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Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

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GAME: Nashville Predators (32-24-8-2) at Pittsburgh Penguins (13-43-6-4).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Playing with renewed confidence, the league-worst Pittsburgh Penguins will try to post their first home win of 2004 when they take on the Nashville Predators.

The Penguins have gone a respectful 2-1-1 since ending an 18-game losing streak, including Tuesday's 3-3 tie with the New York Islanders at Mellon Arena. Marc Bergevin ended a 101-game scoring drought by delivering the tying tally with less than two minutes left in regulation as Pittsburgh halted an NHL-record 14-game home losing streak.

"It's huge," Pittsburgh winger Tom Kostopoulos said. "We tried to not think too much about it, but it's in the paper. It's everywhere. Everyone wanted it to end."

Bergevin was happy to put a stop to his own streak of offensive futility.

"It came right at me and I didn't even know it went it," the 38-year-old Bergevin said of his 36th goal in 1,181 NHL games. "But I saw the replay, and it was a laser beam."

Pittsburgh has not won at home since a 1-0 victory over Chicago on Dec. 29. The Penguins need four victories in their final 16 games to avoid matching the franchise record for fewest wins (16).

The Predators have much loftier goals in mind as they are locked in a sixth-place tie with Calgary in the Western Conference playoff race. Nashville finished February by winning five of six, but is 0-1-1 thus far in March, including Wednesday's 5-2 loss in Philadelphia.

Scott Walker and Adam Hall scored for Nashville, which trailed 3-0 after two periods.

"Our defensive coverage was soft," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "Our defensemen were not containing and our centermen were not doing a good job."

The loss kicked off a stretch in which Nashville will play eight of its next 10 on the road.

STANDINGS: Predators - 74 points, 2nd place, 13 PB, Central Division. Penguins - 36 points, 5th place, 50 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Steve Sullivan, 21 goals, 35 assists and 56 points; Jordin Tootoo, 125 PIM. Penguins - Ryan Malone, 20 goals; Dick Tarnstrom, 25 assists and 36 points; Kelly Buchberger, 109 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 2): Predators - Power play: 16.6 percent (57 for 344), 11th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (252 for 305), 22nd. Penguins - Power play: 14.7 percent (44 for 299), 23rd (tied). Penalty killing: 76.7 percent (230 for 300), 30th.

GOALTENDERS: Predators - Tomas Vokoun (29-22-7, 3 SO, 2.52 GAA); Chris Mason (3-4-1, 1, 2.21). Penguins - Andy Chiodo (2-3-1, 0, 2.95); Jean-Sebastien Aubin (2-8-0, 3.25).

SEASON SERIES: Predators, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 1; Predators, 3-2. At Nashville, Kimmo Timonen scored two power-play goals and added an assist for the Predators. Rico Fata and Tomas Surovy scored for the Penguins.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 11-17-2-1 on the road; Penguins - 7-21-4-0 at home.


Associated Press
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