The Nashville Predators will travel on the road to Rogers Arena on Thursday night as they get set for a Western Conference battle against the Vancouver Canucks.
After a fast start to the regular season, the Canucks have reverted to form, losing 12 of their last 13 games, going 1-10-2 during that span. Vancouver has compiled just 25 points through their first 30 games of the season, while going just 5-7-1 at Rogers Arena to start the year. Meanwhile, Nashville currently sits atop the Western Conference standings with 39 points in 28 games this season.
Predators open December 2-0 after win over Sabres
After losing three of four to end the month of November, the Predators have bounced back with back-to-back victories to start off December. Nashville is fresh off of a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. Kevin Fiala broke a 1-1 tie in the second period and Ryan Ellis also scored for the Predators to help them remain atop the Western Conference standings. Pekka Rinne stopped 21 of the 22 shots that he faced on the evening, including five shots in the final 1:17 of the game, as Buffalo upped the ante with the extra attacker in an attempt to even up the score.
Rinne is scheduled to be back between the pipes for Thursday’s matchup in Vancouver. The 36-year-old goaltender comes in with a spectacular 12-4-1 overall record to go along with a 1.81 GAA and an NHL-best .935 save percentage so far this year. At a time when scoring his up across the league, Rinne has stepped up his game, allowing more than two goals just five times in 19 games this year, and he has yet to allow more than three goals in a game this season. Rinne made two starts against the Canucks last season, going 1-1-0 with a 2.53 GAA and a .912 save percentage versus Vancouver.
Thanks in large part to the play of Rinne, Nashville leads the NHL in goals against, allowing just 2.36 goals per contest so far this season. The Predators are scoring 3.21 goals per game on offense (11th in the NHL), while converting on 15.7 percent of their power play chances (26th in the NHL). They have also killed off 81.1 percent of their penalties so far this year (11th in the NHL).
Canucks can’t stop slide, lose for 12th time in 13 games
The Canucks dropped their fourth consecutive contest on Tuesday, losing to the Minnesota Wild at home 3-2. Newly-acquired forward Josh Leivo opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the season and Tyler Motte put Vancouver back up 2-1 early in the second period, however, the Canucks couldn’t hold on, losing by a single goal for the fourth straight game. Anders Nilsson stopped 25 of 28 shots on the night to lose his sixth straight start. Nilsson has not won a game since Ovt. 16 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jacob Markstrom is expected to be back patrolling the crease for the Canucks on Thursday versus the Predators. The 28-year-old comes in with an 8-9-3 overall record to go along with a 3.31 GAA and a .897 save percentage so far this season. Markstrom made only one start versus the Predators last season, stopping 39 of 43 shots in a tough overtime loss.
Vancouver comes in scoring just 2.77 goals per game (23rd in the NHL) and allowing 3.43 goals per contest (27th in the NHL). They have also left plenty to be desired on special teams. Vancouver has converted on 17.5 percent of their power play chances (21st in the NHL) and killed 74.8 percent of their penalties so far this year (27th in the NHL).
- Canucks are 4-11 in their last 15 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
- Canucks are 3-13 in their last 16 overall.
- Canucks are 1-6 in their last 7 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
- Predators are 4-1 in their last 5 when their opponent scores 2 goals or less in their previous game.
- Predators are 12-4 in their last 16 Thursday games.
- Predators are 20-7 in their last 27 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game