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Predators end road trip in need of win vs. Penguins

by Brian Hunter

PREDATORS (8-8-2) at PENGUINS (11-7-0)


Last 10: Nashville 4-5-1; Pittsburgh 4-6-0

Season series: This is the first of two games between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. In their most recent matchup, on March 22, 2012, James Neal set up four goals -- two by Evgeni Malkin -- in a 5-1 win by the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

Big story: This is the finale of a seven-game road trip for the Predators, who started out 2-0-1 but have lost their past three in regulation by a combined 13-1 score.

"Maybe we got a little overconfident and [got] a dose of reality in the last three games," forward Eric Nystrom told on an off day Wednesday. "We just have to get back to playing our style of hockey."

The Penguins are in a slump of their own. They've lost three in a row and their lead in the Metropolitan Division is down to one point over the Washington Capitals.

Team Scope:

Predators: Two bright spots to come out of a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday were the play of goalie Marek Mazanec, who stopped 30 shots in his first NHL start, and a Patric Hornqvist goal with 5:30 left in regulation. It was the first scored by Nashville in 174 minutes, 48 seconds, following consecutive 5-0 defeats to the Winnipeg Jets and New Jersey Devils.

"To finally get that goal was huge for us," Nystrom told "Even though it was meaningless, to know that we can do it and score definitely boosted our morale."

The Predators made a minor transaction Thursday, recalling Filip Forsberg from the American Hockey League and reassigning Taylor Beck.

Penguins: At the start of the season, Pittsburgh seemed to be the only team in the Metropolitan able to win games on a regular basis. The Penguins have come back to the pack, however, a trend which continued with their 2-1 loss on home ice Wednesday to the rival Philadelphia Flyers.

Despite generating their fair share of chances, putting 31 shots on Flyers goalie Ray Emery, the Penguins were limited to a second-period power-play goal by Sidney Crosby. Malkin drew his 13th assist on the play, giving him six in his past five games, but his goal drought extended to 11 consecutive games and he only has three for the season.

"Just because you do have a good start doesn't guarantee anything, whether you score or don't score. You have to execute throughout the entire game," Crosby said. "Would it be nice to get rewarded? Absolutely, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I think we have deserved better with the starts we have had, but are we accepting it? No. I don't think we are accepting the fact that we are missing and we are just kind of saying we deserve better, it'll eventually happen. We have to execute and that is up to us but, that part is a big part of it."

Who's hot: Jussi Jokinen has three goals and two assists in his past six games for the Penguins.

Injury report: Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne (hip) is on injured reserve. Forward Mike Fisher (lower body) practiced Thursday in a non-contact jersey. … Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang (illness) missed the morning skate Friday but is expected to play. Also expected to play is defenseman Paul Martin, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury. Goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defenseman Rob Scuderi (ankle) and forward Chuck Kobasew (lower body) will not play.

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