Game 48 Preview: Nashville Predators @ Philadelphia Flyers

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Nashville Predators (20-21-7) @ Philadelphia Flyers (24-19-4), 7:00pm, CSN-Philly/FS-TN

After missing the last two games due to being a healthy scratch, Steve Downie is back in the lineup as the Philadelphia Flyers host the Nashville Predators tonight. Whether Crag Berube’s decision to bench the forward will help his value to the team or not will be seen tonight, as Downie is expected to be on the fourth line with Chris VandeVelde and Adam Hall.

Downie had little impact in the Flyers’ 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, as he was called for two minor penalties and posted a minus-1 rating against his former club. The Orange and Black then proceeded to get trucked by the New York Rangers the following day and squeaked out a last-second victory against the worst team in the NHL in the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Hopefully for the Flyers and their fans, Downie can find the game that helped the club greatly after his arrival from the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the season.

Part of the reason for Philly’s loss to the Bolts and the too-close-for-comfort contest on Tuesday was the play of Steve Mason. After starting out the year looking like the Flyers’ best player, Mason hasn’t exactly impressed as of late. The former Columbus Blue Jacket has posted a save percentage below .900 in three of his last four starts and has allowed three goals against or more in five of his last seven appearances. He isn’t exactly receiving the best help defensively at the moment, but the netminder is still letting in several shots that he wouldn’t have let in earlier in the season. With a tough stretch of games coming up against teams at the top of the standings or surging up the ranks, Mason will need to return to his game for the Flyers to be successful.

As for Nashville, the club made some noise yesterday by acquiring Devan Dubnyk from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Matt Hendricks. Dubnyk doesn’t have the best numbers this season, but one must keep in mind he was goaltending for the Oilers. With a more defensively-structured team like the Predators playing in front of him, Dubnyk will definitely see his numbers improve.

Tonight, however, the Flyers will take on former Adirondack Phantom Carter Hutton, who is 8-7-2 this year with a .902 save percentage and a 2.95 GAA. In place of Hendricks, the Orange and Black will most likely see Rich Clune, who is ninth in the NHL with 83 PIMs.

If the Flyers want to take another two points from the Predators they will need to play better than when the teams met on November 30th. Although they left Nashville with a 3-2 shootout decision, the Flyers were severely outplayed and were saved by an amazing performance from Mason. Seeing how Mason has been playing lately, Philly shouldn’t rely as heavily on their netminder if they want a win tonight. A few positives for the Flyers are that Nashville has only won twice in December and is 0-1-3 in their last four games against the Eastern Conference.

With a home-and-home against the New York Islanders that leads into a back-to-back against the Carolina Hurricanes before closing the month out with three games against (what should be) playoff teams, a win tonight would help the Flyers immensely if they were to stumble before the calendar turns to February.

RECORDS
Nashville Predators
Overall: 20-21-7
Away: 8-11-3
Against the Eastern Conference: 8-10-5
Against the Metropolitan Division: 3-7-1

Philadelphia Flyers
Overall: 24-19-4
Home: 12-8-0
Against the Western Conference: 8-7-1
Against the Central Division: 3-4-1

PROJECTED LINEUPS
Nashville Predators
Gabriel Bourque – David Legwand – Craig Smith
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Patric Hornqvist
Nick Spaling – Matt Cullen – Eric Nystrom
Rich Clune – Paul Gaustad – Viktor Stalberg

Shea Weber – Roman Josi
Mattias Ekholm – Seth Jones
Kevin Klein – Ryan Ellis

Carter Hutton
Marek Mazanec

Philadelphia Flyers
Michael Raffl – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Scott Hartnell – Brayden Schenn – Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Vincent Lecavalier
Jay Rosehill – Chris VandeVelde – Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen – Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit – Nicklas Grossmann
Luke Schenn – Andrej Meszaros

Steve Mason
Ray Emery

TEAM LEADERS
Nashville Predators
Goals: Craig Smith, 14
Assists: David Legwand, 24
Points: David Legwand, 31
Power-Play Points: Shea Weber, 16
Plus/Minus: Ryan Ellis, plus-4
PIMs: Rich Clune, 83
Average TOI: Shea Weber, 26:44
GAA: Pekka Rinne, 2.31
Save Percentage: Pekka Rinne, .917

Philadelphia Flyers
Goals: Wayne Simmonds, 15
Assists: Claude Giroux, 29
Points: Claude Giroux, 42
Power-Play Points: Claude Giroux, 19
Plus/Minus: Erik Gustafsson, plus-4
PIMs: Zac Rinaldo, 101
Average TOI: Braydon Coburn, 22:47
GAA: Steve Mason, 2.47
Save Percentage: Steve Mason, .917

INJURIES
Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne – Hip surgery (Injured Reserve)

Philadelphia Flyers
Zac Rinaldo – Left ankle injury (Injured Reserve)

FORMER PLAYERS
Former Flyers in Nashville’s organization
With Nashville: Carter Hutton (Adirondack Phantoms)
With the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): Scott Ford (Trenton Titans)
With the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL): Michael Houser (Flyers’ training camp)

Former Predators in Philadelphia’s organization
With Philadelphia: Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Adam Hall, Hal Gill
With the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL): Cullen Eddy (Cincinnati Cyclones)
With the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL): Dean Stork, head coach (Cincinnati Cyclones), Dwayne Zinger, assistant coach (Cincinnati Cyclones)