Chris Burton of SBN's Nashville Predators' blog On The Forecheck invited me to answer some questions to help in understanding an infrequently met opponent. He agreed to do the same for us today. The Leafs and Predators have only met 10 times in 11 years since Nashville entered the league with the buds compiling a record of 3 wins, 5 losses, 1 tie, and 1 OTL.

At the time of writing the Predators sit in fourth in the Western Conference standings with a record of 29 wins, 16 losses, and 3 OT/SO losses. They are 7-3-0 in their last 10 so this will be a very difficult test for the Maple Leafs. Their special teams are nothing to write home about. They are 24th on the powerplay at 16.4% and 26th on the penalty kill at 76.9%. To learn a bit more about the team, and especially the future, continue after the jump to read what Chris had to say:

Well, you can likely blame the Nashville media's incompetence for those reports as they've repeatedly failed to document both sides of the story.  In summary, the lease problems are not quite as bad as portrayed. The ownership is committed to keeping the team in Nashville and the 14,000 average attendance will likely be met again this year. All (true) signs point to the lease agreements being met and the Predators staying in Nashville for a long, long time. For further, more detailed reporting from Dirk on the subject you can go here and here.

You guys are getting ridiculous goaltending from Dan Ellis (UFA $1.75M) and Pekka Rinne (RFA - $750K). What do you see the outcome being long-term?

2009 - Dan Ellis 22 1189 11 8 51 2.57 597 546 .915 1
2009 - Pekka Rinne 31 1710 18 8 78 2.74 835 757 .907 2

While Ellis and Rinne have been performing admirably, I don't think that the rotation is sustainable long term. Pekka Rinne has more talent than Ellis and is more capable of stealing games but Ellis is not quite as streaky. If David Poile is forced to choose, I'd expect Rinne to stay and Ellis to go. However, I'm anticipating the Predators will re-sign both goalies for the short term because neither of them have quite proven to be durable NHL number 1s. Eventually one of them will leave because the Predators have a top-notch prospect at the AHL level in Chet Pickard.

Speaking of RFAs, where the hell did Patric Hornqvist come from? I saw that he has something like 14 goals and 6 assists in his last 19 games! Any word on signing this guy?

2009 - Patric Hornqvist 47 19 11 30 12 22 6 0 6 0 152 12.5

In NFL speak, Hornqvist is "Mr. Irrelevant". He was picked dead last in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and toiled in Milwaukee for much of his career until now. A Swedish Olympian, he leads the Predators in goals with 19, most of them in the 3rd period or of the game winning kind. He's been Barry Trotz's dream player thus far, constantly working hard against the boards and making life miserable for goaltenders by parking himself in the crease and being difficult to move. There's been no word that I've heard about resigning Patric, but if his play continues, I'd expect Poile to give him quite a raise.

What do you think Nashville will be doing come the trade deadline?

2009 - Alexei Ponikarovsky 49 15 14 29 -1 34 4 0 1 0 129 11.6

There's been some discussion at On the Forecheck regarding this, and Dirk and I are in agreement that Nashville could use a playmaking center. Some commenters think that a depth winger in the mold of Alexei Ponikarovsky would be more useful, but it is likely to be a moot point as I doubt with the team performing as incredibly as it has and the chemistry being so good that we will make any move at all. Poile said recently that he's probably not moving a goalie, and our most tradeable UFA (Dan Hamhuis) is likely too crucial to a playoff run to trade. If the Preds could pick up someone like Poni with picks, then they might look there, but when it gets down to it I'm guessing that they stand pat as usual.

Who's most likely to kill the Leafs Monday night? (ie. who is really struggling)

Obviously Hornqvist, as he's been unstoppable of late no matter who he lines up with, but outside of him I'd look at superstar blueliner Shea Weber. I haven't watched the Leafs this year, but looking at statistics (read: your PK) I'd expect, when the Predators go on the power play, for it to be a shooting gallery for Weber. He finished second in the hardest shot competition last year and has 9 goals so far in this campaign. An injury hampered his performance until recently, but he's stepped up with a few dominant performances against Anaheim and Vancouver. Very often when his point shot hits the target it ends up in the back of the net. One other Predator to watch will be captain Jason Arnott, who will be returning from injury. It'll be interesting to see how he fares, but in all honesty the answer to this is difficult to predict as the Predators have 7 players over 25 points.