Hockey is back in Nashville. The 24th season starts for the Nashville Predators in Prague on Friday. The San Jose Sharks meet them for a 1 p.m. CT puck drop, and again at the same time on Saturday.
The Nashville Predators currently owns a four-game winning streak over the Sharks dating back to 2019. Last season the Predators won by final scores of 3-1, 8-0, and 1-0 in overtime. All time the Predators are 44-49-2 against the Sharks.
So, how do the Predators pick up a pair of wins before the wheels go up from Prague and they come back across the pond?
During the 2021-22 season, Nashville averaged the most hits (30.12) in the NHL and that needs to continue into this season.
Forward Tanner Jeannot led all skaters with 318 hits playing on the infamous Herd Line with Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin.
This third line spent the most time (635 minutes) together as a unit on offense. Between the three teammates, 48 goals were scored adding to the depth of offensive play.
The Sharks are nowhere near as physical, and Nashville wants to dictate the pace of the game by throwing hits in order to seize control.
The Predators will need to maintain their composure against San Jose in the opening games.
According to Stat Muse, the Predators led the NHL with 1,035 penalty minutes last season, something the fans were quite familiar with.
Jeannot and Mark Borowiecki led the team with six fighting majors apiece. Something that may not occur as often if the Predators plan to stay out of the sin bin.
Borowiecki may dress on the bottom defensive pairing in both games. If so, there is no doubt he’ll play the same he always has. As he said in the latest episode of “Behind the Glass”, he has no “off” switch.
Head coach John Hynes will get a good read of his roster once he sees how reactive some of his players are.
Two games won’t be a big enough sample size, but some players will start to make their case for why they’re an everyday NHLer.
One standout player from the preseason is Kiefer Sherwood who has been seen on the second line with Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter. The biggest question out of that being Philip Tomasino’s position in the lineup.
Here were the practice lines from Prague on Thursday, per play-by-play Predators announcer Will Daunic of 102.5 The Game:
Nashville Predators must finish at the net
San Jose has Kaapo Kahkonen and 13-year NHL veteran James Reimer in between the pipes this season, and either goaltender could start for the Sharks. Getting in front of both of these goalies with screen play will be a major key to success.
The 34-year-old Reimer may get the nod for Friday’s game to begin the back-to-back. However, Kahkonen pitched a 41-save shutout before losing 1-0 in OT against Nashville this April.
Either way, the Nashville Predators will need to drive the net and attempt to set up screens. Johansen is particularly really good at this craft.
Captain Roman Josi had 23 goals last season and he wouldn’t mind more blueline slapshots with some misdirection at the net.
Don’t forget Ryan McDonagh is an added bonus on the blueline. He may have only scored four goals last season, but the 13-year defenseman has his keen eyes and elusive skating in addition to players like Mattias Ekholm and Alexandre Carrier.
Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg created a lot of opportunities with a combined 454 shots on goal last season. The duo scored 43 and 42 goals respectively to lead the Predators.
Niederreiter is a playmaker as well netting 24 goals with the Carolina Hurricanes last season.
Perhaps former first-round pick Cody Glass and Cole Smith could provide a spark on the bottom half of the forward group this season.
Puck drop scheduled for 1 P.M. CDT from Prague and will be televised on Bally Sports South and also nationally on NHL Network.