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Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Nashville Predators (10/27/11)

Mathieu Garon’s play in goal has helped the Tampa Bay Lightning get on track following a dreadful start to 2011-12. But has struggled in his career versus Nashville.

Garon could be in net Thursday night, looking to lead the Lightning to a fourth straight win and end a personal eight-game losing streak to the Predators.

After leading Tampa Bay (4-3-2) to the Eastern Conference finals in May, Dwayne Roloson was expected to be the team’s regular goaltender this season. He has gotten off to a rocky start, however, going 1-2-1 with a 5.11 goals-against average.

Garon, in his first season with the Lightning, improved to 3-0-1 with a 1.29 GAA in his last five games and has appeared to have supplanted Roloson as the team’s top goalie. But let in weak goals against the Sabres on Tuesday.

Garon is plenty familiar with Nashville having played the last two seasons in the Central Division with Columbus, but that hasn’t led to any success. He is 0-6-2 with a 3.67 GAA in eight games since 2007-08 versus the Predators, the only team he has made at least two starts against and not beaten. He has not defeated Nashville since March 25, 2006, while playing for Los Angeles.

Roloson has also had his share of problems against the Predators, going 1-6-1 with a 3.48 GAA since 2005-06.

But things could get easy for the Bolts netminders. The Predators are having trouble scoring this season. Or is this where the Predators get their scoring touch back against the Bolts netminders?

Nashville (3-4-1) has nine goals in its last six games, scoring two or fewer in each, and has been outshot in all eight contests. In Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to San Jose, the Predators were outshot 36-20.

Nashville’s power play unit managed to show some signs of life Tuesday, as rookie Craig Smith scored in the third period. The Predators have converted 2 of 22 power-play chances in their last six games.

The Lightning have killed all eight penalties during their winning streak and have surrendered power-play goals in only two of their nine games.

Nashville’s offensive woes have made things tough on goalie Pekka Rinne, who has started each game. Rinne has yielded two goals or fewer in each of his last five contests but is 1-3-1.

In his lone start against the Lightning on Dec. 15, 2009, he made 30 saves in a 7-4 victory.

The Predators won 4-3 in Tampa last season for their second straight victory in the series after winning once in the previous eight matchups.

STARTING GOALIES:

Tampa Bay Lightning – Mathieu Garon

Nashville Predators – Pekka Rinne

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