Flyers at Predators preview: Keep all your Weber jokes on hold, please

The most recent Flyers-Preds photo in our archives were from February 2011 so you get this one instead. Thanks, lockout. - John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers begin their road trip tonight in Nashville, facing a Predators team that's missing its best player. Whoever that is.

Well, a nice little stop at home to eat some turkey and beat the Thrashers went pretty well. The Flyers played a really nice game yesterday, getting positive contributions from nearly everyone in the lineup at times, and it helped them bust a mini-losing streak and get back to one game away from an NHL-defined .500 record.

And now the fun begins.

Philadelphia Flyers (11-12-2, 24 pts) at Nashville Predators (13-11-2, 28 pts)
8 p.m. | Bridgestone Arena | Nashville, Tenn.
TV: CSN, FS Tennessee | Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Get the Nashville perspective at On the Forecheck

Starting tonight, the Flyers will begin a 39-day, 18-game stretch that will probably go a long way towards deciding how much of a contender they'll actually be to make the playoffs this year. That stretch will include:

* 14 road games
* 10 games against Western Conference opponents
* Five divisional games, including three on the road
* Three games on the tail end of back-to-backs (including today)

The schedule has been pretty light for the past few weeks, and to the Flyers' credit, they took advantage of it (last week's two games in Florida excepted). But the heat is about to turn up a bit, and we'll see whether the Flyers can turn up their game as well.

Fortunately, they might be getting a chance to ease into the road trip here with tonight's game. Though the Predators are no pushover and can be tough to play in Nashville, they'll be without their best player tonight, as Nashville captain and top defensemen Shea Weber (that name rings a bell for some reason, though for the life of me I'm not sure why ...) took a puck to the face on Thursday night and is listed as day-to-day with an eye injury. Quite a scary injury there, so here's to him recovering and coming back soon.

This is on top of franchise goalie Pekka Rinne being out due to an infection in his hip from earlier in the season. So the Preds are hurting a bit, and you'd like to hope the Flyers will take advantage. Of course, the last time the Flyers took on a middling team missing its best player ... we all remember how that ended up. So let's please hope they aren't taking their opponent lightly today.

But otherwise, the Preds have pretty much been their usual selves this year. A bunch of OK forwards, a solid blue line, and a different European goalie (in this case, Czech netminder Marec Mazanec) stepping up and doing a great job in net. But the lack of scoring is what's keeping them out of a playoff spot in the Central Division (or Conference III, as you may know it). The Flyers have been on a nice run lately with defense and goaltending, so let's hope it continues today.

On the other side of the ice, it should be interesting to see how their defense looks sans-Weber -- young Swiss defenseman Roman Josi and American Hero Seth Jones will probably log the tough minutes for them, and though they aren't Shea Weber, they're obviously no slouches.

As for the Flyers, a lot of things looked good yesterday, and you wonder how many of them will carry over today. But we already have one sign that Craig Berube is going to stick with what's working: Steve Mason will be your starter in net for the Flyers. He played another awesome game yesterday, allowing just one goal to the Jets, but it's the first time all year Berube has, by choice, gone with the same goalie in back-to-back games. That's a move we're not too keen of here at Broad Street Hockey dot com, but hopefully Mason can make the move look smart.

We also saw another huge, huge game for the Matt Read/Sean Couturier/Steve Downie line yesterday, and the first two guys there were rewarded with (by far) the most ice time of any forward on the team. Will that continue? In addition, the team kept Michael Raffl in the lineup in Jay Rosehill's place and ran six different forwards on the penalty kill. Will they keep that going, or will Berube opt for some toughness against the Preds? After a rough return to the lineup where he committed two penalties yesterday, does Andrej Meszaros stay in the lineup? We shall see.

Mason and Mazanec in net, as mentioned. Remember, it's an 8:00 start because we're in the Central time zone now. Gamethread up around 7. Check in with our friends at On the Forecheck for their side of things. Go Flyers.

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