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Smith returning to the lineup for Predators

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith, who is tied for third on the team in points with 15, will get back in the lineup for the first time in four games Saturday when his team plays host to the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena.

Smith was a healthy scratch in the first of those three games Dec. 7 after he failed to score a point in five straight games. Then he came down with flu-like symptoms. Overall, the streaky Smith has one point in his past seven games and has not scored since Nov. 21.

During the morning skate, he took Gabriel Bourque's place at right wing on a line with center Matt Cullen and left wing Colin Wilson.

"I just want to see him play with the speed and the energy he can and get pucks towards the net," Predators coach Barry Trotz said of Smith. "That's what he's good at and he needs to be good at."

Trotz would not say which forward was coming out of the lineup to make room for Smith. He said a couple of players are not 100 percent healthy -- those flu-like symptoms Smith experienced seem to be making their way through the dressing room -- so he would not know until game time.

If everyone is healthy enough to play, Bourque seems the most likely scratch. He has gone eight games without a goal, his last one coming Nov. 25.

San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan, who played for Nashville last season, will miss his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said, although McLellan said Hannan is getting closer to returning.

Predators defenseman Shea Weber was Hannan's partner for a time last season and the two have had offseason homes near each other in British Columbia in the past.

"He was a good player for us," Weber said of the 34-year-old. "He was solid. Good on the [penalty kill]. Good to see him doing well. He's been a guy who's been hard to play against for a lot of years and doesn't seem to be aging like you would think he is."

The defensive-minded Hannan, who has 36 goals in 969 career games, has three goals and four assists, a plus-2 rating in 28 games and is averaging 18:05 in time on ice. Nashville received a conditional draft pick for Hannan, which ended up being a sixth-round selection.

Here are the projected lineups:


Nick Spaling - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist

Eric Nystrom - Mike Fisher - Viktor Stalberg

Colin Wilson - Matt Cullen - Craig Smith

Rich Clune - Paul Gaustad - Matt Hendricks

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Victor Bartley - Kevin Klein

Seth Jones - Ryan Ellis

Carter Hutton

Marek Mazanec

Scratched: Gabriel Bourque, Mattias Ekholm


Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Matt Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels

Martin Havlat - Andrew Desjardins - James Sheppard

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Brad Stuart - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Scott Hannan, John McCarthy

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