NASHVILLE -- Jonas Hiller will take Thursday night off from the winning streak that has taken him into stratospheric levels.
Ducks rookie goalie Frederik Andersen was first off the ice at Thursday’s morning skate in Bridgestone Arena, a strong indicator barring a late injury or sickness that Hiller won’t play.
Hiller has won 12 consecutive games, the longest such streak since New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur did it in 1997. Hiller will look to surpass Brodeur on Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“When you don’t play so much, it’s fun when you play,” Andersen said after the morning skate.
He’s 9-2 in net for the Ducks (32-8-5), who have won 14 of 15 before meeting the Predators (19-19-6).
“We’ve had so much success, it’s awesome to be a part of, but you want to be contributing, too,” said Andersen, who last started in the Ducks’ 3-1 loss at San Jose on Dec. 28 and has made just four starts since returning from the minors Nov. 23.
Andersen, 24, said, “It’s been great to see Hillsy playing so well, it’s something I can learn from. To see him battle every night, he focuses and comes up with key saves, like against the Bruins … his saves got us to the second period, and we took it from there.”
Yielding playing time due to Hiller’s success has left Andersen to work to remain sharp by spending extra time with goalie coach Dwayne Roloson and setting up drills with offensive players who get scratched.
“It’s tough to have the whole team have a scrimmage every day,” Andersen said. “Different skating drills hopefully get me back to where I was before.”
MONEY PLAYER: Nick Bonino in consecutive games has made important goals for the Ducks, first getting the tying goal versus Vancouver with 87 seconds remaining Sunday to keep the Ducks unbeaten in regulation at Honda Center, then scoring a late third-period goal that made it 4-2 over the Boston Bruins.
Bonino, who had 11 goals and 22 assists through 112 games in parts of four previous seasons, has 13 goals and 19 assists through 45 games.
“The biggest games are the most fun games,” Bonino said. “Luckily for me, they’ve been going in the net lately, hopefully that continues. It gives you confidence in this league and you want confidence, it’s the most important thing. Whenever they’re going in, you play with a little jump in your step and you know if you get the puck late in the game, maybe it’ll go in again.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said the 25-year-old center is extending what he did at Boston University, where he scored a tying goal late that set up his team’s NCAA championship win.
He also had three playoff goals for the Ducks last season.
“I count on him, I trust him,” Boudreau said. Ducks General Manager “Bob Murray told me this when I first got him, that that’s the way he was at BU, always Nick Bonino in the clutch. Sometimes it takes a couple years to get acclimated and feel confident in the league. He is now. His ice time has gone from 8-10 minutes to 15-18 minutes a game.”
“You want to be a guy the team can rely on in the offensive zone, and that’s something that comes from time … I’ve been here long enough,” Bonino said. “I hope I’ve gained the trust.”
IN NASHVILLE: Boudreau said forward Dustin Penner’s arm injury requires Thursday’s game off and he could return to play “I’m hoping by the weekend, it’s a problem we don’t want to get out of control.” The Ducks also are expected to rest forward Jakob Silfverberg.
The coach said Nashville “is tough every game you play them, it’s never more than a one- or two-goal game. They have such a good work ethic, and [Coach] Barry [Trotz] has been here 15 years. Very structured, you know you’re in for a tough game.”
The Ducks’ torrid 14-1 run has given them a nine-point cushion over San Jose in the Pacific Division standings. Are they due for a letdown?
Boudreau says no, pointing to the Ducks’ competition with a Western Conference-best 69 points to hold off Chicago (67) and St. Louis (65) for the top playoff seed.
“There’s not that much separation yet,” Boudreau said. “If St. Louis wins its games in hand they’re ahead of us. San Jose, L.A., we play two and four more times. If you think you’ve already done something, my experience is it comes back to bite you.”
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