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Post-Game Musings: at NY Islanders

by Jim Diamond / Nashville Predators
Monday’s 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders was the ideal way to start off the Predators’ current three-game road swing. The win was Nashville’s fifth straight, eighth in their last nine, and 14th in their last 18 games. The win over the Islanders improved the Predators to 6-2-2 against the Eastern Conference this season.

The Predators dressed seven defensemen for the first time this season, and it proved to be a smart move. Ryan Suter was questionable for the game with an upper-body injury, and even though he saw 10 shifts for 7:04 of ice time in the opening period, he did not return to the game to start the second.

Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers with represent the second half of Nashville’s back-to-back set on their mini-tour of metropolitan New York City. As back-to-backs go, this is about as easy as they get; travel-wise anyway. Instead of hopping on the plane to fly to their next destination and arriving in the wee hours of the morning, the team will take the short bus ride from Long Island to Manhattan in advance of Tuesday’s date with the Winter Classic winning Rangers. With Monday being a day game and Tuesday a night game, the Predators even have a little more time to let their bodies recover as well.

Another Fast Road Start: For the second time in as many road games, the Predators got off to a fast start with another three-goal first period. Thanks to first period goals by Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk, and David Legwand, the Predators took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission, just as they did last Tuesday at Colorado in their last road contest. Nashville entered Monday’s game with a -11 goal differential (33 scored, 44 allowed) in the first period of games this season. Rallying from early deficits is taxing on a team, so getting in front early, especially on the road, allows the coaching staff to roll all of their lines and defensive pairings in a more efficient fashion trying to protect the lead.

Early Start, No Problem: Monday marked the second time that the Predators played a matinee, and just like the first one, they came away with a win despite the non-traditional start time. Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz has often said that the road team has the advantage in games that start early because they are already on a different schedule being away from home. Home teams are used to doing their pregame preparations at routine times, so adjusting for a different opening faceoff time has the potential to upset the timing of their normal routines. Nashville’s first early start of the season came October 22nd in Calgary. In that game, Pekka Rinne pitched a 2-0 shutout, ending the team’s early season four-game losing streak. The Predators have one more early afternoon start on the schedule this season, as their February 11th game in Boston against the Bruins is scheduled to start at noon C.T.

PK Comes Up Big: Even though the Predators held a 3-0 lead at the time, the team’s penalty killing unit was tested midway through the second period. Gabriel Bourque was sent off for hooking at 8:33 of the second, but it was not long before he had company in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum penalty box. Mike Fisher caught John Tavares with a high stick 50 seconds later, giving the Islanders a prolonged 5-on-3 power play of 1:10. New York entered Monday’s action with a 19.3% success rate on the power play, which placed them seventh best in the NHL. Making things more difficult on the Predators for these particular penalty kills was the fact that they occurred in the second period, when they had the long change. Kevin Klein, Shea Weber, and Nick Spaling were out there for the entirety of the two-man disadvantage. Their efforts, combined with that of Rinne, kept the Islanders off of the scoreboard. New York was credited with two shots on goal during that 1:10, and Weber and Spaling each blocked a shot in that time.

F Chris Mueller (On the first period): “It was a 1:00 (p.m.) game, so we had to be ready there from the get-go. We just put our first two shots on net and they went in. That’s what we wanted to do, just go hard to the net, get pucks deep, and keep it simple. We rewarded ourselves.”

Head Coach Barry Trotz (On three first period goals): “We had some chances going the other way; two great shots, obviously Sergei on the first one and Hali on the second one. They had a sloppy change and we were able to capitalize on the third one.”

F Matt Halischuk (On his goal): “I got a step on the D man there and had a 2-on-1. I was just able to get a good shot off and luckily it went in.”

G Pekka Rinne, Nashville: 36 saves on 37 shots faced en route to his 24th win of the season
F David Legwand, Nashville: One goal, 19:49 of ice time
D Kevin Klein, Nashville: Team high 23:28 of ice time and four blocked shots
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