Revenge is best served with barbeque sauce. The Ducks and Predators are meeting for the first time since the Ducks (horrific) first round exit on April 24th.
Let's take a look at Nashville first. Did you know that Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, and Ryan Suter will all be free agents at the end of this season? Of the three, Shea Weber is the only RFA, a status which he retained after the Preds took their captain to arbitration over the summer. If you're unaware of how arbitration goes, here's the over simplified version. The team and the player meet with an arbitrator. The player gives his case of why he should get X amount of dollars. The team gives their case as to why the player isn't worth that money. As you can imagine, this can lead to some hurt feelings. (I know I don't want my boss telling someone why I suck - in front of me.) Weber came out on the better side of the deal, earning $7.5 million for this season. If I'm not mistaken, this is the highest dollar value awarded in arbitration ever.
While Weber will remain a RFA status after the season, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets offer sheets from other teams, knowing that Nashville, an internal budget team, can't possibly meet anything above the $8 million plus he'll likely command without having to drop Suter and/or Rinne (both expected to receive hefty raises in the off-season). Of course, this is all just theory. The upcoming CBA negotiations could change everything for the small market teams giving the Preds more cash to play with.
However, reading between the lines, I got the feeling that Weber gave the team an ultimatum - win now or I'm gone. At this early point in the season, the Preds find themselves in 12th place with 9 points. Hardly something to be worried about with 73 games left in the season. They are coming off of a Thursday night 5-3 win versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Giant spaghetti monster goalie Pekka Rinne is one win away from his 100th. With all the problems the Ducks have had with him in the past, I'm sure they don't want to add "team that gave Rinne his 100th win" to a list that includes "team that gave Nashville it's first first-round playoff series win in franchise history."
In the first two games of this looong roadie, the Ducks have collect 3 out of 4 possible points and currently sit 6th in the Western Conference with 11 points total. The power play finally started clicking with two goals in the previous game versus the lowly Minnesota Wild. Minnesota's PK was clicking at 74% and that is definitely not the case with Nashville. As we saw in the playoffs, they have a pretty good D-core that was able to shut down the big boys. One more suprising stat for you - the Ducks PK is 10th at 86.5% and the Preds are 14th at 85.0%. It's like bizzaro world.
Anyway, the Ducks feed off the success of the power play. If they playoffs were any indication of how Nashville prefers to take penal...AAHHH...woah...just fell down mid-sentence with no one around me. Where was I? Yes, the penalties. Nashville is 17th in power play percentage. Not exactly the overpowering threat, but the more penalties the Ducks take, the quicker they wear out their penalty killers. Discipline on our part is key. It also helps to beat the Preds at their own game by drawing penalties on Suter and Weber.
Should be a fun one tonight in Smashville. JF Jacques is back from Syracuse to serve another game of his suspension. Patrick Maroon didn't make the flight with him, so that experiment is done. Look for your league mandated camera time of Carrie
Fisher Underwood. Say hello to former Cruncher Brian McGrattan (swiped by Nashville on waivers). Oh, and Bobby, keep your skate on the ice.