She-yoot, while NASCAR nation takes a week off to prepare for the calamity that is racing in Bristol, the Rangers are down to cause some calamity in Tennessee against the Predators on Thursday. Somehow I don't think a lotta Dale Jr. fans are going to fill the Sommet Center to see the crashes and collisions (between Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival, as the puck slides right past them).
All kidding aside, it is sad to see that the Predators will not have Scotty Hockey favourite Jed Ortmeyer in their lineup. After a knee injury last year, Jed had more blood clots that cost him the start of this season. He got back on the ice but has been unable to get out of Milwaukee. He is doing pretty well - 21 points in 45 games - despite playing on a team that features
Where We Are: Struggling for our playoff lives. After a pathetic performance in Carolina, the Rangers need to get points where they can and Nashville needs to be two points that they get. Especially seeing as coming up after this is a home and home with Philly that it is quite difficult to be optimistic for.
Where They Are: The Rangers will be the third Eastern team the Pred face in a row and Nashville lost the first two - a 4-1 smacking at the hands of the Flyers and a 2-1 OT loss to the Caps. Nashville is currently holding down the last playoff spot in the West, even though they have five less points than the Rangers, who are ninth in the East.
Who To Watch For: Jason Arnott is just as big, just as skilled and more experienced then he was when he was a Ranger killer with the Devils. I heart Stevie Sullivan, who battled all the way back to the NHL after nearly two years off dealing with back issues. Shea Weber, the defenseman, has 211 shots - that is more than any Blueshirt aside from Scott Gomez. Gomez has two more shots but two less goals 15. And Gomez is a first line center. But with Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Suter and Greg Zanon, Nashville's defense blows the Blueshirts way. Outside of Zanon, the other three are young and have scary skills.
What To Watch For: A stellar performance by Pekke Rinne. Somehow the young Finn has been lost in the rookie of the year conversations despite some top notch work. He is carrying a 2.27 gaa and .921 save percentage after unseating apparent one-year-wonder Dan Ellis. With Hank suffering from stomach issues (even though he says he's fine), the Ranger net will not be as well protected as Nashville's. Outside of the paint, see if the Rangers have any chemistry as the new coach has decided to start the line juggling. Nice to see Borat Antropov already claiming injury - the same thing he did when they put the screws on him in Toronto.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: Wade Belak - the former goon of the Leafs - is plodding along for the Preds. It would be nice to see Colton Orr make short work of him but you never know, Belak may get lucky like he did against No Brains Brashear. Hopefully we will also see a Avery/Tootoo tilt, just because it would be funny.
Also Check Out: The Mighty Mirtle actually took a road trip to NASCAR land to check out the Grand Ole Opry and you can check his impression of the city in Part 1 and Part 2. He managed to find someone literate down there to write about the Preds for SBN at On The Forecheck although one of Hockey's Ladies of Greatness is a Pred blogger so you should also give her a glance, hehe.