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Preds look to make it four straight in Atlanta

by Brian Compton /
PREDATORS (12-8-5) at THRASHERS (14-10-3)

TV: Fox Sports-Tennessee, Fox Sports-South.

Last 10: Nashville 5-3-2; Atlanta 7-3-0.

Season Series: This is the first of two meetings between the teams. They'll meet again on April 5, 2011, at Bridgestone Arena.

Big Story: Nashville enters Monday's action riding a three-game winning streak as they attempt to not only stay close to the Detroit Red Wings (17-4-3) in the Central Division, but with the dozen other teams fighting for a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Fourth and 14th place in the West are separated by just six points.

"To me, the Western Conference is clearly deeper than the Eastern Conference, so that makes the conference tighter maybe a littler further down the standings," Preds GM David Poile said. "Every team talks about wanting to win the Stanley Cup -- and that's our goal, as it is everybody's, in hockey -- but I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is just to make the playoffs. We've made the playoffs the five out of the last six years, one of only eight teams in the League to do that. It seems like every night it's a battle. Parity is certainly at its highest level right now in the Western Conference."  

Team Scope:

Predators: Nashville put forth another solid performance on Saturday night, as five different players scored in a 5-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Rookie goalie Anders Lindback made 28 saves in his first start since Nov. 7, improving to 4-1-1 this season. The 6-foot-6 Swede will see much of the action in net for the Predators for the next couple weeks after Pekka Rinne had left knee surgery on Friday.

"I thought we got off to a nice start, executed pretty well, and got some nice goals," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "When you score some goals in the first, it obviously gives you some confidence."

Thrashers: Ondrej Pavelec enjoyed another dominant performance on Saturday night, as he made 45 saves while Rich Peverley and Andrew Ladd each had a goal and an assist in Atlanta's 3-1 victory against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. The Thrashers have won seven of their last eight games.

"Our guys did a great job," Pavelec said. "I always saw the first shot and they cleared the rebound, so it was a great team effort."

Who's Hot: Preds forward Marin Erat had three assists on Saturday night and has multi-point efforts in back-to-back games. … With Saturday's performance, Pavelec lowered his goals-against average to 1.70 and raised his save percentage to .950.

Injury Report: Rinne injured his left knee during a shootout against Columbus on Dec. 1 and is expected to return later this month. Matthew Lombardi (concussion) is also out, while David Legwand (lower body) is day-to-day. … Thrashers forwards Evander Kane (left knee) and Fredrik Modin (rib) are day-to-day. Tobias Enstrom (left knee) is questionable.

Stat Pack: Nashville has not allowed a power-play goal in nine consecutive games, a franchise record. … Atlanta has outscored Washington 8-1 in its last two meetings.

Puck Drop: "It was the toughest division last year, even with Columbus not quite being there and St. Louis only missing the playoffs by a few points. With them, they're both now looking like they're competing with all the tops teams. It's clearly the best division in the National Hockey League, and that makes our task in Nashville a lot harder just to get to the playoffs because we're playing an unbalanced schedule and 24 of our 82 games are against teams in our division. I'm pretty sure at the end of the season if you don't have a winning record in your division, you're not going to make the playoffs." -- Preds GM David Poile
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