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Game 31 Preview: Red Hot Predators Skate Into Town

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The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (9-19-2) vs. the Nashville Predators (16-8-6)

Season Series: This is the first and only meeting of the season between the teams. The clubs split two games in 2009-10. The Devils earned a 5-2 victory in New Jersey on Feb. 12 when Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first goal as a Devil to snap a 2-2 tie at 8:24 of the third period; the Predators came away with a 3-2 shootout decision in Nashville on Nov. 19.

The Devils Last Game: The Devils put together what I thought was an entire team effort for a full 60 minutes and skated away with a 3-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes. It was certainly one of the best efforts this season.

The Predators last Game: The Predators won their fourth straight and seventh in their last eight (7-0-1) on Wednesday following a 3-2 victory over San Jose in Nashville.

Tonight’s Game: It’s all about building something for the NJ Devils. They had an outstanding game the other night where Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice Wednesday to record his first multiple-goal contest in 61 games as a Devil, including playoffs.  It’s time for the Devils to start putting together some wins and getting consistent production for their top guys.  Devils center Travis Zajac is finally beginning to heat up with 5 assists and 6 points over the last five games, another player we’d love to build some momentum off of.

The Predators are hot but beatable if the Devils just believe in themselves. One of the key’s to Wednesday nights victory was the Devils ability to successfully forecheck. This is something they havne’t done a lot of this season. It forechecking gets W’s on the board then they better be ready to forecheck tonight.

After the game that Kovalchuk had the other night, I would expect to see a lot of Shea Weber and Ryan Sutter on Kovalchuk all night long. This mean the other lines are really going to have to contribute tonight.

As far as defense goes, Kostitsyn is riding a career-high seven game points streak (3 goals, 6 assists), marking the longest by a Predators’ player this season so NJ will have to certainly pay attention to him tonight.

Injury report: The Devils are without defensemen Mark Fraser (broken hand), Bryce Salvador(concussion) and Matt Taormina (high ankle sprain) and forwards Zach Parise (knee surgery) andJacob Josefson (thumb). … Rinne (knee) and forwards David Legwand (lower body) and Matthew Lombardi (concussion) are still out for Nashville. Hornqvist was a late scratch against San Jose on Wednesday with an undisclosed upper-body injury and is day-to-day.

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