Thursday, March 22, 2012

Preds to take on Penguins in regular season showdown



The Nashville Predators travel to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in perhaps the most anticipated game of the regular season so far. Alexander Radulov will potentially be making his season debut tonight against the Penguins.

Pittsburgh has been the hottest team in the NHL over the past few weeks. They have not lost a game in regulation in their last 13 games, going 12-0-1 during that span. With the exceptional play of Evgeni Malkin throughout the entire year, along with the return of Sidney Crosby, the Penguins are perhaps the scariest team in the NHL.

In their last game, Pittsburgh defeated the Winnipeg Jets by an 8-4 score. Crosby posted four assists, bringing his point total to nine in the four games since returning to the lineup. Malkin leads the NHL in points with 93, and is the favorite for the Hart Trophy at season's end. James Neal recorded a hat trick against Winnipeg on Tuesday night, which brought his goal total to 35 on the season. Pittsburgh is simply full of offensive talent.

Nashville is coming off of a 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. The Predators really controlled the play for the majority of the game, despite the lopsided score. With the potential of Radulov making his season debut for the Predators tonight, along with playing against a high-powered team like the Penguins, Nashville will likely have a lot of jump to start this game.

Steve Sullivan will be playing against his former team tonight for the first time since he and the Predators parted ways last offseason. In a classy move, the entire Penguins team will be wearing the Wade Belak decals on the back of their helmets for tonight's game. Sullivan, has been wearing the decal for the entire season, after the tragic passing of Belak over the summer. Tonight, his teammates will join him. Every player on the ice in tonight's game will have the decal on their helmet.

Some have built tonight's game as a potential preview of the Stanley Cup Final. The addition of Radulov to the Predators has provided a unique set of circumstances leading up to this game, which has only done more to add to the hype. The game will be televised on the NHL Network at 6 p.m. central time.

My player to watch for the Penguins is Jordan Staal. Pittsburgh's depth at the center ice position is simply sensational. Staal is a terrific NHL player that has spent most of his career in Pittsburgh on the third line due to having Crosby and Malkin in front of him. Look for him to make a difference in tonight's game.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. With the possibility of playing on a line with Radulov, it will be interesting to see how quickly the line develops chemistry. Legwand's veteran presence will be key in making that line work if Radulov does make his season debut tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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