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz -- Eric Fehr -- Scott Wilson

Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang

Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz

Olli Maatta -- Trevor Daley

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Tom Kuhnhackl, Chad Ruhwedel

Injured: Matt Cullen (foot), Evgeni Malkin (lower body)

 

Status report

Ribeiro is expected to be scratched for a second consecutive game. … Cullen could miss a sixth game with a foot injury sustained Jan. 16. He did not participate in Pittsburgh's optional skate. With Malkin out, Rowney could make his NHL debut. Kuhnhackl remained on the ice well after the Penguins morning skate, meaning he likely will be scratched.

 

Who's hot

Rinne is 5-1-0 with 11 goals allowed in his past six starts. Johansen has one goal and six points in his past four games. … Schultz has one goal and nine assists in his past nine games. Sheary has six goals and nine points in his past six games. Crosby has two goals and eight assists in his past seven games.

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