The Nashville Predators have begun the trip overseas for the NHL Global Series, but they still have one more game before regular season action begins in Prague. That game is against SC Bern of the Switzerland National League A.
There are some NHL players you might recognize that have played for this SC Bern team before and after their NHL careers, including our very own Roman Josi. He played there very early in his career before playing the North American game, which is a cool fact for Predators fans heading into this matchup.
While the game does not count for the actual NHL standings, it is going to be important for a few players on the team.
They just announced their 27-man roster, and several players will be battling in order to claim the spot in the lineup that everyone has been wondering about all offseason.
Nashville Predators still have a question on their fourth line
Sixteen forwards made the roster for the Nashville Predators, and it appears as though the battle for the final fourth line spot is going to be between five players. They are Zach Sanford, Michael McCarron, Mark Jankowski, Cole Smith, and Kiefer Sherwood.
Let’s start with the player Predators fans can confidently say they would not want in the lineup — McCarron. And it is not because he is the worst player on the list, but because we already know what we have in him.
McCarron is mainly known for being big and physical, which has become a bit redundant on the Predators. He really just does not elevate the team very much and did not do anything in the preseason to overly impress, so hopefully he just stays in his role as a rotational player.
Jankowski, Smith, and Sherwood are each getting past their mid-twenties and do not offer much upside. Jankowski seems like the most likely of the three due to his penalty-killing efforts in the preseason, but other than that, there is not a ton there.
Looking at all five players, the one that jumps out as most likely is Sanford, who might be a more important offseason addition than people are saying. His resume is by far the best in the group, as he contributed to the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup run and was particularly useful late in the run when they played their most important games.
Sanford’s best year in the NHL came more recently than any of the other guys, as his 16 goals and 14 assists in 58 games in 2019-20 are not bad at all on the surface. He also can hit and play the gritty style that the Predators like, and with his upside as a fourth-line producer, it might just be his spot to lose.
Regardless, Head Coach John Hynes has given no indication that anybody has won that job or made a particularly strong case, so the next game will be critical to helping decide that.
Nashville Predators’ top two defensive pairings could be decided after this game
Aside from the battle to win the final fourth line spot, there is no other competition among the lineup that is going to move the needle much, if at all. The last spot on the third defensive pairing could be in question, but I personally do not see it.
Jeremy Lauzon is almost definitely going to be on there to the contract he just signed in the offseason, and you would have to imagine there is no way they scratch Dante Fabbro, especially after what he has shown this preseason.
Mark Borowiecki would be the next man up if it was not one of Lauzon or Fabbro, but he offers nowhere near the same upside and is mainly a rotational player.
What is going to be more worthwhile to watch is how the top two pairings will be assembled. Mattias Ekholm seems to be the man that is switching sides on defense, as he has been playing on the right side and has done so alongside both Roman Josi and Ryan McDonagh.
Both pairings have looked good in the preseason, and this game could be the one that decides which one the Predators will roll with. I think all of us can agree that this is a good problem for the team to have.
It is obviously not as pressing as deciding the final spot among the forwards, and goaltending is even less of a question. There is just no way Kevin Lankinen does not win the backup goaltender job after signing the contract he did and playing as well as he has in the preseason.
Lankinen is Hynes’ confirmed starter against SC Bern, per Emma Lingan:
It is tough for Connor Ingram, but this is a competitive business, and riding with Lankinen over him seems like the choice that makes sense for the team’s chances of winning and getting the most out of their investments.
Puck drop is scheduled for 1 PM CDT for Nashville Predators vs. SC Bern from PostFinance Arena.