Canucks-Predators Preview

The Associated Press

Pekka Rinne's solid play has been a major reason for the Nashville Predators' recent surge.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to have his number, though.

Rinne and the Predators seek a seventh win in their last eight games Tuesday night when they host the Canucks, who have won four straight meetings in Nashville and have chased the star goaltender twice this season.

The Predators (32-17-4) got 42 saves from Rinne in Saturday's 3-1 win over St. Louis, improving to 12-2-2 against foes in the competitive Central Division. Nashville is one of four teams in the Western Conference's top six battling for the division crown.

"The division is so hard, and we have to take all the points we can right now,'' said Martin Erat, who had a goal and two assists. "It's a battle to the end because in the end, we always have to play against St. Louis, Detroit, and Chicago.''

If Rinne continues his stellar play, the Predators should find themselves in good position. He's won his last 11 starts while boasting a 1.55 goals-against average, allowing two goals or fewer in 10 of those outings.

"That's why I keep saying, 'He's the best (goaltender),''' said coach Barry Trotz, whose team has won 14 of 17.

Rinne, though, hasn't played his best in either meeting against Vancouver - both on the road. He allowed four goals on 16 shots and was pulled after the first period of a 5-1 loss Oct. 20, then gave up a season high-tying five goals on 18 shots before being pulled midway through the second in Nashville's 6-5 victory Dec. 1.

Including last season's six-game, second-round playoff loss, Rinne is 2-6-0 with a 2.82 GAA in his last nine starts against the Canucks.

Rinne has been in net for each of the Predators' four consecutive defeats to Vancouver in Nashville, with three coming in the postseason.

The Canucks (32-15-5) are the Western Conference's best road team at 17-9-1 and have won three straight away from home. They won 3-2 in a shootout at Colorado on Saturday, improving to 4-0-2 in their last six games overall.

Kevin Bieksa saved a puck from going into the empty net, then scored the tying goal with 34.1 seconds remaining. Despite Vancouver allowing two goals in three of its last four contests, Bieksa said it can be better defensively.

"We're giving up a few chances, but we're just not quite there in our zone right now," Bieksa told the team's official website. "We're not sharp enough, we're trying to place a little bit more of an effort on that and coming out from there. We were a little bit better (Saturday), but obviously we can be better."

Roberto Luongo made 44 saves and has faced at least 41 shots in three of his last five starts, going 3-0-2 with a 2.26 GAA in that span.

He allowed three goals on 15 shots in relief of Cory Schneider in the most recent meeting with the Predators and took the loss. Luongo, though, is 6-3-0 with a 1.71 GAA in his last nine appearances - eight starts - including the postseason versus Nashville.

Mike Fisher, who has six goals in his last five games after scoring in the Predators' win Saturday, scored twice in the most recent meeting.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin have combined for three goals and six assists in the two matchups.