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Road-tested Predators pay visit to Flyers

by Mike G. Morreale
PREDATORS (27-17-7) at FLYERS (33-13-5)


Last 10 --
Nashville 5-4-1; Philadelphia 7-3-0

Season series -- The teams met for the first time in four seasons last year and the Predators came away with a 4-3 shootout decision in Nashville. Martin Erat scored the only goal of the shootout while Pekka Rinne, who finished with 42 saves, stopped all three Philadelphia shooters. This is the only meeting of the season between the clubs.

Big story -- The Predators might just be the most resilient bunch in the NHL -- they are in fourth place in the Western Conference despite losing 187 man games to injury or illness and playing an NHL-high 30 road games. Is a second-half surge imminent? Nashville will not only play 20 of its remaining 31 games at home, but 29 of those games are against teams within the conference. It's interesting to note, however, that Nashville has been outshot 11 times in the last 15 games and has fashioned a 10-5-0 record nonetheless -- seven triumphs coming on the road. The Preds are first in the Western Conference with 16 road victories.

Team Scope:

Predators --
Rinne, the NHL's third star for January, got Nashville to a shootout on Tuesday against Calgary by stopping four shots in overtime. His best was a stick save on Olli Jokinen with 2:20 left before he smothered a slap shot by Matt Stajan 15 seconds later. Still, Rinne's heroics weren't enough to keep the team from dropping a 3-2 decision to the Flames. In the shootout, Rene Bourque slipped the puck under Rinne's leg to start. Calgary's Alex Tanguay lost the puck, then Rinne stopped Jokinen. But Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff stopped Erat and Cody Franson as the Predators dropped their third straight while falling to 6-3 in shootouts.

Flyers -- It was just one of those nights for the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers in a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up three goals on six shots during the first, and was replaced by Brian Boucher as Philadelphia lost for just the third time in the last 13 games.

"I don't think we were out of sorts in the first," captain Mike Richards said. "I just thought they were very opportunistic. Gave them, probably, too many scoring chances. It's just one of those games, I guess."

Who's hot -- Predators wing Sergei Kostitsyn, who leads the NHL with a 21.8 shooting percentage, has 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in his last 28 games. … Flyers All-Star forward Claude Giroux has 3 goals and 11 points in his last eight games.

Injury report --
The Flyers have no significant injuries to report. … Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon (upper body) is day-to-day. Forward Marek Svatos (knee) is out and forwards Matthew Lombardi (concussion), Steve Sullivan (lower body) and Cal O'Reilly (broken fibula) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack --
If the Predators are to make a second-half surge, Rinne is going to have to stay healthy. Rinne is second in the NHL in both goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.929) but Nashville's offense hasn't taken advantage. Rinne is 15-7-1 when the Predators score at least two goals and 11-2-1 when they score at least three.

Puck drop --
The Flyers will hold the third of four "Banner Nights" at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday when Hall of Fame center Bobby Clarke is honored during a pregame ceremony in which they will present to him his No. 16 banner that hung in the rafters of the old Spectrum. During his 15 seasons, Clarke led the Flyers to two Stanley Cups and was awarded the Hart Trophy as league MVP three times. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987.

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