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Predators' Weber game-time decision vs. Devils

by Mike Battaglino

DEVILS (23-21-11) at PREDATORS (24-23-8)


Last 10: New Jersey 5-3-2; Nashville 5-3-2

Season series: Martin Brodeur made 15 saves for the New Jersey Devils in a 5-0 shutout of the Nashville Predators on Nov. 10. This is New Jersey's first game at Bridgestone Arena since Oct. 15, 2011, and 10th all-time.

Big story: Nashville defenseman Shea Weber did not practice Thursday because of an upper-body injury and the Predators captain will be a game-time decision.

"It's definitely tough when you lose a guy like him," sometime partner Seth Jones told The Associated Press. "Anyone, it's tough, but especially him. He's our leader. He kind of makes us go. ... Without him, it'll definitely be tough. But other guys on the [defense] and the team will definitely step up."

Team Scope:

Devils: New Jersey used seven defensemen in a 3-2 overtime win at the Dallas Stars on Thursday, resulting in 16:34 of ice time for usual fourth-line forward Stephen Gionta.

"I thought he was excellent. We used him in every situation possible tonight," coach Peter DeBoer told MSG Network. "Probably gave him too much ice time for my liking, but we needed him tonight and it was his type of game tonight. …

"It's not the perfect situation, but it worked tonight, and we'll re-evaluate tomorrow and see what's the best lineup for Nashville."

New Jersey has played 34 one-goal games out of its 55 this season. The Devils and Predators have played 15 times in their history, and 12 of those games have been decided by one goal.

New Jersey is 7-2-4 in the second game of a back-to-back this season. Cory Schneider will make consecutive starts. Brodeur has not played since allowing six goals in two periods against the New York Rangers in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Sunday, a 7-3 loss.

Predators: Without Weber, the most-experienced Nashville defenseman would be Michael Del Zotto, who joined the team in a trade Jan. 22. The veteran of 296 games, all but four with the New York Rangers, has impressed coach Barry Trotz.

"He's been really good, I like a couple things," Trotz told the Predators website at practice. "... He's got a lot of the qualities that Roman [Josi] has; he can move the puck, he can skate out of trouble, he's got good escape-ability. He surprised our forwards a couple times with some no-look passes right on their tape. As guys get used to him, and [are] able to read off of him, I think some of those plays will convert into goals.

"He competes down low, he's got a really good stick, around the net he boxes out. I like his compete level. So in the small sample, I like what we have."

Josi (145 games), Ryan Ellis (117), Jones (55), Mattias Ekholm (37) and Victor Bartley (36) would complete the defense.

"If [Shea] doesn't play, it's a big hole we have to fill," Trotz said. "It's a young group; it'll probably be the youngest group we've ever put together on the ice."

Weber, who has missed 12 games over the past six seasons, sustained the injury Tuesday in the third period of a 4-3 win at the Winnipeg Jets that ended a four-game Canadian visit.

"Good trip, for the most part; obviously, we need every point, and I think we let one slip away," Trotz said. "But 2-1-1 on that trip, if you would have told me on the front end, I'd probably say that'd be a really good trip."

Who's hot: Devils forward Jaromir Jagr has three two-assist games in his past four; he has 10 points in his past eight games. Forwards Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac each has six points in his past five. Elias' overtime winner Thursday was the 16th of his career, breaking a tie with Sergei Fedorov and Mats Sundin for second place all-time, two behind Jagr. Schneider has not allowed more than two goals in 11 straight appearances, dating to Dec. 23. … Weber has 23 points in his past 24 games. Josi has nine points in his past eight games. Forward Mike Fisher has 15 points in his past 17 games

Injury report: Devils forward Dainius Zubrus (lower body) left the game Thursday in the third period. Defenseman Peter Harrold (foot) is out. … Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (hip) is out.

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