Pittsburgh Penguins Gameday 19: Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators (8-8-2) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-0)
Root Sports, SPSO – 7:00 pm/et 
Consol Energy Center – Pittsburgh, PA

The Penguins have lost 3023 games in-a-row. Okay, more like three in-a-row. The Predators have also lost three in-a-row. They're having a bit of a tough time getting along without Pekka Rinne, which makes perfect sense. They'll be starting Marek Mazanec in net tonight. It will be only his second NHL start (and third NHL game) so expect him to look like a brick wall standing in front of Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Terry Sawchuk in their prime against the Penguins.

It looks like Paul Martin could be back for Pittsburgh. Ray Shero used to work for the Predators. Expect to hear that a lot.

We wish this game was in Nashville, because we'd love to see those yellow jerseys. However, the Predators haven't played a home game since October 26 and they've only played two home games since October 19.


Leading Scorers:

Penguins: Sidney Crosby (9G, 15A: 24P)
Predators: David Legwand (4G, 11A: 15P)

Starting Goaltenders:

Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury (10-5-0, 2.07 GAA, .921 Sv%)
Predators: Marek Mazanec (0-1-0, 2.75 GAA, .912 Sv%)

Official Previews from Team Websites: [Penguins] [Predators]

Last Games:

Penguins: Lost to Philadelphia Flyers 2-1.
Predators: Lost to New York Islanders 3-1.

Opposition Blog: [On the Forecheck]
What They're Saying: "Nashville Predators @ Pittsburgh Penguins Preview: The Road Home"

As their 17-day-long road trip comes to an end, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only thing standing between the Predators and the road home to Nashville. A win tonight means the Preds collected 7 of a possible 14 points on their tour.

It's here. The dreaded set of back-to-back games that nobody in Nashville has been looking forward to. First up, the Nashville Predators visit the Steel City to face the Metropolitan leading Pittsburgh Penguins. It's been so long since these two have played each other, that there was chatter about it being a possible preview of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Oh, the good old days.

Pittsburgh has remained one of the league's very best teams, while Nashville has struggled just to keep its head above water. Without a dynamic roster to match, there isn't a whole lot between a set of teams that is only meeting for the 18th time. (If you're curious, the Preds are 9-5-1 with two ties all time, but the Pens have won the last two meetings.)

What Happened Last Time: March 22, 2012 – Pens won 5-1. [Our Recap]

They are averaging 5 goals per game.

The Pens' average on the season before this 5-game stretch was 3.08 goals per game. It is now at 3.22.

And breaking news: This offensive explosion hasn't come at the expense of defense. Before this stretch of 5 games, MAF's GAA was in the 2.20s. He has a GAA of 2.00 in the four games he's played since Crosby came back.

Malkin is performing at 2009 Conn Smythe levels right now. Crosby, in all honesty, looks like he's toned his game down juussstt a toucccch, like half a percent. Let us rephrase that. He is still giving 100%, but he's just doing it differently. He's not exerting himself in situations where he knows he doesn't have to; he doesn't have to impress the coaching staff with hustle and little things like that. Hard to explain — and we're not gonna try — but hopefully some people get what we're saying. And his timing is off after being gone for so long. Little passes like that drop pass to Staal aren't connecting. They will. Not complaining at all. Just an observation.

Penguins Player(s) to Watch: Evgeni Malkin. Not that it means anything, but he had two goals the last time these two teams met.

Predators Player(s) to Watch: Marek Mazanec. He lost his first ever NHL start. How will he do tonight?

Gif that Seems Appropriate for Today's Game: 

Pittsburgh Penguins lines from Daily Faceoff:

Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Matt D'Agostini
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Olli Maatta – Kris Letang
Paul Martin – Brooks Orpik
Matt Niskanen – Deryk Engelland/Robert Bortuzzo
Marc-Andre Fleury

Nashville Predators lines from Daily Faceoff:

Gabriel Bourque – David Legwand – Patric Hornqvist
Colin Wilson – Nick Spaling – Viktor Stalberg
Eric Nystrom – Matt Cullen – Filip Forsberg
Matt Hendricks – Paul Gaustad – Craig Smith
Seth Jones – Shea Weber
Roman Josi – Kevin Klein
Victor Bartley – Ryan Ellis
Marek Mazanec