Originally posted on Inside Smashville  |  Last updated 3/21/12

Season Records

Nashville Predators 42-23-8

Pittsburgh Penguins 45-21-6

Alexander Radulov participated in his first team practice on Wednesday

The Nashville Predators will try to climb back into the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. On Wednesday, the Red Wings reclaimed the fourth spot from Nashville with an overtime loss against the Rangers. The Chicago Blackhawks beat Vancouver in overtime to tie Nashville in points. The Predators, however, have two games in hand over the Blackhawks.

The Penguins are one of the hottest teams in the League posting a 9-0-1 record in their last 10 games. Pittsburgh was considered an Eastern Conference favorite before the return of Sidney Crosby, but with the captain’s return to the lineup, the Penguins are a favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

It will not be easy, but Nashville will need to find a way to win. After a 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the 14th place team in the Western Conference, the Predators need to get back those two points.

While all eyes will no doubt be on the potential first game back in the NHL for Alexander Radulov, Predators fans should take note that Martin Erat is one point shy of surpassing his career high in points. On Tuesday night, Erat assisted on Patric Hornqvist’s second-period goal for his 39th assist this season. Erat also has 18 goals for 57 points, tying his career high. Erat also had 57 points in 2006-07 as well as 2007-08. Against the Penguins, Erat has nine points in eight games including 6 goals and 3 assists.

Nashville maintains the best power play in the NHL with a 21.6 percent success rate. However, the Penguins boast the third best penalty kill in the League, foiling the opponent’s man advantage 89 percent of the time, with 8 shorthanded goals scored. The Penguins are also one of the top power play teams, ranked sixth in the League with a 19.5 percent success rate. Nashville comes in 14th in the League on the penalty kill with an 82.6 percent kill off rate. Edmonton was only awarded one power play on Tuesday night but capitalized on their one opportunity.

While backup goaltender Brent Johnson is the only Penguin out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, the Predators are still missing Roman Josi from the lineup. Barry Trotz says Josi will miss Thursday night in Pittsburgh. Paul Gaustad is getting closer to returning to the lineup. On Tuesday morning Gaustad said he was seeing the team doctor that day and had personally hoped he could be back in the lineup against the Penguins.

Thursday night’s game is the only time the two teams meet this season. Nashville has won two of the last three contests between the clubs, picking up 5 of 6 points.  It is also the first time the Predators visit the Penguins since February 14, 2010.

 

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