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Penguins vs. Predators Game Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 2-3-0-4
Road: 2-0-0-4

WHEN: Oct 21, 2010 - 8:00 pm   |   WHERE: Bridgestone Arena
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Nashville Predators
Home: 2-0-2-6

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Nashville Predators 
Steve Sullivan
F  -  #26
  4 Goals
  1 Assist
  5 Points
• Recorded his eighth-career 50-point season last year when he finished the campaign with 51 points (17G-34A) in 82 games.
• Missed almost two full seasons (second half of ’06-07, all of ’07-08 and the beginning of ’08-09) due to a serious back injury which almost forced him to retire.
• His inspirational comeback in ’08-09 earned him the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey – making him the first Predator to win a major NHL award.
Patric Hornqvist
F  -  #27
  2 Goals
  1 Assist
  3 Points
• Emerged as the Predators’ top goal-scoring threat last season when he recorded 30 in his first full season with the team.
• Was one of many draft gems unearthed by current Penguins general manager Ray Shero when he was the assistant GM in Nashville (2005, 7th round, 230th overall).
• Played four seasons with Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite league before coming to North America for the 2008-09 season.
Shea Weber
D  -  #6
  0 Goals 
  3 Assists
  3 Points
• Was named the fifth captain in team history on July 8.
• With 169 career points (64G-105A) in 325 games, he sits six points shy of tying Marek Zidlicky’s team record for points by a defenseman (175).
• Since the start of the 2006-07 season, his goal total (62) is second only to the Washington Capitals Mike Green (70).
The Nashville Predators enter Thursday night’s contest as one of two (Toronto is the other) National Hockey League teams that have yet to lose a game in regulation this season.

As has been the case throughout their existence, the key to the Predators’ hot start has been excellent team defense under the direction of head coach Barry Trotz. Through the first six games, Nashville has surrendered just 11 goals for a 1.83 goals-against average which ranks fourth as of Wednesday.

Nashville’s defensive corps, which includes a pair of two-way studs in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, is among the most underrated units in the NHL. Kevin Klein, who ranks second on the Predators in ice time behind Weber, and smallish but tough Francis Bouillon round out the top-four.

In goal, the Predators have one of the better up-and-coming late-blooming netminders in Pekka Rinne, who picked up 61 victories the past two seasons. Rinne just returned from a lower-body injury on Tuesday, which meant 22-year-old Andres Lindback had to carry the load in his absence. Lindback more than delivered, posting a 2-0-1 record, 2.41 GAA and .921 save percentage.

Offensively, the Predators rely on a total team effort to put points on the scoreboard, as there isn’t a dominant offensive presence on the roster, although Patric Hornqvist did score 30 goals last season in his first full season. What the Predators do offer is a fast and tenacious group which hustles all over the ice and makes life difficult on their opponents.
  • Penguins center Sidney Crosby might have taken a few games to heat up, but now that he has caught fire, Crosby is quickly moving his way up the leader board in several categories. As of Wednesday, Crosby ranks in the top-10 in the following major categories: points (8, t-6), goals (4, t-10), shots (29, 3), power-play goals (3, t-1) and faceoff wins (91, 2).
  • As a team the Penguins have been red-hot, winning three straight contests and four of five. Several players have contributed to this success and are riding current scoring streaks including: Alex Goligoski (7 games; 3G-4A); Crosby (4 games; 4G-3A); Evgeni Malkin (4 games; 1G-4A); Paul Martin (3 games; 3A); and Mark Letestu (3 games; 2G-3A).
  • It’s probably a good thing that the Penguins and Predators don’t meet too often the way Martin Erat plays against Pittsburgh. In seven career games against the Penguins, Erat has scored six goals and posted seven points, including a goal last season in the Predators’ 4-3 overtime win at Mellon Arena.
  • Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz, who has quietly ranked among the team’s top forwards through the early going, has always played well against Nashville, particularly when he saw them a couple of times a season in Anaheim. Kunitz has 17 points (6G-11A) in 15 career games against the Predators.
  • Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson has posted excellent career numbers against Nashville. In eight career appearances versus the Predators, Johnson has a 5-2-1 record to go along with a 1.60 goals-against average.


Patience: When you play the Nashville Predators, you know that more than likely you are in for a defensive struggle. Sometimes, that type of game can be tough for the Penguins to adjust to. However, if they stick to their game, take what the Predators give to them and bury those few chances they’ll get, they should be in good shape to pick up a fourth straight win.

Power Play:
While the power play is hot, we have to keep looking at it as a potential difference-maker each night. That especially becomes the case against a Nashville squad which hopes to keep the game tight-checking. The Predators have struggled on the PK thus far, killing penalties at just a 68.8 success rate, which is the third-worst mark in the league.
C Jordan Staal, foot (indefinitely)
F Arron Asham, upper body (2 weeks)
D Zbynek Michalek, upper body (1 to 3 weeks)
D Brooks Orpik, groin strain (day-to-day)

D Ryan Suter, lower body (day-to-day)
C Marcel Goc, separated shoulder (2 to 4 weeks)
C Matthew Lombardi, concussion (indefinitely)
F Jamie Lundmark, groin (day-to-day)
Letestu/Crosby (4) Sullivan (4)
Martin (6) O'Reilly (4)
Crosby (8) Sullivan (5)
Rupp (18) Bouillon (7)
Letang (+7) Goc/Dumont (+4)
Crosby (3) Sullivan (2)
Cooke (1)
Johnson (4-0-0) Lindback (2-0-1)
Johnson (1.49) Rinne (1.15)
Johnson (.950) Rinne (.969)

Alex Goligoski - The Penguins’ smooth-skating blueliner continues to rank second (tied) among NHL blueliners with seven points (3G-4A). The 25-year-old defenseman has recorded a point in every game this season, allowing him to equal his career-long point streak first established last season (Oct. 14-30). His three goals pace all NHL blueliners.
Pekka Rinne - The 27-year-old backstop has played in just two games thus far because of a lower-body injury sustained in Nashville’s season opener, but when Rinne has been in the net, he has been his solid self. Rinne stopped 34 of 35 shots in a 1-0 loss to Calgary on Tuesday, giving him a 1.15 goals-against average and .969 save percentage for the season.

Engelland's Physical Play Earning Him Praise  
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Author: Jason Seidling

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