Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville Predators: Games This Week


Can you believe it? The puck is finally about to drop on the NHL regular season tonight.

Three games are on the docket tonight, with the Maple Leafs visiting the Montreal Canadiens, Capitals taking on the defending-champion Blackhawks and in Edmonton, Jets versus Oilers in the late game.

Unfortunately, Predators fans will have to wait a little longer to see their team in action, but a new season and a fresh start is only a couple more days away. Nashville has an abnormal schedule of games this week, playing only a back-to-back set on the road to start the 2013-14 campaign. The two contestants the Preds will face are both from the newly-realigned Central Division (Conference iii) and will be a good measuring stick for the team from Music City, right off the bat.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, October 3rd, 7:30 pm *new time* (CT): Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues

2013 season series: (Blues win 3-1).

Last year, the Blues were a popular pick to win the Central Division and even to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, but they came up short on both accounts. St. Louis finished second in the Central behind the Blackhawks (but still three spots ahead of the Predators) and lost an entertaining first-round series, 4-2 to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Blues made a couple upgrades to their forward group this offseason, but overall their core group (especially on defense) remains intact. The biggest change may be seen in the team’s bottom-six forwards, as St. Louis essentially completely-overhauled their third line, adding Maxim Lapierre, Brendan Morrow and Magnus Paajarvi. The Blues are also hoping newly-signed, center Derek Roy will have a bounce-back year offensively and may ask him to help to fill the hole left by David Perron (who was traded to Edmonton).

The Blues play a style very similar to the Nashville Predators, as head coach Ken Hitchcock uses a group of forwards (lacking a superstar scorer) to play tight, defense-first hockey that shuts down the opponent’s top line and waits for opportunities to counter (if you’ve followed the Preds for more than five minutes, this should sound very familiar).

Expect this game to be very low scoring and slowly paced. Both teams will likely be waiting for the other to make a mistake–and barring a huge number of power plays–offensive chances will be hard to find. The Blues were better than Nashville on the ice last year and it seems they’ve improved this offseason as well, so I give St. Louis the edge.

Prediction: 3-1 St. Louis. (Two-point night and game-winning goal going to Blues T.J. Oshie)

(Bonus: Blues add an empty-net goal late, Pekka Rinne keeps Nashville in the game for most of the contest, but it isn’t enough.)

Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Friday, October 4th, 8:00 pm (CT): Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche

2013 season series: (Avs win 2-1).

It’s hard to find a team whose regular season went worse than the Preds last year, but a few examples do exist, and the Avalanche are one of them. Until last season, the Predators had not lost to the Avs in more than two years (going a combined 8-0 against them in 2010-11 and 2011-12). Colorado’s fortunes changed against Nashville this past season, but that newly-found success wasn’t present in many other areas as the Avalanche missed the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years.

The biggest offseason change for the Avs came through the NHL Entry Draft, as the franchise used the No. 1 overall pick–not on Seth Jones–but on forward Nathan MacKinnon. Collecting (and relying on) young, offensively-gifted forwards has been the modus operandi for the Avs for the last few years now (and this trend looks to continue). Colorado has been one of the youngest teams in the league the past few years and that will not change this season (as they will once again be led by 20-year-old captain Gabriel Landeskog and perhaps the 18-year-old MacKinnon).

This contest should be a higher scoring affair than Thursday’s game against the Blues, and it will be important for Nashville to establish a lead early before tired legs and high altitude start to really take their affect.

Prediction: 4-2 Nashville. (Game-winning goal scored by Gabriel Bourque)

(Bonus: Although held off the scoresheet, Colin Wilson is clearly Nashville’s best player on the ice, making quality passes and holding onto the puck in tight spaces.)

If they’re able to get it, Nashville should feel fine about a 1-1 start on the road to begin the 2013-14 campaign. How do you think the Preds perform in their first two games? Chime in below.

 

Thomas Willis is a Staff Writer at Predlines.com and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @thomaswillis20. For the latest updates in Predator news, follow @PredlinesNSH 

Tags: Avalanche Blues Nashville Predators Predictions Upcoming Games

  • Hockeyfan24

    Unless I missed an update (which I wouldn’t rule out,) Morrow has been playing a top 6 role in the preseason lineups and has a good possibility of taking the 2nd line spot.

    • Thomas

      You’re right that Morrow has spent some time on the 2nd line during the preseason, but he’s been on the 3rd line as well. I don’t really see him sticking on the 2nd line because I see Berglund centering that line with Tarasenko and Stewart on the wings (I just see that as ultimately how Hitchcock plays it), but lines change from game to game or even period to period, so we’ll see.

      • Hockeyfan24

        Touche. Comments like those are what the site needed.

  • Anonymouse

    Do you have any factual, statistical evidence that Bourque will score the 3rd Nashville goal on Friday night and that Oshie will score the 2nd goal on Thursday or is this just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks?

    Oshie only has one 2 point night against Nashville and that was 4 years ago and he didn’t score a goal.

    Bourque has never scored a goal against Colorado.

    • Thomas

      Haha you’re too much. I am making a fun/bonus prediction for the game(s), based somewhat on past results but at the same time just going with a hunch. If sports always played out the way they have in the past, I’m pretty sure views/attendance would be down…

      In the past, Oshie has been tough for Nashville to stop and is one of the Blues better players so I picked him to have a two-point night. Obviously still a high chance someone else records two points for St. Louis (if anyone).

      Bourque plays second-line minutes and usually scores timely goals so that’s why I picked him. Plus with the injuries to Stalberg (on IR), Hornqvist and Forsberg (both listed as day-to-day although it’s possible and/or either play), I think Bourque will have even more opportunities to put the puck in the net than normal.

      But obviously it’s a fun/loose prediction, if you think someone else for Nashville will score the GWG or if they won’t even win at all, give me your prediction and we can compare results. I plan on keeping track of my record throughout the season. (Currently undefeated at 0-0!)

      I’d like to turn more of our posts from a simple reporting of stats (anyone could look up) to a blend of fact and opinion that is fun to engage with.

      • Anonymouse

        Fair enough. I’ll keep you.