They’re still searching for their first preseason win of 2023, but at least the Nashville Predators are gradually building some momentum.
Yes, the Predators are the only team in the NHL without a preseason win so far, but don’t let that worry you. We knew this was going to be a work-in-progress. Seeing more cohesion and chemistry against the Carolina Hurricanes will be something you want to see.
The Predators have announced their matchup roster against the Hurricanes, which will be at home for the last time until the games start to count in the regular season a week from today when they host the Seattle Kraken.
X-Factor #1: Samuel Fagemo Makes Preds Debut
Most of the attention will be on the newly-acquired waiver pickup, Samuel Fagemo. He was claimed by the Predators on Monday, the team’s first waiver claim since Luca Sbisa in January 2021.
Fagemo is looking to make a quick impression on Predators coaches and claim an opening night roster spot. His spot is in no way guaranteed with other worthy veteran forward already in the mix as well, like Kiefer Sherwood, Cole Smith and Michael McCarron.
Of note, Smith and McCarron will not be in Thursday’s lineup, but Sherwood will. We’ll have to wait and see what the line combinations look like pregame, but with Colton Sissons at center, they could go with Sherwood and Fagemo as the wingers.
Fagemo has noticeable one-on-one offensive abilities. He can create his own space and has a pretty accurate shot. His problem with the LA Kings wasn’t really his own fault, but more or less a Kings team that just didn’t have room for him.
The Predators do have room for him, but he’ll have to earn it, with his first chance coming Thursday night against the Hurricanes. Should be entertaining to watch.
X-Factor #2: Alexandre Carrier Gets His Chance to Shine
I have a hard time understanding exactly what the Predators’ long-term vision is for Alexandre Carrier. They did manage to re-sign him over the offseason to a one-year deal, as they did with Dante Fabbro.
Fabbro isn’t in Thursday’s lineup, but Carrier is. A chance for Carrier to earn a leg up in the race to be the final sixth defenseman for the Predators starting lineup in the regular season opener.
The overall expectation is that the Predators’ top-four defenseman will be Roman Josi and Luke Schenn as linemates, with Ryan McDonagh and Tyson Barrie being second pairing linemates. I don’t see anything shaking that up.
It comes down to two spots and three defenseman. Carrier needs to have a really strong showing tonight against the Hurricanes, with Fabbro likely getting slotted back into the lineup for the preseason finale on Friday.
Who outperforms who will be key, because I’m assuming that Lauzon is relatively safe as a left side defenseman, while Fabbro and Carrier are both right side defensemen.
X-Factor #3: Need a Solid Outing from Juuse Saros
It hasn’t been a solid preseason for Saros up to this point, and really it shouldn’t raise too much concern. Goalies need time to get back into rhythm and work off some rust after the long offseason of not seeing pucks come at your near speed of around 100 miles per hour.
With that said, Saros needs to put together a strong showing tonight against the Hurricanes. You don’t want him having another off night surrendering three or four goals and having that mindset going into the season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Looking to see Saros get locked in, make some difficult saves and get his timing down. Find a groove and get settled in seeing the puck. While we don’t want the Predators defensive front to be Swiss cheese, I actually do want to see Saros get tested enough to have to make some difficult saves.
Saros made 16 saves on 17 shots faced in his last preseason outing back on September 27th against many of the Lightning’s backups and prospects. Looks like we’ll see more of the same as the Carolina Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour stated that Thursday’s lineup will be mostly prospects and tryout players.
My desire is to see Saros play half of regulation and be a primary reason why the Predators are up on the scoreboard, or are at least right in the game midway through regulation. Then turn the net over to Kevin Lankinen to have him finish it off.
Going up against a lot of Carolina’s prospects, you need a really strong showing from the Nashville Predators tonight. Wins and losses aren’t that important in preseason, but rest-assured it will be a letdown if the Predators can’t get a win, their first of the preseason, on Thursday in front of the home crowd.