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Game Day: Preds vs. Penguins

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

(31-11-6) Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (28-13-8)
  1 P.M. | CONSOL Energy Center
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game

The Nashville Predators streak of not losing two-consecutive regulation games will go on the line when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.

Following a 3-0 shutout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, the Preds conclude a three-game road trip by wrapping up their season series with the Penguins in the Steel City. Back on Oct. 25, Pittsburgh handed Nashville their first regulation loss of the season after the Predators began the campaign with a 5-0-2 record.

Super Bowl Sunday’s matinee matchup between the clubs also marks the first time Predators winger James Neal will play at CONSOL Energy Center since being traded for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling in late June. Neal has 16 goals and 12 assists in 42 games with Nashville this season.

“I’m not too worried about it or thinking about it too much,” Neal said about returning to Pittsburgh. “I think playing [the Penguins in October] in Nashville kind of washed that away and I really haven’t looked back. We’ve been having great success here, and it’s really all I’m focused on.”

Neal is second on the Predators in goals behind rookie Filip Forsberg (17 goals), who leads all NHL first-year skaters in points (42) and plus/minus, +24. Nashville’s leading point-getter, Mike Ribeiro, is sitting at 699 points for his career and is seeking to achieve a personal milestone similarly to teammate Mike Fisher last Thursday. In the first game of the Preds’ excursion away from the Music City, Fisher matched - and then crossed - the 500-point plateau with two goals and an assist (for the 500th, 501st and 502nd points of his career). 

On the back end, Shea Weber and Roman Josi sit No. 1 and No. 2 in points by Preds defensemen, respectively. Making up Nashville’s top blue line pairing, Weber and Josi are in the Top 5 in the NHL in average time on ice.

With Pekka Rinne still out with a sprained knee, goaltenders Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec have manned the Nashville crease. Hutton made 31 saves in a shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, while Mazanec recorded 25 stops in his first start of the season on Friday (a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Avalanche).

Forward Sidney Crosby paces the Penguins with 52 points on the year; center Evgeni Malkin is a single point behind with 51. Malkin is not expected to play this afternoon, however, after suffering a lower-body injury prior to the All-Star Break. Defenseman Kris Letang (39 pts), forward Chris Kunitz (31 pts) and former Predator Patric Hornqvist (30 pts) round out the top scorers for Pittsburgh.

All-Star Marc-Andre Fleury leads the Pens between the pipes with 39 starts, 23 wins and a League-leading six shutouts.

The Predators are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, while the Penguins are 4-3-3. Nashville holds a 12-9-5 road record and Pittsburgh is 17-7-3 at home this season.
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