Keys to the Game: The Nashville Predators aren't having the greatest of seasons. Despite their 3-2 defeat of the San Jose Sharks in their last game on Tuesday, the Predators still sit a lowly sixth in the Central Division. Similar to recent years the Predators are struggling offensively, scoring just 105 goals so far this year, good for 25th in the league according to Hockey Reference, however the team's reputation as a defensive dynamo, of sorts, has also taken quite a hit this season, giving up 131 goals thus far...22nd out of all 30 teams.
This cursory glance would certainly lead you to believe that Anaheim, winners in 14 of their last 15 games, would run roughshod over Nashville, as well it should. However, at some point the Duck's propensity for absolutely horrid starts is going to catch up with them, and a road game against a sub-par team two days after taking out the Boston Bruins (Stanley Cup Final participants two of the last three years, remember) seems like just the sort of trap game in which a slow start could turn into a surprising loss. In short, it's important for the Ducks to show up in the first the way they usually do in the second.
More specifically, regardless of the struggles this year in Nashville they still employ a certain Shea Weber, and he's a factor in every game he plays. Much like Zdeno Chara in the Ducks last game, Weber poses a serious obstacle to Getzlaf, Perry, and the current Left Wing on Anaheim's top line. Weber's play necessitates a few things from the Ducks. The first is that they need to establish a physical and effective forecheck, denying the Predator's D the time and space, they need to break out of their zone cleanly and wear on the defensemen throughout the course of the game. The second, and perhaps more important in this game considering Nashville has the last change, is that the "secondary scoring" we hear so much about must continue to contribute.
What Can We Learn From this Game: Tonight's game will show us a lot if the Ducks can come out blasting and dominate play out of the gate. This is an easily overlooked game, as it's sandwiched between a big game against the Bruins, one of the Eastern Conference's actually good hockey teams, and the Phoenix Coyotes, a Pacific Division rival. It's the kind of game that former iterations of the Ducks may have slipped over; and it could be telling if the 2014 version does so as well.
Fearless Prediction: Nashville is still wildly boring to watch. Nick Bonino admits that he, too, feels snubbed by not making the U.S.A. Olympic team and scores a hat trick in the Ducks 5-2 win just to shove it to David Poile, unaware the Poile fell asleep in the first period and spent the rest of the game dreaming about Jack Johnson.
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.