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Game Day: Preds vs. Devils

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(2-0-0) Nashville Predators vs. New Jersey Devils (0-2-0)
  6 P.M. | Prudential Center | #NSHvsNJD
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game


After starting the season with two wins in two games on home ice, the Nashville Predators face the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center in the first of two meetings between the clubs in 2015-16. The Devils are winless in their first two contests.

The Predators are looking forward to the early season excursion, and after posting a 19-16-6 road record last season, are hoping to improve on their success away from Bridgestone Arena.

“We’ve had a pretty decent road group; these guys have proven that they’re good road players, but this group has got to go out and make their own way with that as well," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "The guys are excited to get out on the road as a group and win some hockey games.”

Nashville is also looking to continue their dominance over Eastern Conference teams after posting a 20-10-2 record last season. The Preds were one of only four Western Conference clubs to earn at least 20 victories against their foes from the East, joining St. Louis (21), Chicago (20) and Vancouver (21). Nashville had an 11-4-1 record against the Atlantic Division and a 9-6-1 record against the Metropolitan Division.

After tying the mark on Saturday against Edmonton, Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne is poised to make another impression in the franchise record books. If he plays tonight, the Finnish netminder will surpass Tomas Vokoun as Nashville's all-time leader in games played by a goaltender. Rinne and Vokoun are currently tied with 383 games apiece played with the club.

Rinne has had a strong start to the season, making 56 of 57 saves, including a 31-save shutout on Saturday night to help lead Nashville to a 2-0 victory.

Forward Craig Smith has scored two goals in two games for the Preds to begin the campaign and is tied with defenseman Seth Jones, who has two assists, for the team lead in points. Forwards Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson have also tallied for the Preds thus far.

Forward Mike Ribeiro, who assisted on Forsberg's goal against the Oilers, is slated to appear in his 950th career NHL game tonight.

New Jersey fell 3-1 in their home opener to Winnipeg last Friday before dropping a 5-3 decision to the Capitals in Washington on Saturday. Mike Cammalleri has recorded a goal and two helpers through two games, while Jiri Tlusty, Adam Henrique and Eric Gelinas have also found the back of the net. Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid have each started a game between the pipes for the Devils.

The Preds and Devils split the season series last year, each winning a game on their home ice. The Predators are looking for their first win in New Jersey since Dec. 17, 2010, when they defeated the Devils by a final score of 3-1. Nashville has a 9-9-3 overall record against New Jersey, including a 5-4-1 road record in 10 contests.

Tootoo Reflects on Nashville:



The Predators made history when they selected Jordin Tootoo in the fourth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. The first player of Inuit descent to enter the League, Tootoo spent parts of eight seasons in Music City, bringing his hard-hitting, sandpaper-type game to the maturing franchise each night.

In the three years since leaving Nashville, the 5-foot-9, 199-pound forward has skated for both the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils, while also authoring a book entitled All the Way: My Life on the Ice, which details his struggle with the loss of his older brother and overcoming alcohol addiction.

Playing against Nashville as a member of the opposition only works to bring memories back to the Devils forward, who credits the Predators franchise with helping him become the person he is as an individual, not just on the ice.

“Definitely a lot of reflections, I grew up pretty much in Nashville and that city has given me a lot to become the person I am today,” Tootoo said following the Devils morning skate on Tuesday. “Through the good times and bad, Nashville is always going to have a place in my heart.”

Set to be in direct competition of each other later this evening, Preds netminder Pekka Rinne also became nostalgic when discussing his early days with Tootoo more than a decade ago.

“I played a long time with Tootoo, when I got to Milwaukee I played with him and got to know him right away,” Rinne said. “Right from the get-go, he was really good to me and kind of showed me the ropes a little bit in Milwaukee.

“[It’s] just a great story overall with Tootoo, just a hard-working guy, everything he’s been through, so I’m happy to see where he’s at now. He’s such a great guy and good friend of mine, so I’m happy to see that he’s doing well.”

Significant Game Totals:



Two Predators veterans will hit noteworthy game totals if they suit up versus the Devils later this evening. First, Rinne will eclipse the franchise's all-time games played by a goaltender mark with his 384th contest between the pipes for the Predators. The Finn tied former Pred Tomas Vokoun’s tally on Saturday during a 2-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

“When I was drafted, it became a more realistic goal to play in the NHL, and I just need to thank Nashville for giving me the opportunity,” Rinne said. “I came over and played three years in Milwaukee, which was great to for me to learn the game, learn the language and lifestyle and I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to have the trust and a little bit of luck along the way too. It means a lot to me that I’ve been able to stay in one city and one organization.”

A teammate of Rinne’s for the entirety of his career, Preds Captain Shea Weber recognizes the the advantage afforded to Nashville by having one of the world’s rare talents in goal.

“Everyone has seen [his talent] over the years,” Weber said. “I've been very fortunate to play with some great goalies here with [Tomas] Vokoun, [Chris] Mason and [Dan] Ellis, and all the guys that have come through, but Peks, he’s very special. He gives the solidity back there and we know what we're going to get every night. When you can build a team around a goaltender like that, that really solidifies your game.”

Across the locker room, center Mike Ribeiro is scheduled to suit up for his 950th contest in the NHL this evening, a total few critics believed he would ever hit.

“I thought I could, a lot of people didn’t,” Ribeiro said. “Growing up, or in junior or even when I first started, people always said, ‘he’s too slow’ or ‘too small’ or ‘he’s never going to play.’ It was more that I always believed I could play, but I wasn’t planning on close to 1,000 games.

“There weren’t a lot of people that believed in me, outside of my parents and maybe a coach or two, other than that it was just a lot of people talking negatively. I didn’t want to go negative with that, I just wanted to stay positive and always practice on my game.”

Performing in the NHL hasn’t gotten any easier for Ribiero in recent years either. The 35-year-old center has worked to reinvent himself even since coming to Nashville as a free agent a year ago.

“Mike brings an element that not a lot of players can bring,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s a very, very talented one-on-one puck guy and an excellent distributor of the puck. He makes a lot of players better that play with him and around him. For us to get a guy like Mike and get his production last year and his veteran presence in the room, and then the same thing again this year, is really important to our group.” 

What to Watch For:


Projected Lineups:

Nashville Predators:

Forwards
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Calle Jarnkrok
Colin Wilson Mike Fisher Craig Smith
Gabriel Bourque Cody Hodgson James Neal
Eric Nystrom Paul Gaustad Austin Watson
Defense
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Barret Jackman Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm Ryan Ellis

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

Extra: (D) Victor Bartley, (D) Anthony Bitetto, (F) Viktor Arvidsson


New Jersey Devils:

Forwards
Jiri Tlusty Adam Henrique Kyle Palmieri
Mike Cammalleri Travis Zajac Jordin Tootoo
Lee Stempniak Jacob Josefson Brian O'Neill
Stefan Matteau Stephen gionta tuomo ruutu
Defense
Andy Greene Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill damon severson
David Schlemko eric gelinas

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Goaltenders: Keith Kinkaid is expected to start tonight for the Devils. Cory Schneider's wife gave birth early this morning and it's not certain whether Schneider will dress for tonight's game or if New Jersey will call someone up.

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