NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, February 12th
(All times eastern)
Nashville Predators (32-22-5) at New Jersey Devils (36-20-3), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The New Jersey Devils can't be a confident bunch right now
after blowing two-goal leads in consecutive losses. The Nashville Predators,
meanwhile, hope a big win last time out can help them get back on track.
New Jersey hosts Nashville for the first time in over three years as the two
clubs get together this evening at the Prudential Center.
The Devils have lost three straight games and five of their last six and are
just 4-9-2 over their last 11, dropping their lead over the Pittsburgh
Penguins for first place in the Atlantic Division to just one point. That top
spot could change hands tonight, as Pittsburgh hosts the New York Rangers.
New Jersey was swept in a home-and-home set by the Flyers to begin this week,
with Philadelphia rallying from 2-0 deficits in both games. The Devils lost
Monday's contest in Philadelphia by a 3-2 score, allowing the go-ahead goal in
the third period, while Wednesday's rematch in the Garden State went into
overtime. The Devils suffered another 3-2 setback when the Flyers' Simon Gagne
beat Martin Brodeur at 3:27 of OT.
"[Wednesday] we found a way to lose," Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire told
New Jersey's Web site. "It's that simple. We talk, I don't know how many
times, about having short shifts. In the room, before the games, in practices,
behind the bench, and we still have long shifts."
Travis Zajac and Rob Niedermayer scored for the Devils, who were without
leading goal scorer Zach Parise. The forward was a late scratch due to an
upper-body injury and leads the club with 26 goals and 58 assists. It was the
first game Parise missed this season and just the third in his five seasons.
New Jersey was also without defenseman Anssi Salmela, who left Monday's game
on a stretcher after taking a shoulder hit following his short-handed goal.
Blueliner Bryce Salvador then left Wednesday's game with an upper-body injury
in the second period and did not return.
Both Parise, who had a streak of 187 consecutive games played end, and
Salvador are expected to return to action tonight.
The Devils are still waiting for their first goal from Ilya Kovalchuk, who has
gone pointless in his last three games despite firing 22 shots on net. He had
two assists in his New Jersey debut on February 5 after being acquired along
with Salmela from Atlanta.
Nashville will try to take advantage of the Devils tonight after halting a
two-game slide on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over the Rangers. Skating in
just his 12th NHL game, Colin Wilson's second career goal was the game-winner,
while Jordin Tootoo scored for the first time since December 4.
Dan Ellis stopped 37 shots, including 18 in the third period, for Nashville,
which is 3-6-2 in its last 11 games and also halted a five-game road losing
streak (0-4-1). Ellis was making his first start since January 29 and earned
his first win since January 15.
"I think it's always important to continue to prove yourself," Ellis told
NHL.com. "When people have doubts about your abilities, you have to go out
there and prove that you can play. This was an important game for us
[Wednesday], and you have to put personal things aside and dig deep for the
Nashville, 1-0-1 on a four-game road trip that ends Sunday in Pittsburgh, is
seventh in the Western Conference and will visit New Jersey for the first time
since October 19, 2006. The Predators are 4-1-1 in the six all-time meetings
in the Garden State, but tonight marks their first trip to the Prudential
Center, which opened in 2007.
The Preds have won two of their last three overall meetings with the Devils,
including a 3-2 shootout victory on November 19. Parise had both regulation
goals for New Jersey, while Martin Erat netted the deciding goal for the
Predators in the shootout.
02/12 10:38:31 ET