The preseason rolls along as the Nashville Predators hit the road and will take on the Tampa Lightning, the NHL’s reigning Presidents Trophy winners.
There’s a lot for the Nashville Predators coaching staff to figure out this preseason. The bottom six remains in flux as there are many pieces that need to be sorted out. This is what the preseason is for, and the Predators have the 128-point Tampa Bay Lightning up next.
The Predators have released their roster for tonight’s game with Tampa Bay, and we’ll get to see some intriguing players suit up. Perhaps the two players who stand out the most are Eeli Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro, two young players looking to making their first big splashes in the NHL this upcoming season. Here’s the full roster from the Predators official Twitter account:
This will be the first of a back-to-back scheduled for the two teams, as they’ll come back to Nashville tomorrow for another preseason meeting. The second game we’ll get to see the other half of the Predators roster as players are battling for spots on the opening night lineup. The Predators are less than two weeks away from opening the regular season up at home against the Minnesota Wild.
What we want to see tonight
I’m wanting to see the continued growth and development of Tolvanen. He’s looked great this offseason. He had an excellent 2019 NHL Prospects Showcase, putting up four goals, including an overtime game-winning goal. We all want to see him find a spot in the lineup and make a big impact on the offense this season.
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I also mentioned Fabbro, who essentially is coming in as P.K. Subban‘s replacement. Subban was traded to the New Jersey Devils over the offseason for a couple defensemen and a couple of draft picks. Fabbro has passed the eye test so far, but now he has to become an everyday player on the team’s second defensive pairing.
We’ll see both Jeremy Davies and Steven Santini tonight as well, who were part of that trade back in June. Santini has never played 40 games or more in a season on the NHL level, with all of his time with the Devils. He’s amassed 21 points in 114 career NHL games. As for Davies, he’s the more intriguing of the two. He has a lot of upside after having a very productive college career at Northeastern University.
These four players just mentioned are my guys I’m most excited to watch in tonight’s preseason battle. I’m not caught up on who will win or lose. It’s all about seeing strides in development, and maybe getting more clarity on possible line combinations with veterans who have realistic chances to make the opening night roster.
Getting to know Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay are the current holders of the Presidents Trophy, which is more of a kiss of death than anything to your postseason hopes. They put up an unprecedented 128 points last season, only to be swept in the first round of the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets. At least the Predators made it a six-game series. Despite that, Tampa Bay once again has one of the best rosters in the NHL going into this season.
We can’t draw too much from it, but the Lightning still haven’t scored a goal yet this preseason. They’ve played two games so far, without their big guns playing in either of the two. However, they’re coming ready to go against the Predators tonight. This includes Nikita Kucherov, who is the NHL’s current MVP. We’re going to get a small taste of just how good the Lightning are in this game, even if it is just an exhibition.
Another big name we should see tonight is Victor Hedman, one of the league’s top defenseman. He finished third in the Norris Trophy voting this past season, putting up 54 points. We’ll see if Ryan Ellis can match Hedman tonight as he’s the top defenseman going for the Predators.
Tampa Bay will be right near the top of the standings once again. It would be no surprised at all if they win another Presidents Trophy and cruise through the regular season. Can the translate that to postseason success is something they haven’t proven in a while.
In net the Predators are going with Juuse Saros and Connor Ingram. Both have looked sharp so far in their preseason action. Tampa Bay will counter with Spencer Martin and the 36-year-old veteran Curtis McElhinney between the pipes. McElhinney is a journeyman of a goaltender in the NHL and was just brought in as a free agent over the summer.
The lineups from both teams should make for some entertaining action as we inch closer to the regular season. Tonight’s game will be a win in my book regardless of the final score if we see solid performances from Tolvanen, Fabbro and Saros. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 P.M. CDT.