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New Jersey Devils at Nashville Predators: Game Preview #56

The last stop on the Devils current road sees them face off against a team struggling just as much as they are: the Nashville Predators. This preview focuses on how the Predators season mirrors the up-and-down nature of the Devils.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - WCBS 880 AM.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (23-21-11) at the Nashville Predators(24-21-8; SBN Blog: On the Forecheck)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils went down to Dallas hoping to end a 2 game losing streak after talking out their feelings. Thanks to some stellar special teams play, they did just that, winning 3-2 in overtime. John's recap of last night's effort is here.

The Last Predators Game: The Predators have had a trying season, currently sitting 4th from the bottom in the Western Conference, 7 points out of the Wild Card. Coming off a 4 game road trip in which they went 2-1-1, the Predators most recent game was a 4-3 win in Winnipeg. Nashville took a 1-0 lead on a fantastic effort from 19-year old rookie sensation Seth Jones. Winnipeg answered 22 seconds later through Chris Thorburn. The Predators extended the lead to 3-1 through goals by Roman Josi and Nick Spaling, only for the Jets to answer back to tie in a span of 27 seconds by Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Nashville retook the lead for the third time on a power play goal by Mike Fisher and held on to win 4-3. On the Forecheck's Jonathan Garcia sums up the Predator's season in his recap: The Battle for the Basement.

The Last Devils-Predators Game: Happy times in Devils Land as the Devils blanked the Predators 5-0 on November 10th. Goals from Jaromir Jagr, Cam Janssen, Marek Zidlicky, Travis Zajac, and Mattis Tedenby made it a pretty relaxing night for Devils fans. John recapped the action here, while Dirk Hoag lamented the Predators 2nd consecutive shutout.

The Goal: Attack! Nashville ranks 25/30 teams in close score Corsi % at 48.3%, whereas the Devils rank 4th at 54.3%. I'm not sure which is more depressing, honestly. At least Nashville knows why they aren't playing well. Only 4 skaters for Nashville have a Corsi For % in 5-on-5 situations that is above 50%: Ryan Ellis, Gabriel Borque, Matt Cullen, and Patric Hornqvist. Needless to say, the Devils should be able to carry the play and dictate in the Nashville zone. Also, hopefully their special teams play continues to play well. As difficult it is for the Devils to score 5-on-5, efficient special teams play can help carry them in the standings. With Martin Brodeur likely starting in net, it's all the more important that the Devils are sharp offensively.

A Familiar Face on Defense: The Predators acquired Michael Del Zotto from the Rangers earlier this season. Dirk at On the Forecheck analyzed how it's a better fit for the Predators and balances out the blue line in terms of right-handed and left-handed defensemen.

Be Wary Of...Who Exactly?: Patric Hornqvist leads the Predators with 162 shots, good for over 3 per game. Shea Weber, yes, a defenseman, leads the team in points with 36, so the Predators may be the only team south of Buffalo that are worse than the Devils offensively.

Goalie Carousel: Since Pekka Rinne has been injured for most of the season, the Predators netminder duties have been filled by household names such as Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec, who sport identical 0.91% save percentages. Hutton was the goalie the Devils had their way with the last time out. He's started 4 of the last 6 games, giving up 10 goals in Jekyll and Hyde efforts. He was solid against the Canucks and Stars (0.97% Save Percentage in both contests), but allowed the Oilers and Jets to score 5 and 3 goals in his last two outings. If he's in net, we may know early on which Hutton shows up.

Your Take: Now I'd like to hear from you. This isn't a regular opponent of the Devils, but they have some intriguing players I'm interested in. Seth Jones, for one. Also, Shea Weber is a player I really enjoy watching. We know the Devils are in need of a top-nine forward, so maybe David Legwand (in his final year of his contract), seems like a trade target if the Predators continue to slide. I could see him slotting in at that 3rd line center spot between Zubrus/Elias and Brunner. Jones, Weber, and Legwand are the three I'll be watching. What will you be watching for?