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Predators host Canadiens in franchise's 1,000th game

by Mike G. Morreale
CANADIENS (6-7-2) at PREDATORS (8-5-2)


Last 10:
Montreal 5-4-1; Nashville 6-3-1

Season series: Nashville and Montreal hook up for their only meeting of the 2011-12 season and for the 14th time overall. In the only meeting last season, goalie Pekka Rinne blanked the Canadiens for the second time in just over a year when he stopped 30 shots in a 3-0 win.

Big story: Montreal center Scott Gomez could return to the lineup on Saturday. Gomez, who suffered an upper-body injury on Oct. 20 in Pittsburgh, has since rejoined the team for practice and has targeted a return against the Predators. If Gomez is inserted back into the lineup, it will be interesting to see who coach Jacques Martin shifts to wing. During Gomez' absence, Tomas Plekanec, Petteri Nokelainen, Lars Eller and David Desharnais have all worked at center.

Team Scope:

Despite the absence of injured forwards Mike Cammalleri, Andrei Kostitsyn and Gomez, the Canadiens improved to 11-0-2 in their last 13 meetings against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday behind a 3-2 overtime victory. Josh Gorges scored an unassisted goal 1:45 into the extra period. Brian Gionta and Travis Moen scored goals in the second period when Montreal grabbed a 2-1 lead, but Raffi Torres squared the contest for the Coyotes 5:50 into the third. Carey Price made 32 saves in the victory.

Predators: The Predators earned seven out of a possible 10 points on a recent five-game road trip that concluded with a 4-2 victory in Anaheim on Wednesday. Rookie center Craig Smith scored a pair of goals, Colin Wilson had a goal and an assist and Martin Erat connected on a second-period penalty shot in the victory. Rinne made 31 saves as Nashville won for the fifth time in seven games.

Who's hot:
Nashville's Smith leads all first-year players with 14 points, including 7 goals, this season. While the 22-year-old Smith has shifted between center and wing, he was recently centering Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist, with David Legwand sidelined by injury.

Injury report: For the Canadiens, forwards Gomez, Cammalleri (knee) and Kostitsyn (lower body) are listed as day-to-day. Defensemen Chris Campoli (torn hamstring) and Andrei Markov (ACL surgery) and forward Ryan White (groin) are out. … The Predators are without forwards Nick Spaling (lower body) and Legwand (upper body).

Stat pack:
Not only is Canadiens captain Gionta the team's ironman with 139 consecutive games played, but he notched his third multi-point game of the season in the victory over Phoenix on Thursday. Gionta has 3 goals and 6 points over the last six games and has 4 goals and 10 points in 15 games this season.

Puck drop: Nashville's Barry Trotz will become the fourth to coach 1,000 games with a single team, joining current Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff and former greats Al Arbour (1,500 with New York Islanders) and Billy Reay (1,012 with Chicago).

He joined an exclusive list at the start of the 2011-12 season when he became the seventh coach in the four major North American sports leagues to have been part of each of his franchise's first 12 seasons of existence. The other six are the NHL's Lester Patrick of the New York Rangers, MLB's Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics and the NFL's Curly Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers, Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys, Hank Stram of the Kansas City Chiefs and Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns.

"I'm blown away and honored," Trotz said. "Those are legendary names, and I don't consider myself a legend by any stretch. But when my name starts coming up involved with those people, it sort of blows me out."

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