Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unfamiliar foes to square off in Nashville

The Nashville Predators will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night at 7:00 at Bridgestone Arena for the third game of a five game homestand.

Toronto is coming off of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night, which dropped them to a 10-6-2 record. The Leafs are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference coming into the game, and have surprised a lot of people with their fast start this year.

Nashville is coming off of a dramatic 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. With that win, the Predators improved to 9-5-3 on the year. The Predators have been playing great hockey as of late, and have collected points in eight of their last nine games.

This will be just the fourth time that Toronto will have played in Nashville in history, which is the fewest amount of any team in the NHL. When these two teams met last season, the Predators suffered one of the most debilitating losses in regular season franchise history. Nashville had a 3-1 lead, but then allowed six consecutive power play chances for the Maple Leafs. Toronto won the game 5-4.

Phil Kessel(25 points) and Joffrey Lupul(19 points) have led the way for Toronto from an offensive standpoint so far this season. Goaltending has been a bit bizarre so far this year. Three different goaltenders have already played at least four games for the Leafs, and they are only 18 games into the season.

My player to watch for the Maple Leafs is Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi spent last year with the Preds' organization, but was sidelined with a concussion for 80 full regular season games and the playoffs. David Poile dealt him, along with Cody Franson, to Toronto last offseason. He's a very fast player, and is a good two-way forward.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Mike Fisher. Fisher had two assists in Tuesday night's win over the Capitals, and seems to be getting back to full speed after taking that hard hit by Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 29. His two-way game is very effective, and gives the Predators a huge boost when he's healthy and able to contribute.