Nashville Predators 2-2-1
Vancouver Canucks 2-3-1
Both the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks have had rocky starts to the 2011-12 NHL season. After Monday night’s embarrassing performance where the Predators recorded only 12 shots on goal and gave up their second consecutive third period lead, Nashville looks to bounce back from their 3-1 loss to Edmonton.
Vancouver will also be trying to forget their last outing. The New York Rangers shutout the Canucks 4-0 on Tuesday night.
The Predators and Canucks have become familiar foes, meeting in the Western Conference semi-finals last year. Vancouver is exactly what the Predators need to right what has fallen apart as of late. Nashville always plays its best hockey against teams that are traditionally top contenders for the League title, especially those teams that have a history of beating the Predators in the playoffs.
The problem, of course, is that the Predators are just the opponent the Canucks need too. Nashville is struggling and desperate for a win. So were the Rangers on Tuesday. Nothing says motivation like making sure that your team isn’t the one to lose to two teams, two games in a row that can’t find the back of the net. Tuesday night’s win was the first time that the Rangers scored more than two goals in their first four games.
It should be a physical contest Thursday night, with no love lost between to the teams. It should also be close. A season ago, the teams split their four regular season outings, each winning a game at home and on the road. Splitting the season series in Vancouver has become a common trend. For the past six seasons, the Predators have gone 1-1-0 at Rogers Arena.
Players to watch for Nashville remain Sergei Kostitsyn and David Legwand. Kostitsyn extended his season points streak to five, recording his first goal of the season on Monday night in Edmonton. Legwand was unable to get on the scoresheet Monday night but has two goals and six assists through the Predators first five games.
Key injuries include Martin Erat and Mike Fisher at forward, both on injured reserve as well as Francis Bouillon on defense. From Vancouver, Josh Cooper from The Tennessean reports that Niclas Bergfors will get a chance to play Thursday night. Bergfors has only played once this season and has been a healthy scratch the other games.
Cooper also reports that Patric Hornqvist and Cal O’Reilly did not practice on Wednesday but should be good to play against Vancouver.
The struggling Canucks also have a couple of injuries to deal with. While Ryan Kesler has just returned from injury, Mason Raymond has been out since the 19th of September with a fractured vertebrae. Raymond is out indefinitely. Aaron Rome broke his hand during the pre-season. He remains out of the lineup and was expected to miss four to six weeks.
Thursday night’s game starts at 9 pm CT. The Predators conclude their Western Canadian swing Saturday in Calgary when the Predators and Flames face off in a matinee before Nashville returns home for a three-game homestead beginning next Tuesday.