Every game is going to feel like a big game from here on out for the Nashville Predators as they try to make up ground in the division.
It’s a new month as the Nashville Predators say so long to a horrible November and hello to new beginnings in December. They start things off with a meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team they have oddly dominated in recent memory.
The Predators have won six of the last seven overall against Tampa Bay, including sweeping them last year and winning earlier this season in overtime. It’s a weird domination over a team that’s been really great over this same span. Can the Predators keep that unlikely trend going tonight at home?
Last time out the Predators were shutout 3-0 to the Florida Panthers. Their energy looked depleted on the back end of a back-to-back, and the Panthers took advantage of that by wearing them down. Now the Predators find themselves five points out of a top-three spot in the Central Division, with plenty of time to get back into the thick of things.
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Kyle Turris coming back?
The big news going into this one is the probable return of Turris to the starting lineup. It’s been baffling to understand why he’s been left out of the lineup for so long. No real concrete answers have been given by the coaching staff or higher-ups of the Predators.
Turris can obviously help this team tremendously. He didn’t just forget how to play hockey and be an effective center or winger, especially in the bottom six for the Predators. Where he exactly belongs in the lineup is a whole other debate to have.
Having not played since November 16th, Turris might finally get back into the lineup tonight:
This info from Robby Stanley of the Predators website is interesting for numerous reasons. Seeing Turris on a line with Calle Jarnkrok and Mikael Granlund will be intriguing to watch. And seeing Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg reunited on the same line is something I’ve been waiting to see for a while now.
Turris is going to be under a big microscope if he’s in tonight. If he has a bad game, it will be amplified, and in return will be amplified the other direction if he has a good game. What I take away from this is possibly a trade possibility fell through, and Turris should be back in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
How are the Lightning looking?
Tampa Bay is kind of stumbling along and falling short of expectations much like the Predators are doing. Two teams looking to find their identities again. With the latest loss to the Hurricanes, the Lightning are now on a three-game losing streak.
Defensively the Lightning have been giving up a lot of goals. They give up 3.29 goals per game, which is 25th in the league. In return, they give up the third-most shots per game at 33.3, and we know the Predators love to fire off a lot of shots. There’s your formula for success if you’re the Predators.
Even with them struggling, the Lightning still have their big offensive weapons who can win a track meet type of game. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat are the leading goal scorers so far.
You can’t overlook their defensemen, even though the team as a whole has been struggling greatly in this department. Victor Hedman is a top NHL defenseman and has 22 points this season. Kevin Shattenkirk is an excellent veteran on defense who has 19 points on the season.
It’s hard to understand why Tampa Bay is just 12-9-3, much like it’s hard to understand why the Predators are in the same boat at 12-10-4. Two teams that have been letdowns in the early going, but everyone is just waiting for them to finally start clicking.
Predators projected lineup
Turris is the big one, but how about Pekka Rinne getting back in the starter’s crease and not missing consecutive starts again. He missed three-straight starts to Juuse Saros before finally getting back in net in a win over the Hurricanes on Friday night.
Rinne’s latest win was his 350th of his career. He also got the shutout, which is his 58th of his illustrious career and third of the season. Perhaps he’s out of his own personal funk which has his save percentage below 90 at the moment.
The odd man out to make room for Turris looks to be Daniel Carr. Carr had the big game-winning shooutout goal to beat the Blues, but still hasn’t registered a technical point in his seven games with the Predators this season.
That means Mathieu Olivier is going to stick around in the starting lineup and stay on the fourth line. He hasn’t been blazing up the box score, but he’s doing pretty well on the defensively with ten hits. He’s only averaging 7:33 of ice time, so nothing too meaningful. I’m a little surprised they’re going with him over Carr.
This will be another tough test for the Predators, but they should be well-rested. I love this lineup combination and how the lines are constructed. Duchene and Forsberg together has me excited. They need another solid start from Rinne and stick to their gameplan of throwing anything and everything at the net to create chaos and rebound opportunities.
Here’s a look at the complete projected lineup from the Predators official website. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. CDT and will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network. You can catch the local coverage of the game from 102.5 The Game with Pete Weber and Hal Gill calling the action.