Predators-Devils Preview

The Associated Press

The New Jersey Devils aren't finding any level of comfort in the offensive zone, but the Nashville Predators' recent stretch of defensive struggles might provide some optimism.

The Devils have scored six goals in five games, and Sunday night they'll host a Predators team that has allowed 22 over the same span.

Although New Jersey (4-7-5) has struggled offensively lately, it has still managed a 2-2-1 record in the last five games behind a defense that has allowed a goal or less in four of those contests.

A late power-play goal from Michael Ryder and Cory Schneider's 27 saves allowed the Devils to come away with a point in a 2-1 shootout loss Friday at Toronto.

They registered 35 shots for their second-highest total of the season, but still rank second-to-last in shots with 412 through 16 games. New Jersey is 28th in the league with 1.88 goals per game.

"I'm disappointed we didn't capitalize on our chances," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We got a bounce there at the end to get a point. We had enough chances to win the game. We didn't finish enough."

Ryder's goal ensured the Devils wouldn't be shut out for the fifth time this season, but they continued to struggle mightily in shootouts. New Jersey has lost all four shootouts, and hasn't even scored a goal in 14 chances. Every other team with double-digit attempts has converted at least two.

The Predators (8-6-2) continued a seven-game road trip with a 5-0 loss to Winnipeg on Friday, dropping to 2-2-1 in their last five despite a season-high 41 shots.

They allowed four first-period goals, as Carter Hutton surrendered three on eight shots before being replaced by Marek Mazanec, who stopped 22 of 24 shots in his NHL debut.

"We were light, we were on the wrong side of the puck, puck-watching, and they lit us up," coach Barry Trotz told the team's official website. "We lost the game in the first eight minutes. That's absolutely unacceptable for me and this group."

No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne last played Oct. 22. They've allowed 4.00 goals per game since he went on injured reserve with what's being reported as an E. coli infection in his hip. He's expected to miss at least six weeks.

Mazanec was the fourth goalie used by Nashville this season.

"He's a battler," Trotz said. "He's a young man who has a lot of talent. Still has to learn to play goal. It was a good night for him to go in for us."

Hutton has started six straight and allowed four goals or more three times during that span while being pulled twice.

Prior to the shutout, the Predators had scored 14 goals in their last three games. David Legwand led the way with seven points in that span.

The Predators are 5-2-1 all-time at New Jersey, winning the last meeting there in 2010.

The teams last met in Nashville on Oct. 15, 2011, with the Devils winning 3-2 in a shootout.