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The Week Ah-Pred: Dec. 16

by Jimi Russell / Nashville Predators

Three games… Three wins.

The Nashville Predators have posted three straight wins as they begin the climb back up the Central Division standings.

The week began on Tuesday night in the Big Apple, as the Preds defeated the Rangers 4-1 in nationally televised tilt on NBC Sports Network. It was a good outing for the Preds’ “Wagon Line” as Paul Gaustad (1g-2a), Rich Clune (1g-1a) and Matt Hendricks (1g-1a) all posted multi-point games – their firsts as members of the club.

Nashville returned home on Thursday night for a showdown with new division rival Dallas Stars. After a hotly contested series a season ago, the Thursday night tilt was a letdown in terms of penalties and fights, but it was a positive night for the Preds as they took home the 3-1 victory. Gaustad, Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand all found the back of the net for the Preds.

The San Jose Sharks waltzed into town on Saturday night to close out the week in Smashville. Quick goals from Eric Nystrom and Roman Josi put the Sharks on their heels after 40 minutes of play. The Sharks responded with two goals in the third period on a season-high single-period shots against total for Nashville (20), but Viktor Stalberg’s goal with less than three minutes remaining sealed the win for the Preds.

After backstopping the Preds to all three wins last week, goaltender Carter Hutton picked up the NHL’s Third Star of the Week. Read more about it here.

Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators – Tuesday, Dec. 17 – 7 p.m. CT
(FOX Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game)

The Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks play the second of their five-game 2013-14 season series on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. The Blackhawks will return to Music City on April 12, 2014, while the Preds will travel to the Windy City twice in a nine-day span in mid-March. Nashville holds a 22-15-6 mark all-time against the Chicago on Bridgestone Arena ice.

How could fans forget the outcome of the last meeting between these two teams on Nov. 16, as the Preds returned from a 17-day road trip? The road-weary Preds were able to post seven goals, tied for the third-highest goals for total on home ice, sending the defending Cup Champions packing, 7-2.

Twelve of Nashville’s 18 skaters found the scoresheet, including six multi-point efforts, led by Craig Smith who posted a three-point night (1g-2a).

Nashville Predators at Tampa Bay Lightning – Thursday, Dec. 19 – 6:30 p.m. CT
(FOX Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game)

The Nashville Predators head to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning for just the eighth time ever and just the third time in the last seven seasons.

These teams last met up on Oct. 27, 2011 at Bridgestone Arena, when Mike Fisher scored two goals and added an assist to lead Nashville to a 5-3 win. Patric Hornqvist, and Nick Spaling also scored for the Preds, while Pekka Rinne made 29 saves to record his fourth victory of the season. Steven Stamkos had two goals and Teddy Purcell had one for the Lightning.

In their last trip to Tampa Bay on Oct. 24, 2010, Anders Lindback, now with the Lightning, made 42 saves to lead Nashville to its first victory in Tampa since its inaugural season, 4-3.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Nashville Predators – Saturday, Dec. 21 – 6 p.m CT
                 Dudley Do Right
(FOX Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game)

** A special 6 p.m. CT start time for Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday **

The Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens square off in the Music City for the first time since Nov. 12, 2011. Nashville is 6-5-4 in 15 all-time games against Montreal, and is 3-1-3 on Bridgestone Arena ice.

These two teams played on Oct. 19 in Montreal, as Seth Jones played the hero, after tallying his first career game-winning goal and his second goal of the season with 1:27 remaining in the final frame to defeat the Canadiens 2-1 at Bell Centre.

Their last meeting in the Music City came on Nov. 12, 2011, in the franchise’s 1,000th regular-season game. Montreal jumped out an early lead, before Shea Weber tied the game with a shorthanded goal early in the second period. The score would remain tied until Max Pacioretty beat Pekka Rinne midway through overtime.

Filip Forsberg is in IR with an upper-body injury.
Pekka Rinne is on IR with a hip injury.

In this week’s edition, several Nashville Predators prospects go camping:

Felix Girard (fourth round, 2013) is at Team Canada’s World Junior Championships Evaluation Camp this week, and helped Team Canada down the CIS All-Stars on Saturday night. Girard has posted 20 points (4g-16a) in 28 games for Baie-Comeau Drakkar for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 5-11, 193-pound center tops in the QMJHL in face-off efficiency (66.1 percent) and second in face-off wins (454) this season.

The Preds lone American representative is Zach Stepan (fourth round, 2012). Stepan has five points (2g-3a) in his last five games for the Minnesota State, including one assist in the Mavericks’ weekend series at Alabama-Huntsville.

The Preds have four players attending Finland’s Evaluation Camp. Prospect defenseman Mikko Vainonen (fourth round, 2012) has posted five points (1g-4a) and a +14 rating in 29 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs. Forward Saku Maenalanen (fifth round, 2013) has posted three points (1g-2a) in 10 games for Karpat of Finland’s SM-Liiga. In Finland’s second league, Maenalaen has been a point-per-game player (9g-5a-14pts, 14g) for Jokipojat, to rank fourth in points among Under-20 players.

Both of Nashville’s goaltender selections in the 2013 Entry Draft will attend Finland’s camp. Juuse Saros (fourth round, 2013) has posted a 6-9-5 record for HPK of the SM-Liiga. Despite his overall record, Saros is ranked second in SM-Liiga goals-against average (1.71) and third in both save percentage (.929) and shutouts, as five of his six wins this season have come via shutout. Where’s the goals support for this kid? Nashville’s other goaltending prospect, Janne Juvonen (seventh round, 2013) has posted a 1-1-0 record in three appearances for Lahti.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 14: Marek Mazanec #39 of the Nashville Predators works to cover the net without his stick in warm-ups prior to a game against the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena on December 14, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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