Devils hit the road to face Predators
DEVILS (2-1-0) at PREDATORS (2-1-0)
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This is the only meeting of the season between cross-conference opponents. Nashville won 3-1 in New Jersey on Dec. 17, 2010, with Martin Erat scoring a pair of power-play goals and rookie backup Anders Lindback stopping 15 of 16 shots.
If you discount home openers, both teams would be unbeaten. The Devils have won their last two after getting blanked by the Flyers to start the season. The Predators, meanwhile, started out with a pair of road wins within the division only to return to Bridgestone Arena on Thursday and spot the Coyotes the first four goals of the game in a 5-2 defeat. They'll be looking for a bounce-back effort in front of the home crowd Saturday.
It's unknown if Martin Brodeur
will be available to play, but he did travel with the team after leaving Thursday's 2-1 shootout win over Los Angeles with a right shoulder injury suffered while making a first-period save. Johan Hedberg
turned in a flawless effort in relief, holding the Kings off the board for the final 40 minutes of regulation and the five-minute overtime, and then stopping both attempts in the shootout. Ilya Kovalchuk
and Zach Parise
buried their chances for the Devils.
"I waited for a few minutes until I got the nod during (the first) intermission, but in the back of my mind I was pretty sure I was going to go in," Hedberg said. "Marty played so well in the first and made some unbelievable saves to keep us in it. When we got back to our system and stopped turning pucks over as much, it made my job easier."
There's plenty of optimism in Nashville following the first playoff series win in franchise history last spring, and the Predators raised it a notch heading into Thursday's home opener with their pair of road victories. But the Coyotes reminded everyone in the building that they're still a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference, using a three-goal first to silence the fans. The Preds surrendered another goal in the second before a Ryan Suter shorthanded tally later in the period and Colin Wilson's score in the third drew them closer.
"Sometimes you need to get whupped a little bit to bring you back to reality," coach Barry Trotz said. "I don't think we deserved the two wins on the road and we showed you why."
Kovalchuk followed up his game-winning goal against the Hurricanes on Monday with the decisive shootout goal for the Devils on Thursday, while Hedberg has a 1.14 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in two appearances. … David Legwand led the NHL with 7 points entering Friday's action, on 2 goals and 5 assists.
Brodeur is considered day-to-day for New Jersey, while forward Travis Zajac
(Achilles) is on injured reserve. … Nashville forward Patric Hornqvist (lower body) missed Thursday's game and is day-to-day. Erat (upper body), fellow forward Mike Fisher (shoulder) and defenseman Francis Bouillon (concussion) are on injured reserve.
Hedberg improved to 19-6 career in shootouts with Thursday's win, including 11-1 on home ice. … Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, has a 1-2-0 career record against the Devils with a 2.62 GAA.
Home openers can be an emotional time, and it was especially so for Nashville on Thursday. The team remembered those with ties to the organization who died in the Lokomotiv plane crash last month and had a video tribute to Wade Belak, who retired midway through last season and died over the summer. Trotz refused to use that as an excuse for the poor start to the game, though.
"We were caught in the moment standing there watching and not playing the hockey game," Trotz said. "The game started, and we were still watching."