Monday, February 6, 2012

Rivalry renewed in Smashville

The Nashville Predators will host the Vancouver Canucks for the first time since Game 6 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. With the battle for the top spot in the Western Conference still in full swing, Tuesday night's game is sure to have a high level of intensity.

Vancouver sits atop the Northwest Division with 69 points, and have posted a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games. The Canucks are once again being led by the stellar offensive play of the Sedin twins. Henrik and Daniel Sedin are both over the 50 point plateau on the season, and the Predators will have to contain them if they hope to win Tuesday night's contest.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. Martin Erat continued to produce offensively as he has done all season, recording three points against the Blues on Saturday night. Erat has 12 points in his last 10 games.

Tuesday night's game figures to be an electric atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena. Although it has been almost nine months since the Canucks last set foot in Smashville, Predators fans still have a great deal of malevolence toward Vancouver.

In the first two games between these two teams this year in Vancouver, the Canucks have scored a combined 10 goals against the Predators. Vancouver handily won the first meeting by a 5-1 score on October 20, but the Predators responded with a dramatic 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the Canucks on December 1st.

My player to watch for the Canucks is Ryan Kesler. He always seems to play well against the Predators, and he had a lot of success at Bridgestone Arena in last season's playoff series. He was the difference in that series. Look for the Predators to try to play a physical game with him to limit his time and space.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Ryan Ellis. Ellis could be an X-factor in this game. It will be interesting to see how he handles the speed of Vancouver's forwards, and how he performs on the power play. The Canucks and Predators have the top two power plays in the NHL. Ellis will play a key role on Nashville's power play on Tuesday night.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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