Carolina Hurricanes at Nashville Predators
December 5, 2013 - 8:00 pm ET
Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN
TV - SportsSouth (channel guide)
Radio - 99.9 The Fan
Hurricanes Record: 11-12-5 (27 pts.)
Predators Record: 13-12-3 (29 pts.)
The Hurricanes and Predators meet tonight for the first of two games this season and the first in Nashville since the 2011-12 season. Both teams last played on Tuesday night. The Hurricanes come in to town on the heels of an impressive 4-1 road win against the Washington Capitals. The Predators lost at home Tuesday 3-1 to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canes have a rather dismal record in Music City, where they haven't won since December 2002. They've scored two goals or less in six of the last seven games against the Predators, and they've never earned a shutout.
The Hurricanes held a light practice in Nashville yesterday and will not skate today prior to the game. Following the success against the Capitals there were no tweaks to the lineup other than replacing injured defenseman Brett Bellemore, who left the game early in Washington after taking a hard hit from Tom Wilson and flew back to Raleigh yesterday. Other than complaints about neck stiffness, there is no other news on Bellemore's injury.
Ryan Murphy was a healthy scratch Tuesday and will presumably be back in the lineup in place of Bellemore. Tim Gleason is with the team and skating on the road trip, but was reported to need more practice time to get up to speed prior to returning to the lineup.
No starting goalie has been named but going into a back-to-back scenario (Canes return to Raleigh tonight to take on the Sharks Friday) it's expected that Justin Peters and Cam Ward will split duties, and with Peters coming off an impressive win Tuesday, he may get the start again tonight. Peters has only faced the Predators once, in a loss where he gave up five goals. Cam Ward is 1-4-1 with a 2.98 GAA in six appearances.
Eric Staal did not practice yesterday (under the weather) but is expected to play tonight. Staal has points in his last ten games. After being reunited on a line with Staal and Tuomo Ruutu. Jeff Skinner is coming off his first three-point game of the season.
Forward Alexander Semin remains sidelined with a concussion, and goaltender Anton Khudobin is day-to-day as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.
Projected lineup (based on Tuesday's game):
Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Jiri Tlusty - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Nathan Gerbe - Riley Nash - Elias Lindholm
Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak
Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey - Mike Komisarek
Jay Harrison - Ryan Murphy
The Predators have two more wins than the Canes, but despite the better record, their 29 points lands them in the 12th spot in the Western Conference and last (seventh) in the Central Division, seven points out of a playoff spot.
The Preds are not known for elegant or prolific scoring. Their team is built from the goal out and create their success with sound defense performance and gritty, hard-working goal scoring. They have eight players in double digit points. David Legwand leads the team with 20 points, and former Hurricane Matt Cullen has nine points in his last nine games.
Nashville's defensive corps has taken some big hits due to injury. Captain Shea Weber is still recovering from an eye injury and won't be in the lineup tonight, and Kevin Klein remains out with a foot injury. As a result, the Predators have relied heavily on rookie defenseman Seth Jones (who was selected one spot ahead of Elias Lindholm in this summer's draft). Jones is currently leading all NHL rookies in average time on ice (23:55).
The Predators were also hit hard by the injury to goaltender Pekke Rinne, who continues to recover from a bacterial infection requiring hip surgery in late October. In his place, another rookie has been called in to shine. Marek Mazanec has been up to the task and has posted a 5-5-1 record with a 2.09 GAA, .930 save percentage, and two shutouts. Marek was selected NHL Rookie of the Month for November.
Filip Forsburg is also out of the lineup with an upper body injury.
The Predators lead the league (tied for first) in the faceoff circle with a 54.5% win rate, and they rank in the top half of the league on both sides of the special teams battle.
Projected lineup based on Tuesday's game:
Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Viktor Stalberg
Nick Spaling - Matt Cullen - Craig Smith
Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Matt Hendricks
Roman Josi - Seth Jones
Victor Bartley - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - Joe Piskula
We'll have the game thread ready to roll by 7:30 pm. See you there.