The Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators would be rival teams if one weren't in the Eastern Conference and one in the West. Slightly under four hours separates the two cities by car, which leads to road trips between the two fan bases, good natured heckling, and a shared bond of being a non-traditional team that is constantly rumored to be moving. The good naturedness stops with the fans, though, as Nashville has beaten the Thrashers four out of the last five times, and that doesn't count the pre-season defeats of this and last season. Luckily the Thrashers have some predators of their own.
Dustin Byfuglien scored three times against Nashville in the Blackhawks' first round defeat of the team, and Andrew Ladd had two goals and an assist. The Thrashers powerplay has also been clicking, improving to first in the league. It's successful 24.8% of the time. Nashville's nine game perfect penalty killing streak is on the line tonight. Their penalty kill is ranked 7th in the league, and that is partially thanks to the streak of 32 successfully killed penalties in a row. What makes this impressive is that they've continued that streak without starting goaltender Pekka Rinne. Rinne injured himself Wednesday night against Columbus in the Predators' 4-3 shootout win. Backup goalie Anders Lindback will be in net for the Preds tonight. The last time the Thrashers saw Lindback, they lost 4-3 at home in a pre-season game.
Atlanta is hoping to continue the new streak that they started Saturday by defeating the Washington Capitals 3-1. Missing from both that game and the previous game against the Pittsburgh Penguins was Evander Kane, who was injured by a Tobias Enstrom slapshot during the Thrashers defeat of the Avalanche. Kane will return to the line-up tonight, making Tim Stapleton a scratch. Both Stapleton and Freddy Meyer filled in for Kane and did so well, but the offense missed the up-tempo pressure that Kane provides.
Injured in Saturday's game against Washington was Enstrom, after incidental knee-on-knee contact with David Steckel. Enstrom will be in tonight, so his games played streak continues at 274 games.
Nashville's team provides a balanced attack, though not a high-scoring one. No one on the team has ten goals (Steve Sullivan is their top goal scorer with seven) and Cal O'Riley leads the team with 16 points. In contrast, Dustin Byfuglien leads the Thrashers with ten goals, and Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane are right there with nine. Buff leads the team in points with 28 as well. Those 28 points are tops for defensemen, as are the ten goals.
Puck drop is tonight at 7:00 at Philips Arena.