Nashville Predators Preview: Tough Test Awaits In Carolina

Mar 11, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward Morgan Geekie (67) and Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) take the face off at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward Morgan Geekie (67) and Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) take the face off at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s no denying that the Nashville Predators are a team on a tear. With one of the hottest records in the NHL at the moment, the Predators are 13-3-0 and find themselves sitting in the 4th spot of the Central Division.

In the past month, the Predators have had quite a run. They have beaten Tampa Bay, swept Chicago (so far), and went on a six-game winning streak. They even put up a couple of seven-goal games and some hat tricks courtesy of Rocco Grimaldi and Viktor Arvidsson.

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For all of their recent accomplishments, there is one thing that this Predators team has not been able to do yet. In their four meetings so far this season, Nashville has been unable to beat the Carolina Hurricanes.

The closest that the Predators have come was an overtime loss on March 9. The other three losses to Carolina were decisive victories, including a 5-1 beating on March 11.

Four days after that March 11 loss began an improbable and epic run for the Predators. This run found an injury-ridden Predators team stepping up and finally playing up to the potential that has always lingered on paper.

Up until that time, making the playoffs was a pipe dream, and a full-fledged rebuild was on the horizon. What a difference a month has made.

There’s A Reason Carolina Is In First Place

While many thought that Tampa Bay would be the de facto leader in the Central Division, the Hurricanes had a different plan.

With a record of 27-10-4, Carolina sits in first place with 58 points and a .707 point percentage. Tampa Bay and Florida also have 58 points, but both have a lesser point percentage.

Even while leading the division, the upcoming games for Carolina have lots of meaning. With the number one team having to face the fourth team in the opening round, that first playoff spot is coveted.

Bolstered by the always dangerous Sebastian Aho (17 goals, 21 assists) and Vincent Trocheck (16 goals, 18 assists), the Hurricanes are among the fastest and most challenging teams to face in the division and possibly the whole league.

Each of Carolina’s three goaltenders has started the last three games. James Reimer has three of the four wins against Nashville, so I would expect to see him in goal for Carolina.

The Predators will be facing a Carolina team that is coming off of two straight losses to the Detroit Red Wings. Carolina will be looking to turn up the pressure to retain their spot in the standings.

Bally Sports South. 27-10-4. 6 PM CDT. 151. Thursday, April 15. 109. . 24-19-1

Tough Test For The Nashville Predators

Nashville has done an excellent job of turning up the pressure on teams and accomplishing an unbelievable run, all while having several star players out due to injury. This game will be no different as players like Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and Eeli Tolvanen will still be out of the lineup.

What the Predators have accomplished has been done with a younger core of players who have plugged the holes left by the veterans with excellent results. Had the NHL not implemented the taxi squad for this season, many of these younger players may not have gotten a roster shot.

The Predators’ recent success can be attributed to the team gelling and finally “buying in” to Head Coach John Hynes’ system. But they have also been gifted with the red-hot goaltending of Juuse Saros.

Upon his return from injury, Saros has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He has won nine of his last ten starts and now sits with a 2.16 GAA and a .929 SV%.

If Saros gets the start, he will need to be at the top of his game against a potent Carolina offense. The Predators will also need to stay out of the penalty box as the Hurricanes have the NHL’s top-rated power-play.

The Predators’ “Next Man Up” philosophy has worked well for them during this rash of injuries. While there are some occasional lapses, for the most part, Nashville is firing on all cylinders.

It will have to be “all hands on deck” tonight if the Predators are to finally beat the team that is sitting at the top of the heap in the Central Division.

The puck drops at 6:00 PM CDT and will be televised on Bally Sports South. Follow along with us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute game commentary.

Must Read. Nashville Predators Quarterly Report Card: Much Improved. light