Preds try to solve Rangers at home

( – The Nashville Predators had their longest home winning
streak in club history snapped last time out.

Rebounding at Bridgestone Arena may be easier said than done given Saturday
afternoon’s opponent.

The Preds try to beat the New York Rangers, who are without goaltender Henrik
Lundqvist, in Nashville for the first time in nearly 11 years as the clubs
clash in an afternoon matinee.

Nashville had an impressive nine-game home winning streak snapped on Thursday
with a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. The Predators fell to 20-3-1 this season
at home, where they lost for the first time since Dec. 6.

Coincidentally, the run came to an end in Pekka Rinne’s return to action. The
star netminder had missed the previous eight games with an injury, but allowed
four goals on 25 shots.

James Neal and Colin Wilson scored to try and support their netminder, but
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said a lot of the bounces went against Rinne
and the Predators.

“Coming into the game, you want to get in there and do great things, and I
think there were a lot of tough ones that happened right away,” Preds coach
Peter Laviolette said of Rinne’s return.

“He did a lot of great things out there tonight though, he made some terrific
saves. … I think we could play better in front of him, but he is back in
there and I am sure he will get better every day. Staying in and battling is
only going to make him better.”

The loss also allowed the St. Louis Blues to pull into a tie with Nashville
atop the Central Division. The Predators have a game in hand to use against
the idle Blues, who will be back in action Sunday against Chicago.

Nashville will visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday before returning home
for another four straight.

Rinne is likely to start tonight and has faced the Rangers only once before,
giving up a goal on 24 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss on Nov. 27, 2010.

That setback came in Nashville, part of the Predators’ four-game losing streak
at home to the Rangers. The Preds have not beaten the Blueshirts as the
hosting team since Feb. 28, 2004.

The Rangers, who have won three of their past four versus the Predators
overall, take aim at a fourth straight victory tonight, but will have to do so
once again without Lundqvist.

Lundqvist did not make the trip to Nashville due to a vascular injury suffered
when he took a puck to the throat versus the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 31.

Lundqvist played against the Florida Panthers two days later, but did not suit
up in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. Head coach Alain
Vigneault said on Friday that Lundqvist would not travel to Florida and the
Rangers later released a statement that the netminder will be sidelined at
least three weeks before being revaluated.

Can Talbot started in Lundqvist’s place versus the Bruins and made 18 saves,
while Rick Nash scored his 32nd goal of the season, which is tied with
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league lead.

Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan also scored to help support their backup

“I really didn’t have to do a whole lot; the guys did a great job in front of
me. (Boston) didn’t get too many Grade-A quality chances tonight, even on
their power play,” Talbot said. “Our guys didn’t let a lot of shots get to the
net, so a lot of credit goes to them tonight.”

Talbot made his first start since Jan. 15 and helped New York win for the
sixth time in eight games. He was backed up on Wednesday by MacKenzie Skapski.

New York will host Dallas on Sunday and Talbot could start both games. He
posted a 17-save shutout in his only career appearance versus Nashville.

The Rangers are two points behind the Capitals for third place in the
Metropolitan Division after Washington picked up a win Friday against Anaheim.
New York also leads Boston by three points for the first of two wild card
spots in the East.