It’s been the waiting game all season to get key players back for the Nashville Predators and seeing this team at least close to being at full strength.
A big piece appears to be on the cusp of returning as soon as Saturday, per assistant coach Todd Richards and what he told Nashville’s 102.5 The Game:
— Robby Stanley (@RStanleyNHL) April 29, 2021
Returning on Saturday would be impeccable timing to get arguably your best player on the team back. Forsberg is badly needed back for obvious reasons, with the major one being his scoring abilities.
What Forsberg can provide for the Nashville Predators
With this three extra days of rest, I’m hoping that’s just enough time to get Forsberg back for this monumental game against the Dallas Stars. A team that sits just two points back from the Predators for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division.
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The Predators have struggled defensively as of late, so they really need all the goal support they can get to protect Juuse Saros right now. This most recent loss to the Florida Panthers was hard to watch as the team was carved up defensively by surrendering 55 shots on goal.
As much as it’s been awesome to see the newcomers to the lineup make things happen and help push the Predators to the brink of a playoff berth, Forsberg is needed back for more than just offense. He’s a veteran leader, plays well in his own right defensively and will also provide the slumping power play with a major boost.
Forsberg has also evolved into a skilled passer as well. He sees the ice very well to set up scoring chances for his linemates. The offensive attack just flows beautifully when Forsberg is in the game.
As of late without Forsberg, many times the offensive rush looks choppy and not organized. Amazingly enough the Predators have still been opportunistic in their limited chances to still get some goals, but I expect a much stingier defensive response from Dallas.
Forsberg knows what it’s like to play in these high-pressure situations where the playoffs are on the line. He’s been in it numerous times in his Predators career, and I fully expect him to shake off any rust he may have and make a major impact on the Predators in his first game back.
A difficult choice to make in the starting lineup
This does bring up the difficult dilemma of having to take a player out who is playing well to make room for Forsberg. I’ve always said this is a good problem to have, but it will definitely be hard to choose which player Forsberg replaces.
If Forsberg isn’t able to be back for Saturday, then I’d expect the Predators to go with the same lineup they’ve been going with and hope that they don’t have a repeat performance defensively.
The Stars aren’t as loaded of a team offensively as the Panthers are, and the game should be much more low-scoring than the two games we saw on Monday and Tuesday with the Panthers. It’s a toss-up for me, and maybe even a slight edge to Dallas, if Forsberg isn’t back by Saturday.
However, the last time these two teams met on April 11 Forsberg was already out of the lineup and the Predators snuck out with a 3-2 shootout victory despite only registering 20 shots on goal.
I like the way the Predators have matched up with the Stars this season, with the exception of the 7-0 blowout loss early on. This is a much different Predators team from that 7-0 loss on January 22.
I would take Nick Cousins out of the lineup and reassemble the third line. I’m not touching the fourth line which has been a game-changer for this team. You need that physical presence staying together, especially against a highly physical team like Dallas.
Getting Forsberg and Tolvanen matched back up, especially on the power play, should be a huge added component to the Predators to find success once again on the power play. You throw Mikael Granlund into that mix who has also been playing outstanding hockey and suddenly your top-six is looking formidable.
Luke Kunin gets shifted to the third line to replace Cousins. No offense against Cousins, but I don’t think the third line suffers any type of downgrade by putting Kunin there over Cousins. This is the lineup I’m moving forward with once Forsberg gets back in there.
Saros just needs more goal support and better play in front of him and I’m almost 100 percent certain he’s locked in enough to hold down the Stars for the Predators to get the huge win.
Forsberg can be the difference-maker in pushing the Predators over the finish line and into the playoffs once again. They need his scoring, they need his physical play and they need his leadership back on the ice.