Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Preds to battle Tampa; NHL to battle cancer

Tampa Bay invades Smashville on Thursday night, and will take on the Nashville Predators at 7:00 at Bridgestone Arena. It is also Hockey Fights Cancer night at Bridgestone Arena.

Almost everybody has been affected by cancer in some way. The NHL founded Hockey Fights Cancer in 1998 to raise money and awareness for cancer.

"I think it's just great for awareness. As a pro athlete, or someone in the public eye, you're in a forum where you can bring some awareness to some critical needs," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "We've got to get that disease out of here and off our planet."

Raising awareness for the fight against cancer is very important to the players as well. They know how important the fight against cancer is, and Hockey Fights Cancer is an effective way of fighting the disease. Over $12 million has been raised through the program so far.

"I think it's a great cause. I think the NHL and the Player's Association does a great job in trying to support cancer victims and fight against cancer," said Predators defenseman Jack Hillen.

While the battle against cancer off of the ice is much more important, there is still a game to be played. The Predators really need there first home victory of the season. Nashville is coming into the game with a 3-4-1 record, and will be facing a team with a lot of offensive firepower in the Lightning.

Tampa Bay is a bit of an unconventional team. They do certain things differently than most of the teams in the NHL. Combined with that is that fact that Nashville usually only sees the Lightning one time per year.

"They're very nontraditional in terms of they go with a 1-3-1 format. They have one guy that's basically standing at the red line, three guys at the blue line, and we were looking at the film against Buffalo where there were a couple of times that their defenseman was standing right next to their goalie," Trotz said.

The style of play that Tampa Bay has frustrates a lot of teams around the league. Nashville will have to exercise patience if they want to exploit the style of the Lightning.

"You've got to be really patient with them. You've got to have a little bit of a plan. You just can't get frustrated. The frustration is going to be the enemy," Trotz said. "The whole deal is as soon as you get off your game plan it becomes frustrating. That becomes your enemy against a team like Tampa."

Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vinny Lecavalier are all tremendous offensive weapons for the Lightning. Tampa Bay is 4-3-2 on the year, and have won three consecutive games coming into the game against the Predators.

My player to watch for the Lightning is Stamkos. He's a world-class player, and makes scoring goals look easy. The Predators will certainly have to respect his game, but they also can't stand by and watch him play.

"You know who they are, but the game is too quick to say 'Oh my God what am I going to do?' You just make sure you do your fundamentals. Play the body and try to look at his chest, not stare at the puck," Hillen said.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn has six points on the year so far, and has a point in every game this season except two. He'll be on a line with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith, which will provide him with an opportunity to make plays.

"He's unique. He's skilled, he's fast, and he's got a lot of assets that a lot of guys don't have. He's extremely smart with the puck. In my words, he's lethal," Smith said. "He can thread passes to anybody. At times, I don't think teams really know exactly where he's going with the puck."


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