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Game Day: Preds vs. Canadiens

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(27-21-11) Nashville Predators vs. Montreal Canadiens (28-27-4)
  6:30 P.M. CT | Bell Centre | #NSHvsMTL
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game


The Nashville Predators will skate in the province of Quebec tonight as they visit the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The contest is the first of a three-game road trip for the Preds, which will stop in Toronto and Chicago before it's conclusion. Overall, the Preds are 5-0-2 in their last seven road games.

Nashville is coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving them at least a point in five consecutive contests and six of their last seven. Montreal defeated Philadelphia 3-2 in their most recent outing, but the Canadiens have struggled as of late, going 4-6-0 in their last 10 and falling out of playoff contention.

The Preds have not lost a game in regulation at the Bell Centre since Jan. 15, 2009 (a span of seven years, one month and six days). Nashville has earned a point in five of their last six games in Montreal (3-1-2) with five of those contests being one-goal affairs.

Nashville enters this evening's contest with points in 12 of 13 games against teams based in Canada, posting a 9-1-3 record against them, or 21 of a possible 26 points in the standings (.808 points percentage). The club has averaged 3.31 goals-per-game in that span and allowed an average of 1.92 goals. Additionally, the Preds have 11 power-play goals in 43 opportunities (25.6 percent). The stretch of games includes the team's 5-0-1 road record, with their only loss coming in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets.

With 181 power-play points (77g-104a), Captain Shea Weber remains one point away from tying Kimmo Timonen for the top spot on the all-time franchise list. Timonen registered 182 points on the power play (46g-136a) during his time with the Nashville Predators.

Defenseman Roman Josi is tops on the Predators in points with 42 on the season, followed by Filip Forsberg, who has 39 to his name. Montreal native and former Canadien, Mike Ribeiro, is third with 38 points, including a team-leading 32 assists. Weber has 36 points from the blue line; James Neal also has 36 points. Neal's 21 goals lead the club, followed by Forsberg with 20 and Weber with 15. Pekka Rinne is 21-18-9 this season between the pipes, has two shutouts in his last six games against the Canadiens and has posted a .920 save percentage or higher in six of his seven contests against them.

Ribeiro has nine points (1g-8a) in his last six games against Montreal. Forsberg has a point in four-straight games versus Montreal (1g-3a) and Neal has points in four of his last five games against the Canadiens (3g-3a).
 
Defenseman P.K. Subban leads Montreal in points with 46 points, including 41 helpers. Tomas Plekanec has 43 points on the campaign, while Max Pacioretty's 21 goals are first on the team. Brendan Gallagher has found the back of the net 15 times; Alex Galchenyuk has 14 goals and 34 points. Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens have taken over in net since goaltender Carey Price was injured, with Condon posting a 14-17-4 record along the way.

In the first contest between the Preds and Habs this season, played on Dec. 21, Nashville won 5-1 at Bridgestone Arena. Five different Preds registered a goal (Ellis, Weber, Jarnkrok, Wilson, Josi), while Rinne stopped 35-of-36 shots to help lead the club to victory.
 
The Preds enter Monday's contest with an all-time record of 8-5-6 against Montreal, including a 4-4-2 mark at the Bell Centre.



Jackman Skates as Preds Prepare for Canadiens:

It looked as if the Preds would be without the services of Barret Jackman for quite some time. That no longer seems to be the case.

Jackman participated in the morning skate on Monday in Montreal at the Bell Centre, a great sign for the Preds, when considering the defenseman’s scary collision into the endboards on Saturday night against Los Angeles. Jackman left the game and did not return, but the veteran blueliner, who is regarded as one of the tougher and more durable players in the League, was on the ice with his teammates less than 48 hours after the incident.

Jackman did not skate with his normal partner in Anthony Bitetto, however, perhaps a sign that he won’t play tonight in Montreal. Bitetto and Petter Granberg were paired together during the skate, and Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette gave his vote of confidence to the young duo after the session.

“We have bodies on the trip here; we’ll make sure that [Jackman is] 100 percent healthy and ready to go,” Laviolette said. “He’ll play every game he can and every game that you need him to play because he’s that type of a guy, but we have enough people to manage it with a back-to-back [situation].

“[Bitetto’s] done a good job of jumping in here. He’s looked really good in the games, Petter has looked good in the games, and it's a fortunate situation [with a lack of injuries] where we haven’t needed Petter, but he’s done a good job when he’s been called upon.”

The Preds will be looking for at least a point in their eighth consecutive road contest, when they face a Canadiens team that is fighting for a chance at the postseason, after struggling since losing goaltender Carey Price in late November.

Even so, Laviolette and his club know there are no easy games in the NHL. Rather, when the Preds – who have points in five consecutive games – focus on themselves and execute to their potential, good things seem to happen.

“When we’re at the top of our game, I believe we can beat any team in this League, so that’s what we have to focus on,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “We’re playing a better game now lately, so we just have to keep focusing on that.

“It’s just been a good feeling for us on the road here lately, and we had that big swing in Canada for four-straight wins before the All-Star break and we’ve kept it going since. I think we’re getting more comfortable in our game and that’s been a result of our road success so far.”

Sissons Inked:

Colton Sissons had a strong showing during his 19 games with the big club earlier this season, and the Predators rewarded the 22-year-old center with a three-year contract on Monday. The deal will pay Sissons $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level in 2016-17, and $650,000 in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Sissons recorded a pair of points (1g-1a) during those 19 games and a 59 percent success rate in the face-off circle, best among all NHLers taking at least 100 draws. He has also served as the youngest captain in Milwaukee Admirals history this season, amassing 16 points (6g-10a) in 33 games.

“It’s a great signing for us,” Laviolette said of the deal. “Colton is a really good player, a responsible player, a leader; he does a lot of different things in the minors. He’s done a lot of different things up here. He impressed us while he was up here with his play, his faceoffs, his penalty kill; really I think he has grown in the organization through the years and gotten himself to a point where he’s earned a contract like that, so it’s good for him and good for us.”


Projected Lineups:

Defenseman Barret Jackman, who left Saturday's game in the second period with an upper-body injury, skated with the Predators during their morning skate on Monday. Jackman did not take his usual spot duing line rushes, however, and is not expected to play this evening.

Nashville Predators:

Forwards
Calle Jarnkrok Ryan Johansen James Neal
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Craig Smith
Colin Wilson Mike Fisher Viktor Arvidsson
Miikka Salomaki Paul Gaustad Austin Watson
Defense
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm Ryan Ellis
Anthony Bitetto Petter Granberg

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Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne is the expected starter in net with Carter Hutton serving as the backup.

Extra: (D) Barret Jackman, (F) Gabriel Bourque (IR; upper-body), (F) Eric Nystrom (IR; lower-body), (F) Cody Bass


Montreal Canadiéns:

Forwards
Alex Galchenyuk Tomas Plekanec Brendan Gallagher
Max Pacioretty Lars Eller Dale Weise
Tomas Fleischmann Jacob de la Rose Paul Byron
Sven Andrighetto Torrey Mitchell Devante Smith-Pelly
Defense
Andrei Markov PK Subban
Alexei Emelin Nathan Beaulieu
Mark Barberio Greg Pateryn

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Goaltenders: Mike Condon is the expected starter in net with Ben Scrivens serving as the backup.

Extra: (G) Carey Price, (F) Daniel Carr, (F) Brian Flynn, (F) David Desharnais, (D) Jeff Petry

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