As the losses continue to stack up, it is painfully evident that changes are coming to the Nashville Predators organization. It is only a matter of time.
However, the show must go on, and the Predators must continue to work to find ways to win. So far, not much has worked, no matter what adjustments the players or coaches have made.
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March will be a tough month for the Predators schedule-wise. Their opponents the next few weeks read like a “who’s who” of the top teams in the Central Division.
The Predators have lost their past three games, the last being a 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday. They are now in Dallas for their second game of a back-to-back.
Today’s game will be the Predators’ third meeting with the Stars this season. The first two games were very early in the season, and the Stars took both. In fact, their first meeting resulted in a 7-0 Dallas win, the worst loss for the Predators this season.
As we near the mid-point of the season, a lot has changed for both teams. The Predators have moved down to sixth place in the standings and struggle to play consistently. The Stars went from being in first place to the bottom of the division.
With time winding down, wins for both of these teams become increasingly important if either is to have a chance of reaching the fourth playoff spot. Nashville is eleven points out of the fourth spot, while Dallas finds themselves 13 points out.
Dallas Is Always Dangerous
Even though the Stars are struggling, they are an incredibly dangerous team that will be a tough challenge for Nashville.
Joe Pavelski leads the Stars with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists). He put on a clinic in the first two games against the Predators, scoring seven points, and remains a constant threat.
Dallas is still missing two of its star players in Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop due to offseason surgeries. They may also be without the always dangerous Alexander Radulov, who is on injured reserve but listed as day-to-day.
Goaltender Anton Khudobin has only one win in his last five starts. If he gets the green light, he will be looking for redemption, and what better opponent than the Predators, who struggle to find the back of the net.
I look for the Stars to come out firing on all cylinders and jump on the Predators early. With the Predators struggling to score, Dallas will look to turn up the pressure and claim the two points.
The Nashville Predators are a team in transition
The Predators have way more questions than answers as to why they struggle to win games. The frustration for the players and coaching staff grows with each loss and is evident on the ice and in interviews.
Nashville is riddled with injuries and recently announced that they would be without Matt Duchene’s services for three to five weeks with a lower-body injury. Ryan Ellis, Luke Kunin, and Juuse Saros are also on the injured reserve list.
Even before the injuries, this Nashville team has struggled all season to play consistently. For reasons that baffle even the players on the ice, the Predators can’t play with intensity for a full sixty minutes. Intensity is exactly what it will take to beat the always defensive Stars.
The play of Filip Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen have been bright spots on a pretty bleak season. Forsberg leads the team with 22 points (10 goals, 11 assists) and could have one of his best seasons ever. Tolvanen, who has spent some time on a line with Forsberg, continues to gain confidence with every game he plays.
Another bright spot on the ice is Mattias Ekholm. Since his return from injury, Ekholm has played like a man on a mission, scoring four goals in his past five games. Unfortunately, if the rumors turn out to be accurate, Ekholm’s days in Nashville are numbered.
With the injury to Saros, Pekka Rinne continues to start but struggles to prevent goals due to his teammates’ lack of defense. If Saros remains on the injured list much longer, we may finally get a look at Kasimir Kaskisuo in the net to give Rinne a much-needed rest.
The bottom line is the Predators need someone to score some goals, which will be tough against Dallas no matter if Khudobin gets the start or Jake Oettinger is in the net. The Predators continue to get good looks but struggle to finish.
Another trend that has reared its ugly head again is the Predators’ inability to overcome any adversity they face. They continue to give up early goals and put themselves in a hole, playing catch up in the third period with less than stellar results. The always opportunistic Stars will take advantage of any inconsistency that they can find.
With the Stars struggling, this may be the best opportunity for the Predators to pick up a win. If they can pull themselves together, find some goals, and get some puck luck, they can take the victory in Dallas.
Even if the Predators do pick up some momentum with a win, it will be too little, too late. The writing is on the wall for some sort of rebuild with this team. To what level remains to be seen.
The puck drops at 7 PM CDT and will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee. Follow along with us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute game commentary.