Sports

Preds try to solve Rangers at home

(SportsNetwork.com) - 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 netminder.

"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.