Bruins vs. Predators Preview

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BOSTON, MA (AP) - The importance of every game is increasing for the Nashville Predators, and a stretch of six in 10 days could alleviate some of that pressure.

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The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, are trying to become a bit more comfortable atop the Northeast Division.

The Predators may have a chance to climb into playoff position with the Bruins looking to widen their division lead when the teams meet Thursday night in Nashville.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book have made the Bruins -125 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Predators. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 86% of more than 95 bets for this game have been placed on the Bruins -125.

The Predators (35-25-10) are one point behind Calgary for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. They're also one of eight teams vying for the final five berths with less than a month to play in the regular season.

Nashville didn't help itself Tuesday, falling 4-2 to Los Angeles - one of the teams the Predators are chasing.

"Every game is the most important game right now," coach Barry Trotz said. "We're still in a pretty good position."

The next six games could be crucial for the Predators' postseason aspirations, as four come against teams currently in playoff position including two matchups with division leaders.

Some better offensive production is needed. Nashville has scored more than three goals twice - both wins - during a 5-6-3 stretch.

Patric Hornqvist's drop in production may be a factor. He leads the team with 18 goals, but has just one in the last 14 games, and none in five.

The potential return of Joel Ward could provide a spark after he missed one game with a lower-body injury. He has three goals and two assists over his last three games.

Pekka Rinne will likely be in net after stopping 14 of 17 shots Tuesday. Despite that subpar performance, Rinne is a major reason Nashville is a factor in the playoff race. His personal-best 2.09 goals-against average ranks second in the NHL to Boston's Tim Thomas (2.03), and his six shutouts are one shy of matching his career high for a second consecutive season.

Rinne is 4-2-2 with a 1.73 GAA and two shutouts over his past eight starts.

"We wouldn't be where we are right now without Peks," Trotz told the team's official website. "We are very fortunate to have one of the top goaltenders in the league. He is not only a Vezina (Trophy) candidate, but should be a Hart (Trophy) candidate as well."

Rinne won his only career start against the Bruins on Feb. 14, 2009, making 23 saves through overtime and two more in the shootout of a 3-2 home victory.

Thomas helped Boston (39-21-9) take the most recent meeting 3-2 on Oct. 21, 2009, when he stopped 26 shots. He has a 1.50 GAA in winning both career starts versus Nashville.

He should get a chance to increase that streak after being rested in favor of Tuukka Rask, who had 34 saves with three more in the shootout of Tuesday's 3-2 win at Columbus, ending a season-high four-game slide.

The Bruins are third in the East, and lead the Northeast by four points over second-place Montreal.

High-scoring Milan Lucic was held without a point versus the Blue Jackets. He had six goals and eight assists over the previous 12 contests, and his 29 tallies lead the Bruins while his 52 points are second.

Patrice Bergeron, third on the team with 50 points, has been held off the score sheet in a career-high seven straight games. Bergeron had a goal in the most recent meeting with Nashville.

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