We’re seeing the Nashville Predators face the most adversity they’ve seen all season. Can they get back on track against lowly Ottawa?
It’s imperative that the Nashville Predators take care of business against beatable opponents like the Ottawa Senators. No matchup is an easy one in the NHL, but the Predators can’t leave two points on the table tonight at home against a team that’s near the bottom of the standings.
There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that Nashville is struggling to keep the momentum up without several of their key players. The absences of Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Turris, and P.K. Subban have transformed the Predators into just an ordinary team. We’re not accustomed to that in recent memory.
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Despite the tough luck with injuries, the Predators are still tied atop the Central Division with Colorado at 39 points. Winnipeg is just one point back as well, making the division race a tight one, as we expected. Even without their top guns, the Predators should be able to take care of business against a Senators team that has surrendered the most goals in the NHL at 122.
The projected lineup per the Predators official website has Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala on the top line alongside Ryan Johansen. We’re also going to see Eeli Tolvanen on the second line as he keeps adding valuable NHL experience.
Offense should flourish
Nashville is 5-5 over their last ten games, making them the exact definition of average. That’s not going to be good enough to hold onto the division lead, or even stay in the competitive Western Conference playoff race. They have to win games they’re supposed to win, like this one. Ottawa gives up a ton of goals and has a shaky goaltender in Craig Anderson. Juicy scoring chances should be plentiful in this game.
The big question is can players like Fiala, Hartman, Colton Sissons, and Craig Smith elevate their offensive games while we wait for key players to return? That’s a key question as the Predators are being forced to rely more heavily on role players. It’s testing their depth, something that championship teams have to possess.
Tolvanen needs to keep showing progress as he gets more NHL experience. He’ll play in his fourth game of the season tonight after posting nearly 16 minutes of ice time against Vancouver. His first power play goal would be lovely to see.
Ottawa also has the second-worst penalty killing units in the league at just 72 percent. This is a perfect time for the Predators to pile up a couple power-play goals. They’ve been showing mild improvement in this department, and they’ll have a great opportunity to add to it against Ottawa.
What to expect
This is a perfect set-up for the Predators to bounce back at home. With all of the bad luck with injuries, they’re right in the thick of things. I fully expect the offense to erupt against a leaky Ottawa defense. Four to five goals should be obtainable and be more than enough goal support for either Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros.
A starting goaltender hasn’t been officially announced, but I’d be surprised if Rinne isn’t trotted out there. His last outing against Vancouver wasn’t pretty as he gave up four goals on just 25 shots. Not what we’re used to seeing from the defending Vezina Trophy winner. If he gets the nod tonight, he will bounce back. I’d like to see better defense played in front of him, however.
The Predators get back in the win column tonight as they put all the pieces together. We need a complete and balanced game from them, something we haven’t seen in a while. This matchup is the perfect time to get that done. No wins are comfortable wins in the NHL, but Nashville will win this by two goals to settle everyone down that’s panicking.
Ryan Hartman-Ryan Johansen-Kevin Fiala
Eeli Tolvanen-Calle Jarnkrok-Craig Smith
Tonight’s game from Bridgestone Arena will broadcast on Fox Sports Tennessee, with puck drop just after 7:00 P.M. Central time. You can also watch the game on the Fox Sports Go app or listen to Pete Weber’s call on 102.5 The Game and the Nashville Predators’ Radio Network.