Nashville Predators: Critical Players Who Need to Come Back Refreshed

Matt Duchene #95 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Matt Duchene #95 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The pause that began back in March for the NHL is going to benefit some teams more than others. The Nashville Predators might stand to benefit.

It was a rocky season for the Nashville Predators, but they were starting to figure some things out before the regular season was paused.

The Predators were sticking around thanks to a hot streak by goaltender Juuse Saros, while also getting scoring help from their bottom-six and improvement from other players.

However, there are some important players for the Predators that were struggling to play up to their normal expectations. These players can hopefully come back refreshed and maximize the Predators’ chances of not only advancing past the play-in round, but go even deeper.

Matt Duchene

Duchene’s first season with the Nashville Predators hasn’t been a complete failure by any means, but there’s definitely a lot more to be desired.

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The second line of Duchene, Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund can really ignite the Predators into a high-scoring team that can hang with anyone. And they’re up against a tough Arizona Coyotes defense in the play-in matchup.

Duchene had just 42 points in the shortened regular season, which isn’t the production you expect from him. The Predators need that production to get closer to a point-per-game basis, and he needs to make a bigger impact on the power play as well.

This pause and restart could stand to benefit a player like Duchene who can sometimes be streaky, but can use this new training camp and fresh start as a launching point in this playoff run.

Viktor Arvidsson

The hope is that Arvidsson’s rough season was due to not being fully healthy even after returning to the lineup. He was injured after a controversial and questionable crosscheck from St.Louis’ Robert Bortuzzo on November 23rd.

Since returning from that injury, Arvidsson just hasn’t looked like himself. How much of that is due to not being 100 percent healthy is yet to be determined.

However, Arvidsson should come back fully healthy and regenerated when and if the NHL is able to pull off the 24-team postseason.

Arvidsson’s return to form can really be a game-changer for the Predators in the play-in series and beyond that. When he’s playing at his best he’s a player that forces a lot of pressure on the opposing defense and creates odd-man rushes along with traffic in front of the net.

Ryan Johansen

Johansen does a lot of things well that don’t always show up in the box score. He’s never been a player who piles up goals or one that plays a flashy offensive game.

What Johansen has always done well with is building puck possession for the Predators and creating scoring opportunities for his linemates. That has dwindled this season, for more reasons than one.

Johansen needs to return to being that player that has a strong presence in the offensive zone by making the Predators’ top line one of the most productive in the NHL once again. The top line has had very little chemistry or stability this season.

The veteran leadership and experience of Johansen should be largely beneficial during this pause as players try to reset and come back fresh. I have a lot of faith that he’ll come back more like the player who was piling up the assists and boosting up the numbers of his linemates.

Pekka Rinne

I’m going to end this short list of players to come back refreshed with Pekka Rinne. No professional athlete can play forever.  Perhaps the illustrious career of Rinne is nearing an end, but I don’t think it’s over just yet.

Juuse Saros should be the starter in net for Game 1, but don’t dismiss the possibility of Rinne being called upon to put together one more great playoff run. If anyone can benefit from having some time to refresh through all of this it’s Rinne.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this, but it’s not a stretch to think that Saros comes in shaky and the Predators have to turn to Rinne. That will probably mean the Predators will be in a hole right out of the gate if that happens, but I could see Rinne coming in and completely shutting down a pretty ordinary Coyotes team on the offensive side.

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We should want Saros to pick up where he left off before the pause, but if he comes out flat again, don’t completely discount what Rinne might bring. He could still end up being a huge part of the Predators’ Stanley Cup hopes in this 24-team format.

If these four players come back playing closer to the level we’re accustomed to seeing them play at, then the Predators can absolutely make a run of this coming back with a clean slate.