The Nashville Predators look to close out their preseason with a win at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s what to watch.
Following a mediocre display in front of a home crowd on Thursday, the Nashville Predators need to prove their lethal potential. Fortunately, they have one more preseason opportunity as they host the Lightning tonight at Bridgestone Arena. After fans provided an excellent turnout for Thursday night’s game, it’s safe to assume Smashville will be rocking for the Saturday night puck drop.
Tampa Bay’s most recent game featured a top pairing of Victor Hedman and Dan Girardi. No matter how you cut it, that is a very solid couple of defensemen. Their second pairing is no joke either. Veteran Anton Stralman and 19-year-old Mikhail Sergachev put up excellent numbers as a pair. Certainly, these pairings might change as Tampa prepares for the start of the regular season, so keep an eye on who skates next to who on their blue line tonight.
Obviously, the Nashville Predators defense is capable of handling any obstacle in its way. Thursday night’s game saw Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm as Nashville’s first defensive pairing. P.K. Subban and Alexei Emelin completed the top four. Ekholm was playing on his weak side, and it showed in his situational awareness and shot generation. Additionally, Subban and Emelin didn’t look quite comfortable together. We won’t know until closer to puck drop if these pairings will stay the same, but the Predators need the defense to improve its game.
When I hear “Tampa Bay Lightning,” I think of two names: Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. On Thursday against the Panthers, these players spent almost 20 minutes on the ice together and produced truly insane numbers. While on the ice, their line produced over 70% of the total shots taken. Considering the league average is around 50%, it’s clear that the Predators will have to dig extremely deep to keep Stamkos and Kucherov at bay.
Similarly, two offensive players, in particular, stuck out in Nashville’s Thursday night game. Kevin Fiala and Filip Forsberg dragged the Preds kicking and screaming into a largely unearned overtime. The pair combined for a goal and an assist, and controlled the majority of shots when skating together. Fiala appears to be feeling better than ever. Forsberg is picking up where he left off after a brilliant postseason.
Follow the game
For the final time this preseason, the puck drops in Nashville at 7pm Central. Barring any changes, fans in the Predators’ viewing area can catch the game on the team’s official website. The game will also be broadcast on 102.5 The Game, with pregame coverage beginning at 6pm. Tickets are, of course, available for any fans who can make it downtown and take it in live.
In a perfect end to the preseason, two very well matched teams will square off tonight. With explosive offense and tenacious defense on both sides, this one should be fun.