It’s about that time to end Nashville Predators training camp and put together the best possible roster to make a deep run in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It feels like Nashville Predators training camp just started, and now it’s already coming to a close. That’s all the time the team is going to get, aside from an exhibition game with the Dallas Stars, to get ready for the Arizona Coyotes.
Head Coach John Hynes and the rest of his staff now has to sort through their roster, including the call-ups from the Milwaukee Admirals, and figure out who can give this team the best chance to win.
Teams are allowed to take 31 players to their hub city of Edmonton. More than normal, but will still be tricky to trim down the roster and pick some subs that can be there in case injuries or poor performance occur.
Here are the latest practice line rushes, per Thomas Willis of the Nashville Predators media team:
Same ole’ song and dance?
Notice something here? There’s not much change from the regular season to now with these lines. The combinations are different, but the players themselves are the same.
Nobody new from Milwaukee has made a big enough impact in training camp to infuse themselves into the starting lineup. Many of the prospects that were called up from Milwaukee have remained together as units during practices.
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With this all being considered, I’m expecting the same group of players to be the main group in Game 1 against Arizona. That means Austin Watson will be in the mix on the fourth line, while you may see Colin Blackwell or Yakov Trenin crack into the starting lineup for a game or two.
Injuries may unfortunately occur, and that’s when the expanded roster will come into play.
If a particular player that’s already on the fringe plays poorly, then you’ll see the younger players called upon.
However, if that happens, it will already mean the Predators are getting overtaken by the Coyotes and on the brink of elimination.
I want Blackwell in that role over Watson. It shouldn’t even be a discussion. I know Watson can occasionally be the agitator that blocks shots and puts up some big hits, but he’s been gradually trending downward for a while now. I have no reason to think that’s changed over the pause.
Furthermore, the defense also looks pretty much the same. Nothing to write home about. Some combination of Korbinian Holzer, Yannick Weber, Dan Hamhuis or Jarred Tinordi will be the bottom defensive pairing.
That’s going to undoubtedly rub some fans the wrong way as the bottom defensive pairing has been mediocre at best this season.
If you make me choose a pairing out of those four, give me Holzer and Hamhuis.
At least I know Hamhuis has that veteran experience that won’t be shook by the pressure, and Holzer did show some strong play as an enforcer of sorts that can rough the opposition up. I don’t trust Weber or Tinordi in playoff situations.
Milwaukee waiting in the wings
This doesn’t mean none of the Milwaukee players will make the trip to Edmonton. Some of them will with 31 players allowed, but getting into starting roles looks unlikely. I thought Hynes would shake some things up, but it appears I may have been wrong with that notion.
There’s still no official word on who will start in net for Game 1 with Juuse Saros or Pekka Rinne. I expect to see official word on that after the exhibition game with Dallas. No need to commit too early to making choice if you don’t have to.
I’m a little disheartened to not see one of the youngsters elevated more, like Eeli Tolvanen, and given a chance to inject new energy into the lineup. I have my doubts that going with the same ole’ starting lineup will work for the Predators, but I do have some restored hope with the way the line combinations have been reassembled.
A curveball could still be thrown at us when the playoff roster is announced, but going with the status quo looks to be happening.
With that said, this squad is battle-tested in the playoffs and won’t succumb to the pressure of playoff hockey. They were up against enormous pressure from January to the pause in March.
To leave you with something to get you fired up for the Arizona Coyotes, here’s a smash car courtesy of the Nashville Predators to keep the playoff tradition alive.