The Nashville Predators are back in action tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights in a Western Conference Showdown at Bridgestone Arena. Tonight’s game will be the first for the Predators since a 6-4 win over the New Jersey Devils January 26th. The Golden Knights last played on January 28th in a 1-2 overtime loss in New York against the Islanders.
The Predators are 14-7-3 in front of the rowdy Bridgestone Arena this season and have won their last five at home. On the other hand, the Golden Knights have a 15-5-4 record on the road. Tonight’s matchup is set to be a battle of who can score as both teams have struggled to beat opposing goaltenders so far this season.
Nashville Predators Face the Golden Knights for the Second Time
The first of three games in this season series took place on December 31 in Las Vegas. The home team was victorious that night beating the Predators 5-4 in overtime.
In that game, the Nashville Predators were down 4-2 with less than ten minutes to play. Two goals by Filip Forsberg in the third period tied it up and sent it to overtime. Forsberg recorded a hat trick in this game with his final goal coming with just five seconds remaining in regulation.
In addition to Forsberg’s hat trick, Jeremy Lauzon scored the other lone goal for the visiting team. Kevin Lankinen took the loss in net as this game came on a back-to-back set for the Nashville Predators. Lankinen made 27 save on 32 shots and the Predators had eight different players in the lineup record a point.
The Golden Knights are sure to come into this game looking to right the ship after the All-Star break as they have lost seven of their last eight. During that span the Golden Knights have been outscored 16-26 and have only scored more than two goals in two of those games.
Vegas is currently in the third-place position in the Pacific Division playoffs however, a loss tonight in regulation and a win by the Edmonton Oilers would move them to Wild Card #2. This game has high playoff implications as the Predators could be looking to pass the Golden Knights for a Wild Card position in the near future.
Players to watch
For the Golden Knights, Chandler Stevenson leads the way in points with 11 goals and 33 assists (44 points). Mark Stone is second on the team in scoring however, the team announced last week that he had undergone successful back surgery and is out of the lineup indefinitely. This is bound to hurt the Golden Knights as he is their second leading scorer in points and goals.
Jack Eichel has not lived up to his expectations since being traded to the Golden Knights and currently has 15 goals and 18 assist on the season.
Robin Lehner was expected to be the Golden Knights starting goaltender this season however is expected to miss the season with a hip injury. Logan Thompson has been the goalie they have leaned on in Lehner’s absence. Thompson has started in 34 games this season and has a 19-13-3 record with a .913 save percentage and 2.69 goals against average.
For the home team in tonight’s game, Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi lead the team with 41 points each. Matt Duchene has started to improve his play in recent weeks and currently has 38 points. Josi has six points in his last five games and is on a three-game point streak coming into tonight.
Since Juuso Parssinen point streak ended, he only has points in two of his last five games. This young rookie is going to be looking to get back in the score column and his relentlessness on the forecheck is what will help him do just that. I would expect to see a big game for him tonight.
Juuse Saros, coming off a trip to South Florida for the All-Star game, is expected to start in net tonight. Saros has been unbelievable for the Nashville Predators this season. In his past ten games, Saros is 7-3-0, has a .929 save percentage, and a 2.70 goals against average. If he can keep this level of play up down the stretch, he will be in the running for his first Vezina Trophy.
Nashville Predators Need Scoring and Discipline
The Nashville Predators are 27th in goals for in the NHL this season. While their goaltending has kept them in most games, they cannot rely on that to get them into the playoffs. The Predators are only averaging 2.81 goals per game through 48 games.
Players such as Forsberg, Duchene, Johansen, Parssinen, Mikael Granlund, and Josi need to continue to improve their level of play and score more goals. Pair that with the Nashville Predators power-play only scoring 26 goals on 156 attempts for a 16.67% success rate, offensively, this team needs to figure something out.
Penalties are another thing that is just killing this team this season. The penalty kill has looked really good and that has been their saving grace. Over the last ten games the Predators have 111 penalty minutes. For the season, the average Power Play Opportunities against for the league is 160 and the Predators have 169.
If the Predators can address these two areas, I think they will be a much better team and a much harder team to play against. Let’s see if they can get it together and play a solid 60 minutes tonight at Bridgestone Arena against the Golden Knights.