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Nashville Predators at Florida Panthers - Game 64 Preview

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SUNRISE, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Jack Skille #12 of the Florida Panthers steals the puck from Jarred Smithson #25 of the Nashville Predators on September 19, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Jack Skille #12 of the Florida Panthers steals the puck from Jarred Smithson #25 of the Nashville Predators on September 19, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Florida: 30-21-12 (72PTS)
Nashville: 37-20-7 (81PTS)
Game Time: 7:30 PM EST
Television: Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports Tennessee
Radio: 560 WQAM

A lot has happened since the Predators and Panthers met in the pre-season. The Panthers turned over most of their roster in the summer, and were starting over with half of a new lineup. The Predators were coming off their first playoff series win and looking to get off to a good start and get further this year. Now, with three-quarters of the season played, the Predators are third in a tough Central Division race and fifth in the Western Conference. How tough is the Central Division? With the exception of the league's last place Columbus Blue Jackets, every other Central team is solidly in a playoff position, seeded in second, fourth, fifth and sixth places.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have made more changes. At least six players on the current roster were not with the team in the pre-season, including former Nashville forward Jerrod Smithson, picked up by the Panthers last week. Another change for the Panthers is that they're in the playoff race for only the second time in at least six seasons. The last time ended with them losing out on a tie-breaker to the Montreal Canadiens. This year they're leading a weak Southeast Division by two points, narrowly ahead of a four-way race for eighth place that includes three more Southeast teams. The Panthers have at least a game in hand on the rest of those teams, and need to keep picking up wins to stay out of the scrum at the middle of the Eastern Conference. It's going to be a difficult task. The Panthers were on the losing end of an ugly blowout on Thursday and have back-to-back games at home this weekend. The first is against a solid Nashville team who were possibly the only team to get better at the trade deadline.

More from our Nashville cohorts at On the Forecheck.
Predators vs Panthers coverage at SB Nation.
SB Nation Preview.
LBC Game Thread will open 30 minutes prior to puck drop.

News and Notes

Last meeting

The teams met a few times in the pre-season, but the last game that counted was in Sunrise in January. A couple of weeks after getting shut out in Nashville, the teams met again in Sunrise. Scott Clemmensen made 27 saves and David Booth netted the game winner in a 3-2 Panthers victory.

Last game

The less said the better. The Panthers were blown out 7-0 in Winnipeg by the Jets.

Lineup

Tyson Strachan has been recalled from San Antonio, in for Ed Jovanovski, who is taking a maintenance day. Kris Versteeg is still out with a lower body injury, but may return at the end of the week.

Injuries

  • F Scottie Upshall (core), 2/1, 6 to 8 weeks
  • D Dmitry Kulikov (knee), 1/21, 6 to 8 weeks
  • F Matt Bradley (concussion), 2/19, indefinitely

Possible Scratches

  • F Kris Versteeg (lower body)
  • D Ed Jovanovski (maintenance day)
  • F John Madden (healthy)
  • F Marco Sturm (healthy)

Starting goaltenders:

Scott Clemmensen will likely face off against Pekka Rinne, with Jose Theodore playing against the Senators tomorrow.

Lines

Forwards
  1. Bergenheim-Weiss-Samuelsson
  2. Fleischmann-Goc-Wolski
  3. Santorelli-Matthias-Kopecky
  4. Skille-Smithson-Barch
Defense
  1. Campbell-Garrison
  2. Gudbranson-Jovanovski
  3. Weaver-Ellerby