Nashville Predators: Two Points or Bust with Islanders in Town

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 04: Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) skates with the puck during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and the New York Islanders, held on April 4, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 04: Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) skates with the puck during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and the New York Islanders, held on April 4, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Nashville Predators close out October tonight as they host the Islanders. With a road trip on the horizon, a win tonight would be a huge boost.

Going into this week, I was very much hoping the Nashville Predators would take five points from their three games. After losing to Calgary in a shootout on Tuesday, I lowered that expectation to four points. However, the Predators picked up a huge win at the United Center last night, and the possibility of a great week is still alive.

The opposition

The New York Islanders are actually off to a decent start this season. Currently, they sit fourth in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 5-4-1 and eleven points. If the playoffs started today, they would represent the Eastern Conference as the first Wildcard.

Although the Islanders have a very similar record to that of the Predators, their strength of schedule has been relatively weak. Their wins have been against teams like Buffalo, San Jose, and Arizona. When they’ve played challenging opposition, they have struggled.

The Islanders have succeeded in spreading production around their team. While John Tavares does, unsurprisingly, lead the team with ten points, he is not a huge outlier. Winger Josh Bailey also has ten points. Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle lead the team in even-strength Corsi with 58.97% and 56.04%, respectively.

Home ice advantage

The Nashville Predators, as usual, have been very good at Bridgestone Arena this year. Their overall record is 5-3-2, but they are 3-0-1 at home. Currently, they sit in second place in the Central Division with 12 points. In spite of a somewhat inconsistent start to their season, the Predators have put themselves in a very good position after just ten games.

The Predators power play is currently the sixth-best in the league at 25%. While that’s an excellent percentage, the team needs to get it going during five on five as well. Filip Forsberg leads the team with 12 points at all strengths.

A change in the lineup

The Nashville Predators trotted out a line up that massively disappointed in the first period against Chicago. But after a few key changes, the Predators started playing much better. Here’s the projected line-up going into tonight.

Fiala-Johansen-Forsberg

Aberg-Jarnkrok-Arvidsson

Hartnell-Gaudreau-Smith

Salomaki-Sissons-Watson

The most noticeable change is the JoFA line. Arvidsson was moved after the second period in Chicago and looked excellent alongside his new linemates. Hopefully, Fiala can find his scoring touch with Johansen and Forsberg. The only real question I have for the forward lines is how long Gaudreau stays ahead of Sissons. Gaudreau had a better game last night versus the Blackhawks, but Sissons has had a more consistent season. Then there’s a change or two on defense.

Josi-Ekholm

Emelin-Subban

Girard-Weber

The biggest difference is Girard will play on the third pairing with Weber. Peter Laviolette will have to shelter them considerably as they were picked apart by the Blackhawks in the third period. Luckily the Predators will have home ice advantage and will be able to match lines. I like the Josi-Ekholm pair quite a bit but I was hoping Girard would get time with Subban. Any way the lines are, the Predators are better for having Girard in it.

The Islanders lean on their first line more than perhaps they should. John Tavares, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle certainly provide the backbone for their team. With the home ice advantage, the Predators will be able to tailor their matchups to keep these three suppressed as much as possible. If the Predators can keep the Islanders’ first line from producing, this game will be Nashville’s for the taking.

Goaltending matchup

Barring any last-minute changes, Juuse Saros will start in net tonight for the Nashville Predators. His save percentage this season is 0.854 in two games, but I’m confident in his abilities. He had zero help in the Pittsburgh game, and only made one true mistake against the Rangers last weekend.

The Islanders run a 50/50 tandem between Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak. As I’m writing this, they have not announced a starting goaltender for tonight’s game. Greiss and Halak each have a save percentage of 0.898 and 0.913, respectively. Regardless, I’d give Saros the edge over either netminder.

Follow the game

The game airs tonight on Fox Sports Tennessee, with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30pm. As always, you can listen to Pete Weber and Hal Gill on the radio broadcast on 102.5 The Game.

Next: Win in Chicago was an analytical mess

Even with a tough back-to-back situation, the Predators will be disappointed with anything less than two points tonight.