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Preview Ducks @ Predators: Anaheim Opens Road Trip In Nashville

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The Ducks open their daunting five-game, nine-day road trip in Nashville, to face off against the only team sitting above Anaheim in the league standings. The Predators match Anaheim's 72-points dating up to their matchup, however Nashville sits in the NHL's league's number one spot with a game in hand over the Ducks.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday evening Anaheim opens both an extended road trip, as well as a back-to-back with a game at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators. Anaheim is coming off a hard fought battle on Tuesday night for two-points against the Carolina Hurricanes, which ended in overtime thanks to a Ryan Getzlaf goal. MeanwhileNashville is riding a two-game winning streak, their most recent matchup was hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, a 4-3 decision.

Thursday marks the second time these two teams have met of the three scheduled showdowns, and the only meeting that will take place in Nashville this season. Needless to say, whoever walks away from this game with the win will take a point lead and assume the top ranking in the Western Conference as well as the NHL.

Game notes:

For Anaheim, Tuesday night marked Eric Brewer's return to the lineup, however he managed nothing more than a mediocre and lackluster performance upon his return. He logged less than 19 minutes of time on the ice, a -1 rating, two hits, and two penalty minutes, which came at an inopportune time (sending Anaheim deeper into dangerous territory with the Ducks facing a 5-on-3 penalty killing situation).

Clayton Stoner missed Tuesday's contest against Carolina with an undisclosed illness, however I'll admit I miss him and I would undoubtedly prefer him to be playing alongside Sami Vatanen in place of Brewer.

In their first meeting of the season, seven different Duck players tallied a point, with Francois Beauchemin on the ice for all three of Anaheim's goals, making him the team leader in both +/- with a +3 rating and time on ice with 24:20 logged ice time.

The Predators announced that Pekka Rinne is back and ready to jump back between the pipes, and is expected to start in goal against Anaheim. The lead goalie for the Preds suffered a knee injury on January 13th, however claims to have made a full recovery.

With the return of Rinne, Nashville's only injured player is defenseman Ryan Ellis, who has been sidelined with a leg injury dating back to January 10th. He is not expected to return to help his team host Anaheim on Thursday night.

What Can We Learn From This Game?:

Did he open the flood gates? Corey Perry scored his first goal in five games on Tuesday night, hitting the 20-goal milestone for the seventh time in his career. Let's just hope that he can keep the ball rolling and that he and fellow twin Getzlaf can continue to make magic with their inexplicable chemistry.

Can Freddie keep this up? Frederik Andersen has won eight of the past nine games in which he started, and is second in the NHL with 28 wins in 42 games played. Some pretty fantastic numbers for a goaltender who plays behind a defensive group that seems to crack and crumble, in one way or another, just about every night.

Will Anaheim play as an elite team when facing an elite team? The Ducks seem to stumble dramatically when they are facing teams who are lower in the standings. For example, Anaheim has lost to three of the bottom four teams in the Atlantic Division (lost against Florida, Ottawa, and Toronto, won against Buffalo), and have won by a single goal against a variety of other lower-ranked opponents, including Carolina, Edmonton and Arizona. However sometimes Anaheim manages to score upwards of four goals in games against some of the best goalies or best defenses when the games have more importance on standings. That being said, who knows which side of the Ducks we will see in Nashville, let's hope for the best.

Fearless Prediction:

Mike Ribeiro continues to rack up points at Anaheim's expense, however it isn't enough to thwart Andersen and resident work horse Tim Jackman, who is involved with the game-winning goal.