March 17 – Day 154 – New York. Nashville. Nice.

No one can stop the Flyers!  …Or, at least not the Blackhawks, as they fell on home ice 3-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

They may have lost, but the Hawks scored a rare shorthanded goal at the 8:18 mark of the first period compliments of a Marian Hossa snap shot, assisted by Artem Anisimov and Niklas Hjalmarsson (his 19th helper of the season).  Philadelphia leveled with 1:12 remaining in the frame with a Ryan White power play slap shot (his ninth tally of the season) after assists from Andrew MacDonald and Sean Couturier, which held into the intermission.

Chicago took another lead 4:58 after resuming play with a goal from Jonathan Toews, assisted by Patrick Kane’s 52nd helper of the season.  Once again, Philly leveled the game, this time with a Second Star of the Game Brayden Schenn snapper at the 13:02 mark, assisted by First Star Claude Giroux (his 41st helper of the season) and Wayne Simmonds.

The lone goal of the third was the Flyers‘ game winner, compliments of Radko Gudas with 10:07 remaining in regulation, assisted by Couturier (his 22nd helper of the season) and Michael Raffl.

Third Star Michal Neuvirth earns the win after saving 24 of 26 shots faced (92.3%), while Scott Darling takes the loss, saving 26 of 29 (89.7%).

It’s a wild Thursday schedule, and not just because Minnesota is playing.  Three games drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Minnesota at New Jersey, Carolina at Pittsburgh and Detroit at Columbus) to get the night going, followed half an hour later by Florida at Toronto.  The New York Islanders visit Nashville at 8 p.m. eastern, and the Tampa Bay at Dallas game gets started 30 minutes later.  10 p.m. eastern brings with it San Jose at Arizona, which is an appetizer for this evening’s nightcap, the New York Rangers at Los Angeles, at 10:30 p.m. eastern on NHLN.

Three of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Carolina at Pittsburgh, Florida at Toronto and San Jose at Arizona), and another set of three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Nashville, Tampa Bay at Dallas and New York at Los Angeles).

We haven’t caught the Predators in a while, so I’m going to be selfish and make us catch their game!

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This will be New York‘s seventh appearance in the Game of the Day series where they own a 2-3-1 record.  Their most recent showing under our observation was Monday in their 3-2 victory over the Panthers.  Nashville has played eight games before tonight’s in our series, but not since their 5-0 beat down on the Blues on February 27 to set their series record at 4-3-1.

The 38-21-9 New York Islanders currently occupy third place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  To get tot that position, they’ve played the fifth best defense in the league, backed by the ninth best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Monday’s article.

The Isles‘ most recent game was their 2-1 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.  A win tonight paired with a Rangers loss would propel them past the Blueshirts for second in the division, but a loss could allow Pittsburgh to pull within a point of the final division qualifying spot.

The 35-22-13 Nashville Predators currently sit in fourth place in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, good enough for the top wildcard spot.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 10th best offense, paired with the 11th best defense.

Led by James Neal’s 219 shots, the Preds have fired the puck an incredible 2136 times, with 8.8% finding the back of the net for 192 goals (led by Filip Forsberg’s 28 tallies), the 10th most in the league.  The scoring special team has followed suit, finding success on 19.03% of man-advantages for 43 power play goals (led by Shea Weber’s dozen extra man tallies), the 12th best rate in the league.

The defense is just a step behind.  Led by Roman Josi’s 169 blocks, Nashville has allowed only 1905 shots to reach 28-19-10 Pekka Rinne and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 91.1% for 179 goals against, the 11th fewest in the NHL.  The biggest hole for the Predators has been their penalty kill, as they’ve only defended 80.19% of their infractions for 42 power play goals against, the 10th worst rate in the league.  Although it is a poor kill rate, Nashville does help neutralize that with six shorthanded goals, one more than the league average.

Nashville‘s most recent game was their 3-2 victory in Edmonton on Monday.  With Chicago‘s loss, a win by Nashville pulls them within three points of the third place Blackhawks.

Nashville has already made their yearly visit to Brooklyn, where they fell 4-3 on October 15.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Nashville‘s Neal (+22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Rinne (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league] and 28 wins [10th most in the league]) & New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.928 save percentage [tied for second best in the league] and 2.25 GAA [ninth best in the league]).

Although it is a road game, I feel that the Isles are the better team in this contest and should be able to pull off the win.