Lost in the fray of firing Peter Laviolette and having a new coach is the Nashville Predators have a big game tonight at home against the Boston Bruins.
What effect will the last 24 hours have on the Nashville Predators players tonight against the first-place Boston Bruins? Let’s hope it lights a fire under the team and they come out guns blazing.
The Predators are currently five points out of a playoff spot. It’s conceivable to think they have to win two out of every three from here on out to make the playoffs. Even then, they could miss the cut in a crowded Central Division and wildcard race.
Tonight is one of just four home games in the month of January. The Predators have a 9-8-3 road record so far, but maybe getting away from the noise will help this team that now has just its third head coach in franchise history with John Hynes.
What should we expect tonight?
I’m fully expecting an aggressive and full on attack from the Predators. That’s going to mean giving up counter chances to Boston, but what really do you have to lose? Craig Smith echoed that sentiment to Paul Skrbina of the Tennessean recently:
The writing was on the wall when Smith said that. The players were no longer responding or on board with Laviolette’s system, or so it seemed anyway.
Now we get to see the Predators play with a new head coach. Right out of the gate, I expect to see a free-flowing Predators team that’s going to take risks and probably give up some goals the other way. However, we know they have the offensive weapons to get in a track meet and put up four or five of their own.
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The Predators are still dealing with some key absences to the lineup. We won’t be seeing Ryan Ellis for the foreseeable future, and Colton Sissons also remains out. Two key veterans to the lineup that provide versatility.
Matt Duchene has missed the last two games due to illness and it’s unknown if he’ll be able to suit up tonight. He did participate in the morning skate, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to go when the puck drops.
Then you have Dante Fabbro also to possibly miss another game. He’s been out the last two games as well with an upper-body injury. This hurts an already suspect defensive lineup and forces Jarred Tinordi into the mix to play with Mattias Ekholm.
Finally, there’s also the possibility that Nick Bonino misses tonight. He was absent of the morning skate. Aside from missing Ellis, this would be the biggest blow of all to the starting lineup as Bonino has led the charge on a very successful and productive third line.
With all of these injuries and absences, the Predators are having lean on a lot of inexperience. Even at full strength this team has proven to be inconsistent and unpredictable. Throw into the mix a lot of youth and lack of NHL experience, and you have a tough mountain to climb against the Boston Bruins.
All lineup info and projections per the Predators official website and Thomas Willis
Hynes probably isn’t going to come in and instantly change this team and fix all of the weaknesses. It’s going to require some patience. Not all midseason coaching changes have instant happy endings like what happened for the Blues last season.
Things might very well get darker before the sun shines on the Predators again. It feels like the Predators are 20 points out of a playoff spot even though they’re within shouting distance of a wildcard spot. They need a long winning streak soon, but I’m not sure they can do it with a depleted lineup and all of the other distraction going on.
I will say that getting a win tonight will instantly energize things again and give people some real hope. The team has just one home win since December 10th, and tonight will be just their first home game of 2020.