Nashville Predators: Key Players to Make Preseason Debuts against Lightning

Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) and left wing Filip Forsberg (9) watch the play against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) and left wing Filip Forsberg (9) watch the play against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators are deploying some of their top core veterans tonight for the first time in the 2021 preseason as they’ll take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Last weekend the Nashville Predators opened up their 2021 preseason slate with a doubleheader against a Florida Panthers team that was playing many of their top players, and managed to keep the score close.

The Predators decided to predominantly go young with their roster, and still got some promising results, albeit two losses. It appears some key veterans will make their preseason debuts tonight against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Preseason debuts for key Nashville Predators veterans

Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen are core veterans that made it past the mini rebuild the Predators endured over the offseason and will make their 2021 preseason debuts tonight. It will be noteworthy to see who Head Coach John Hynes lines them up with.

Forsberg had his second-highest point-per-game total of his career last season at 0.82, which only trails his 2017-18 campaign that helped fuel the Predators to a President’s Trophy.

After practice on Tuesday, Forsberg caught a lot of attention after his answer he gave to Robby Stanley of 102.5 The Game regarding his future with the Nashville Predators. He wouldn’t fully commit to making a decision anytime soon, but also stated he has loved being here in Nashville over the years.

"“I have no rush to sign. I mean I still have a full year. I don’t know, I feel like you have to play your contract out”-Filip Forsberg to Robby Stanley of 102.5 The Game"

Duchene and Johansen have been no strangers to criticism over the past couple of seasons, so they are also going into a critical season not just for the team, but also for their own individual futures in Nashville. Successful individual showings from them in 2021-22 would definitely boost their trade values if the Predators front office still wants to go that route.

Not to be overlooked is the young and exciting Alexandre Carrier who will also make his preseason debut tonight in Tampa Bay. He really made the most of his opportunity last season to the level that many expect to see him play alongside Roman Josi on the top pairing.

Speaking of Josi, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see him in game action for the first time this season. Josi, along with Mikael Granlund, Mattias Ekholm and Juuse Saros are probably being held until Saturday’s preseason matchup, which will also be against the Lightning and finally back home at Bridgestone Arena for the first time.

Connor Ingram and David Rittich are slated to represent the Predators between the pipes, giving coaches a chance to see a little friendly competition between those two as they’re the perceived backups to Saros for the foreseeable future.

Measuring stick type of games against Tampa Bay

These two games feel a little more important in terms of the final score than the doubleheader against the Panthers. More veterans involved that you know will be in the starting lineup, so seeing them play well and show positive results from training camp is going to be important.

As for the younger players getting more preseason action under their belt tonight, how about Egor Afanasyev? He scored the single goal for the Predators in Game 2 of the doubleheader on Sunday, and I’d really like to see him matchup up with a skilled veteran like Johansen at center.

Rem Pitlick has an outside chance to make the NHL roster on opening night, so it’s a big night for him to show he’s ready for the NHL limelight on a regular basis. He scored a power play goal in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Panthers.

Another player I want to see much more of that’s getting into Thursday night’s action is Philippe Myers. He came over in the return of the Ryan Ellis trade and trying to battle for a starting spot with the likes of Ben Harpur, Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning.

You’re seeing several players audition for starting spots on the NHL level on this team, and some of them are playing tonight and some will play on Saturday night.

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This is a very intriguing starting lineup that should put forth an entertaining showing against a Tampa Bay team that’s using several of their key players as well, including Steven Stamkos, Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn.

A solid preseason test for the Nashville Predators to give themselves a measuring stick of their progress from training camp, and just how ready they are for the season-opener against the Seattle Kraken which sits around two weeks away.