With the Christmas break over, the Nashville Predators return to the ice tonight hoping to end their losing streak. Still, they are right where they need to be.
Today is my friend Lindsay’s birthday. Honestly, she is part of the reason for my fandom of the Nashville Predators. She attends games regularly with her father, husband, and two daughters. They have been going for a long time. Throughout this season, one thing has remained constant. When Lindsay and I talk about the Predators, she remains rather optimistic.
If you look through Twitter, not many other fans share Lindsay’s point of view or spirit. Many of us are frustrated. How can this team, praised for its depth and talent, lose ten road games in a row? Why are special teams playing so poorly? What in the world is Peter Laviolette doing with these lines?
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We get it. There are major injuries on this team. Everyone knows this. But think about this for a bit. At some point in time, the Nashville Predators have missed their Vezina Trophy-winning goalie for multiple games, two top-line forwards, their second-line center, an all-star defenseman, and a top-level role player. Right now, the team has nearly $20 million in salary on injured reserve.
Yet, they are still the third best team in the Western Conference. They trail the Winnipeg Jets by four points in the Central Division. This team has already beaten the best team in the NHL, twice. The second time was without Viktor Arvidsson and P.K. Subban. And, they took care of Winnipeg in their match earlier this season.
There is good news. Kyle Turris already made his return to the Predators’ lineup before the break and made an immediate impact. As for Arvidsson and Subban….
Both players returned to the ice briefly before the holiday break and were part of morning skate today. They are officially back in the lineup.
The Nashville Predators have 45 games left this season. They are getting healthier and healthier by the day. With two major pieces of the puzzle returning, the lineup is nearing full-strength. All they need is Filip Forsberg to return and Ryan Ellis to improve on the ice. While it has not been a poor season for the bearded defenseman, it certainly is not a repeat of last year. Ellis has only three goals and 13 assists, plus has allowed more goals at even-strength than the team has gained. His +/- of 3 is far below his performance over the last three seasons. Roman Josi has a +/- of -1. The team needs this to improve.
Tonight may help. The Dallas Stars visit Bridgestone Arena. Nashville is 6-0-1 against the Stars in their last seven games. If the Predators were ever to get back on track, tonight would be the night. With two stars returning and playing on home ice, the ingredients for success are there.
The Predators have faltered of late, but there is still plenty of time in the season. You want to play your best hockey to end the season, not start it. No one cares about the Presidents’ Trophy this year. The sole focus is on the Stanley Cup. The team is right where they need to be.