The Nashville Predators return to the ice tonight in Minneapolis for the first of three games in four nights against the Wild (3-8). After winning their first two games, the Preds have gone 1-6-1 and have only scored 17 goals in ten games, six of which were in their lone recent win in Ottawa.
Minnesota has also had a disappointing start to the season losing all eight road games while winning their three home contests, all in OT. The Wild have several really ugly + - numbers with six players at -8 or worse, led by Brent Burns (-11) and Martin Havlat (-10).
Both teams have been abysmal in putting the puck in the net with the Wild ranked 28th (2.o goals per game) while the Preds are last (1.7 gpg).
The Wild and the Preds are both coming off losses to Chicago on the road, the Preds losing 2-0 on Saturday and Minnesota 3-1 on Monday.
The Predators will match the leagues 30th ranked power play (8.3%) against the Wild's 2nd ranked penalty kill (88.1%). The Preds lead the league in fewest penalty minutes at 9.1 per game which could be indicative of their lack of aggressive play.
On Monday, the Predators recalled Mike Santorelli from Milwaukee and sent Ryan Jones to the Ads in return. Santorelli played the first five games with the Preds with only a shoot-out goal to his credit. In four games in the AHL, Santorelli had four goals and four assists. Despite having a one-way contract, Jones was sent down after playing eight games with no points in limited minutes.
Line combinations for tonight's game is anyone's guess. Coach Barry Trotz has played "fruit-basket turnover" with his lines in a desperate search for offense over the last few games and practices. There has also not been an indication of who will start in goal for the Preds but it may be Pekka Rinne since Dan Ellis played well against Chicago last Saturday and the Preds have a rematch with the Hawks on Thursday in Nashville.
The Predators are expecting the return of defenseman, Dan Hamhuis who has been out for four games with an upper body injury. The Preds have already lost 26 man-games to injury in this young season and remain without the services of Captain Arnott (upper body) and Jordin Tootoo (hip flexor).
With Hamhuis' return, the Predators are carrying seven defensemen and it is unclear who will be the odd man out. Cody Franson has played well in his four games since replacing Hamhuis on the roster so it is unlikely that he sit this one out.
After tonight's game, the Predators will return to Nashville to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday for the third time this season. On Saturday the Predators will face Dallas for the third time this season before heading out on a four game, two week road trip to the West coast.
It will be critical for the Predators to play well during the games this week and on the road trip to be in a position to take advantage of the back loaded home schedule when they play 12 of 15 games at home when they return from their Western swing.
In Pred Nation...
Mark Willoughby of the View from 111 will be the guest expert tonight on HockeyBuzz Radio on WNSR at 6 p.m. with Paul McCann and Pete Weber. I'm looking forward to hearing Mark as he hits the big time radio circuit.
John Glennon has a story on ex-Pred Greg Zanon. Bryan Mullen attended Tuesday's practice and confirmed that little could be gathered on lines or goalies for tonight's game.
David Boclair has more on the Pred's lack of offense at The City Paper.
Here are a couple of post from the Minnesota Star Tribune on tonight's game, one, two. The Wild are in the same boat as the Preds in needing to get something going.
Two more Pred Prospects are set to play in the Super Series games against the Russians next month as Ryan Ellis and Michael Latta were named to Team OHL. Earlier this week, Charles-Oliver Roussel and Gabriel Bourque were named to Team QMJHL.
Jim Diamond reports the suspension of Pred prospect Craig Smith of the University of Wisconsin for a hit from behind on an opponent in their game last Saturday. Jim also has a story on Greg de Vries who appears to have made Nashville his permanent home.
Forechecker is now running a travel bureau at his site directing out of towners to cheap air fare via Southwest and discounted tickets to Preds games.
Mike Barnes sits in as a guest writer at Section 303 and wants to see change, quickly.
From @NHLPredsInsider: Arnott skates by himself today, but still out for the next couple games. Hamhuis in for tomorrow - but 7 d-men to stick around. It's good to see a little competition at D!
Ad's Short Shifts has a preview of tonight's Admirals game against Abbotsford.
David Legwand makes a top ten list of players needing a trade at the Hockey Writers.
Here's an article on Colin Wilson by Alan Bass that I missed last week while on vacation. Colin Wilson was also on NHL Live yesterday.
Around the NHL...
It's not official but word has been filtering out that the 2010 Entry Draft will be held in LA with the Kings as host on June 25 and 26. I guess earlier rumors of it being in Phoenix were incorrect. If the same schedule is followed as last year, the the 2010 NHL Awards would be on on June 17 in Las Vegas. However, the NHL has slated June 18 as the latest the cup would finish. So it is possible that he Awards show could be the same week as the draft. Sounds like a great time to kill about 10 days in the Southwest. It is on my vacation calendar already.
Hockey or Die reports on the tenuous position of Ian Penny with the NHLPA. Earlier on Tuesday, agent Allan Walsh tweeted @walsha: Text mess from Chelios to Ian Penny-"Ian,when you r done can you pls call me + let me know what you 5 staff members are discussing with each other i would like to know being your guys Emplyer." Leaves no doubt Chelios is now running the NHLPA.
Paul Kukla will be a special guest on tonight's edition of Chris Wassel's The Program on Blog Talk Radio at 7:oo Central.
Slapshot addresses the issue of headshots and the NHL position on them (depends on which day it is ???) in a excellent article and commentary.
Michelle Kenneth addresses the subject of whether a girl that is in to sports is actually a turn on or turn off to men. I do know that my wife scares me when she watches football, but I don't think Michelle is as rowdy as the wife.
From @reporterchris: Sidney Crosby to carry Olympic torch on Nov. 18 in Halifax.
Mike Wyman reviews Russ Cohen's 100 Ranger Greats for Inside Hockey.
More exploits of the Psycho Puck Lady in New York can be found here.
After getting an In N Out fix last week I can believe that the number one question to their hotline is @IN_N_OUT_Burger: People Asking for Franchise information. (We don't franchise, we have no stock)
Finally, Bob Griese getting suspended by ESPN for a week for making a "taco" remark is political correctness run amuck. If he was sincere in his apology, that should have been enough. I've seen athletes get off for far more serious offenses with really lame "apologies". The object of the remark even joked about it. This is ridiculous! We has Navajo Tacos (that we learned how to make at Monument Valley) for dinner last night. I hope that isn't offensive to anyone.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass