Coming off a come-from-behind win on Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, the Nashville Predators (9-5-3) look to make it two in a row when they face a rare visitor to the Bridgestone Arena in the Toronto Maple Leafs (10-6-2). Toronto, losers of 4 out of their last 5 look to get their second straight victory against the Predators and their first in Nashville since the 2009-2010 season.
This will mark only the fourth time in Nashville’s franchise history that they will have hosted the Maple Leafs. Nashville holds a 6-5-1-0 series lead over the Leafs (2-1-0-0 at home [2001-2002, 2006-2007, 2009-2010])
Last Year’s Series: 0-1-0 (0-0-0 Home, 0-1-0 Away)
This Season’s Video Recaps:
Game 1 – November 16th, 2010:
Looking at the Maple Leafs: Coming off back-to-back losses and losing 4 out of their past 5 games, the Leafs are looking for answers after starting the season with a 7-3-1 October. Since the “injury” to James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens have taken his place, going a combined 6-6-1 (compared to Reimer’s 4-0-1). However, the road has been a very friendly place for Toronto as of late, where they’ve won the past 3 in a row including two straight against Central Division foes (Columbus and St. Louis).
Leading the way for the Maple Leafs is Phil Kessel who leads not only Toronto in points and goals, but the entire league as well, racking up 13 goals and 12 assists in his first 18 games (a 114-point season pace). Unfortunately, for the Maple Leafs, their goaltending doesn’t really lead any statistics right now. Gustavsson and Scrivens have a combined average .891 Sv% and a 3.35 GAA. If that GAA holds course, then Nashville may not have any trouble finding the back of the net.
Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur (5th and 6th in points, respectively, for the Leafs) will be sidelined tonight for Toronto, with perenially-injured Tim Connolly making his way in the lineup as well as media-darling (and former Predators defenseman) Cody Franson.
Looking at the Predators: Nashville nearly found themselves in a 2-game losing streak Tuesday night, except for the late heroics of Martin Erat and Colin Wilson who tied and won the game late in the third period after 55 minutes of scoreless action. The Predators have now gone 4-1-1 in their past 6 games and look to continue that stretch tonight against Toronto.
Being led by all-world goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is tied for the league lead in shutouts and who’s numbers are growing up the ladder after every game, Nashville has moved up to a tie for 16th in the league in goals scored per game (2.71) while moving up to 11th best in the league in goals allowed per game (2.47). Point-leader Craig Smith, who is tied for the team-lead in goals with Patric Hornqvist at 7 each, looks to continue his dynamic rookie season as he’s still tied with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the league-lead in points for rookies.
David Legwand will remain out for tonight’s action (and possibly out till Tuesday).
For the Maple Leafs to win: Toronto will have to find a way to play remarkable defense in-place of their sub-par goaltending. With Gustavsson and Scrivens both having a tough time in lieu of James Reimer, the defense is going to have to kick in for the Maple Leafs or they’re going to find themselves falling to the bottom of the Northeast Division very quickly.
That being said, Phil Kessel has had a point in 4 straight and a goal in 3 of the last 4 and if he can continue his hot start to the season while the defense prevents any good chances against their goaltender, then Toronto stands a chance at weathering the Nashville storm.
For the Predators to win: Take advantage of a depleted Leafs line-up. With their #1 goaltender still out for an indefinite amount of time and their offense taking a hit with Grabovski and MacArthur out for tonight, Nashville needs to take advantage of this.
With Pekka Rinne averaging less than 2 goals in his past 3 starts (2-0-1), all cylinders seem to be firing for a team that is averaging 3 goals a game in the month of November so far. If the Predators can continue their offensive surge and their stellar goaltending, then they’ll carry a 2-game win streak into Saturday’s game against Columbus
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Stay frosty, friends