Nashville Predators: Making Room for Matt Duchene’s Return

Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports /

With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Nashville Predators find themselves in a precarious situation mainly due to their unexpected surge back into a playoff spot.

It’s refreshing to see the team piling up the wins over the past three weeks, but this really puts GM David Poile in a difficult dilemma. And it’s going to get even more complicated when Matt Duchene is ready to return to the ice.

Duchene should be available to play again in the next few games, which leaves the starting lineup once again in flux. It’s hard to imagine them choosing to not play a fully healthy Duchene.

As the team recovers from their rash of injuries, more questions come from that. Duchene resumed skating with the team last week.

Shuffling the Nashville Predators lineup for Matt Duchene

Are the Predators about to make a bold move to bench Duchene as a healthy scratch?  If not, then the million dollar question becomes, who comes out to make room for Duchene?

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Duchene is not listed in the projected starting lineup for the Predators in their next game against the Dallas Stars tonight. This marks another game where the Predators aren’t messing with their line combinations too much, which is fueling the consistency we’re seeing as of late.

One thing that has really impressive about the Predators recently is they’re getting contributions from up and down the lineup. They’re not leaning on one line to carry them, which is a beautiful thing to see.

I’m having a hard time finding a player who deserves to be taken out for Duchene. Erik Haula jumps out first, but he’s been playing very well as of late.

Perhaps Haula isn’t in the long-term plans for the Predators and they decide to bench him or trade him.

Breaking up the fourth line, or the “Herd Line”, would rub me the wrong way. Mathieu Olivier, Yakov Trenin and Colton Sissons have brought that energy to the lineup that it lacked early on in the season. Don’t mess with that.

Rocco Grimaldi was a healthy scratch earlier in the season, but you’d have to be absolutely insane to pull him out of the lineup at this point.

There’s just no clear-cut answer in the starting lineup to remove for Duchene. The team has won seven of its last eight, and disrupting that chemistry that’s been built by shuffling the lines for Duchene could bring about unintended consequences.

Trades are coming

What could easily end up happening is the Predators make some trades, which in return will clear up room for Duchene. Maybe the Predators trade Haula, Cousins, Mikael Granlund or Calle Jarnkrok.

The most likely trade piece for the Predators seems to be Granlund at this point. If the Predators trade him and get a valuable return, then that opens up room for Duchene to move in where Granlund was playing.

Jarnkrok is another high possibility to be dealt as he’s really shot up his trade value in recent weeks.

Filip Forsberg is also out due to injury and day-to-day, so that creates another player that will have to be moved out when he returns.

The desirable solution would be to move on from Duchene and his contract that’s not bearing the results you should want, but that’s realistically not going to happen. The Predators are stuck with Duchene for the foreseeable future and need to find room for him in their starting lineup.

Duchene can hopefully come back ready to make an immediate impact on a team full of young talent and hustle. A team that’s charged up the standings while he’s been out.

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I’ll be very intrigued to see who Duchene is lined up with in his first game back. It’s impossible to predict right now because of the trade deadline, but I’m assuming Duchene will eventually be back in the top-six of the lineup once the dust settles on the trade deadline moves.