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Surging Penguins visit struggling Predators

by Matthew Mankiewich

PENGUINS (4-3-0) at PREDATORS (3-0-2)

TV -- FS-Pittsburgh (HD), FS-Tennessee (HD)

Season series -- The usual inter-conference one-shot deal, the last time these two teams met was back in February at the Igloo, a 4-3 win by Nashville. Historically, the Preds have had the Pens' number, holding a 9-4-0 advantage, including five consecutive wins at Bridgestone Arena.

Big story -- One team is getting hot, one is cooling off. After jumping out to a 3-0 start, the Predators have dropped a pair of games in overtime, 3-2 to the Capitals and 1-0 to the Flames, while the Penguins have won four of five after losing their first two. They're coming off a 5-1 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday.

Team Scope

Penguins -- Ask coach Dan Bylsma who his No. 1 goalie is, and he'll tell you it's Marc-Andre Fleury. However, Bylsma hasn't been afraid to run backup Brent Johnson out there for three straight games, and it's paid off with wins. So will he do it a fourth straight time?

"Flower's (Fleury's) going to play 60-plus games and win a lot of hockey games for us," Bylsma said after practice Wednesday. "The way Johnny has played is that he stepped in and won some games for us, so we know that when he goes in there he's going to give us a great game."

"It's Flower's team, everyone knows that," Johnson said. "It's important right now that if I am looked upon to get in there, I try to get the job done."

Predators -- The good news out of that Calgary game was Pekka Rinne's 34-save performance after being injured in the third period of the season opener Oct. 9.

"I've been practicing pretty well the last few days, and I only missed three games, so it was not a huge break," Rinne said. "I was a little more nervous than usual, but it was still a good game for me."

A home win will especially come in handy as the Predators play their next 11 of 13 on the road.

Who's hot -- No small part of the Penguins' resurgence is due to the recent play of their two stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby has seven of his eight points in his last four games, including a goal and an assist Monday. Malkin equaled his teammate's output Monday night and has five of his six points in the same four-game stretch.

Injury report -- Brooks Orpik (groin) has been out five games, but he, Jordan Staal (foot), Arron Asham (shoulder) and Zbynek Michalek (shoulder) skated Wednesday before the rest of the team. Only Orpik is expected back during this current three-game road trip. "I actually mean 'day to day' on this one," Bylsma said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. … Preds defenseman Ryan Suter left the Calgary game in the first period with a lower-body injury, which put him on IR for three games, expecting to be back for the St. Louis game Oct. 28.

Stat pack -- After going 4-for-13 on the power play their first three games, the Predators have gone 0-for-11 in the last two. Steve Sullivan recorded 4 goals and an assist his first three games, but has been off the board his last two.

Puck drop -- "He's still got a lot of progress to make off the ice, training-wise, and on the ice, conditioning-wise. We still have to make sure that happens for him. There's not a real time frame right now, but you can tell by the way he's out there that we're not talking the first of January." -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on when Jordan Staal may return

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