Country stars love Predators

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

The Maple Leafs spent a couple of days wandering past the bars, record stores and country music landmarks of Nashville, but likely wouldn't recognize the local celebrities who frequent Predator games.

Barbara Mandrell has season's tickets with her manager/husband Ken Dudney and once hosted a party for the team. Mandrell has two sons who took up the game in high school.

Vince Gill and partner Amy Grant are there a lot, along with Deana Carter. Sam Lovullo, a producer of Hee Haw, once brought Predators play-by-play man Pete Weber on stage at the Ryman Auditorium (Grand Ole Opry) to sing one of the musical comedy show's theme songs.

Stock car racer Darrell Waltrip and Tennessee Titans' Frank Wychek, author of the Music City Miracle against the Buffalo Bills, are often in attendance.

ON THE TRAIL OF THE CAT

With his next start, Andrew Raycroft will have made 17 consecutive appearances, last done by Felix Potvin late in the 1996-97 season.

"I feel fine," Raycroft insisted yesterday morning.

Jean-Sebastien Aubin, quickly taking on the persona of the lonely Maytag Repairman, has not played since mopping up for Raycroft in the third period of a blowout loss to the Penguins Jan 20. He hasn't started since faltering in a 4-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 29.

LOOSE LEAFS

The only Leafs present in last night's game from the team that last visited Nashville in 2002 are Mats Sundin, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Travis Green, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe ... The Preds are lobbying to join the Leafs in the Eastern Conference if there is realignment. They have a natural rival in Atlanta, just a 31/2-hour drive away, not to mention Carolina, but are scheduled to see each only once every three years ... Nashville winger Jordan Tootoo is on crutches, trying to keep the weight off a hip injury that has collected fluid.


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