Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, Nashville Predators hockey is back in Smashville. Here’s our first game preview of the 2020-21 season.
Someone call up DMX, Tim McGraw and The Black Keys because the sound system is ready to blast some energy into Bridgestone Arena for the Nashville Predators season-opener.
The Central Division is expected to be very cluttered after looking past the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes. And remember, the top-four teams get into the playoffs.
The last time the Predators played, our hearts were broken when the Arizona Coyotes eliminated them from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in overtime on the stick of Brad Richardson, who is now ironically enough on the Predators and should be on the fourth line.
After 160 days of waiting, the Nashville Predators will host the Columbus Blue Jackets to start the new campaign. Let’s review what’s to make of the first matchup of the season.
A rebuilt Predators team
The youth and retooling movement has brought a different look to the Nashville Predators this year. The team seems to have more grit with the signing of Mark Borowiecki and the call-ups of Mathieu Olivier and Yakov Trenin.
Olivier is projected to possibly be in the starting lineup on the fourth line, with Cole Smith also in the mix.
The projected starting lineup can be seen here, per the Nashville Predators official team website. The top line, known as the JoFA line, is back together and the second line looks strong with Haula and Kunin being centered by Matt Duchene.
It should be noted that Viktor Arvidsson and Rocco Grimaldi were not part of yesterday’s practice, but Arvidsson is expected to suit up against Columbus according to Head Coach John Hynes and Adam Vingan’s reporting:
John Hynes anticipates Viktor Arvidsson being in the lineup tomorrow.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) January 13, 2021
Arvidsson left Tuesday’s practice early and didn’t return. He would be a huge void in the lineup for the Predators’ offensive attack if he for some reason can’t go tonight.
If Grimaldi comes back, expect him on the third line with Nick Cousins and Colton Sissons. That looks like a pretty solid line that can hopefully recreate what the third line did last season for the Predators.
A defensive-minded Blue Jackets team
The Blue Jackets had another offseason full of needed changes. They were struggling offensively again last year due to an evolving team and lack of true centers.
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The offseason brought in players like Mikko Koivu and Max Domi, whom was brought in through a trade. Each of these players are tough to play against so watch them to be the game-changers for the Blue Jackets.
Koivu is actually expected to miss tonight’s game for the Blue Jackets, per CBS Sports. That’s a big vacancy to fill for Columbus as they aren’t particularly deep in their forwards.
The Blue Jackets are stout defensively. They have one of the top-rated No.1 defensive pairings with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. The Predators counter that top pairing with Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. It should make for a defensive grudge match of sorts.
Last season the Blue Jackets were third in the NHL in goals allowed per game. The Predators had their moments of strong defensive play, but were also very inconsistent.
The major issue that looks apparent on the roster sheet is their lack of depth. This is where the Predators might have the upper hand on them this year. Many season projections have the Predators and Blue Jackets rated very close together in the standings.
These two teams have only seen each other nine times in the last five years. Due to the change in the divisions, we’ll see Columbus much more this year and rekindle an old division rivalry.
After collaborating with the Predlines staff, we believe that the changes the Predators have made will out do the Blue Jackets changes. We foresee a game opening win from the boys with a 4-3 win in regulation.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. CDT and will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee and on radio from 102.5 The Game.
Good luck to the Predators and hopefully they can bring home a game one victory tonight! The two teams will meet again on Saturday night. Every game is going to feel like a playoff game, including this one.