Top Storylines as Rested Nashville Predators Face the Maple Leafs

Nashville Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro (57) hits Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) as he handles the puck in the offensive zone during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro (57) hits Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) as he handles the puck in the offensive zone during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

A three-day break for the Nashville Predators early in the season is probably a good thing right now after losing 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

The Predators face perhaps their toughest opponent so far as they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to Bridgestone Arena. A team that’s riding a three-game winning streak and just decisively defeated the Dallas Stars in their last matchup.

The offense for the Predators completely fizzled out against the Canucks, sending them back to the drawing board for this three-day break. They only managed 17 shots on goal and were fortunate to even get the goals they did from Kiefer Sherwood and Colton Sissons.

While it’s still way too early to sound the alarm bells for the 3-4-0 Predators, they definitely have to rediscover their offense against Toronto or this could be over before the 2nd intermission.

Will Brunette Be Forced into Making Some Lineup Adjustments?

Head Coach Andrew Brunette really hasn’t shuffled the line combination up too much outside of healthy scratching Philip Tomasino for three-straight games and moving in Samuel Fagemo.

The injury to Cody Glass has also put Sissons back into a center role after initially Brunette wanted to see Sissons as a second line winger. I was intrigued to see how that could work out, so maybe when Glass returns Brunette will try that again.

I’m not on board with breaking up the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan O’Reilly and Juuso Parssinen. You have to show patience with building up the chemistry with that trio, because the end result could end up being a line that really cooks once we get deeper into the season.

There’s also the new waiver wire pickup of Liam Foudy. Listed as a Center but can also play on the wing, Brunette has confirmed that Foudy will make his team debut while Tomasino is also returning to the starting lineup.

light. Related Story. Finding Liam Foudy, the Latest Waiver Pickup

Foudy has only been officially with the Predators for a week, so putting him in this quickly shows that the coaching staff has a lot of faith in him to pick things up quickly and make an instant impact.

A rested and rejuvenated Tomasino will hopefully give the Predators a spark as well. Official line combinations and healthy scratches haven’t been released yet.

Josi, Forsberg & O’Reilly Really Need to have a Huge Impact

This veteran trio can’t afford to be invisible against the Maple Leafs. Look, I love seeing the depth come alive with players like Sherwood, Sissons and Cole Smith. But the elite teams are led by elite star players.

For this Predators team, Roman Josi, O’Reilly and Forsberg are your top dogs among the veterans. They have to show it. Forsberg has one really pretty slapshot goal through seven games, Josi has yet to score with just three assists, and while O’Reilly has been impactful and gotten some points, he can’t go a whole game without a shot on goal like he did against Vancouver.

It’s only a matter of time before these three have breakout games all at the same time. The Predators are really going to need that against the Maple Leafs, because they’re probably going to get their share of at least three to four goals.

Can the Predators show they’re truly one of the NHL’s up-and-coming offensive powerhouses who can hang with the best of them on the scoreboard on Saturday night against the Maple Leafs?

For the Predators to pull out an impressive win over Toronto, I see them needing to score at least four goals, and maybe more. That means Josi has to be heavily involved, Forsberg needs to bury his chances and O’Reilly needs to be drawing crowds to find open linemates for scoring chances.

Saros in the Starter’s Crease Again up against Loaded Leafs Squad

We still haven’t seen backup Kevin Lankinen make his first start of 2023-24 in relief of Juuse Saros, and tonight would not be the night to make the switch. You have to have your Vezina Trophy caliber franchise goalie between the pipes for this one.

As confirmed by DailyFaceoff, Saros will be the starter against the Maple Leafs going up against Ilya Samsonov. It is worth noting that Lankinen did get the start against Toronto in late March and put up a commendable effort with 31 saves on 34 shots in the loss.

Samsonov has been absolutely pummeled in his first four starts giving up 14 goals for a horrendous .831 save percentage. It has forced the Maple Leafs to go with Joseph Woll for three starts, who has been way better.

Saros has been very ordinary in his first seven starts, and didn’t look particularly sharp in his loss to the Canucks even though he only surrendered three goals. Vancouver’s first goal of the game was one Saros has to snag with his glove, and usually he has no problem making saves like that.

Samsonov isn’t as bad as his first four starts indicates, but this can be an opportunity for the Predators to take advantage of a reeling goaltender that’s struggling early on. If you can pepper him with a lot of shots then maybe you can get in his head a little early on and get a couple early goals.

This will be just Saros’ fourth career start against the Maple Leafs going 1-2-0, but putting up really strong numbers with a .936 save percentage and 2.38 GAA.

Players to Watch from Maple Leafs

Obviously we have to start with one of the world’s greatest players, Auston Matthews. Matthews already has seven goals in seven games, which ties him for 2nd in the NHL and only trails Alex DeBrincat with nine goals.

Matthews has nine points in 10 career games against the Nashville Predators.

The player that actually scares me more than Matthews is William Nylander. The dude is just a straight up assassin against shaky defensive structure. He’s got back-to-back 80-plus point campaigns and is already raced out to 11 points in seven games.

Nylander was held without a goal in two low-scoring matchups with Nashville last season. Still, this guy is capable of beating the Predators all alone if the defensive structure isn’t sound like it was against the New York Rangers, another offensively potent team.

Next. Predators Have Found a Gem in Kiefer Sherwood. dark

This game also has the potential to get chippy. The Maple Leafs don’t shy away from playing physical and agitating the opposition into taking bad penalties, and look no further than Ryan Reaves.

Reaves already has two majors on the season, and I’m sure he’ll do some things that gets the Predators riled up tonight. Can’t be baited into putting the Maple Leafs on a power play, but obviously stand up for teammates if it’s necessary.

With that said, both teams are among the NHL’s lowest penalized teams in the early going. The Predators have cleaned things up lately with just 56 PIM, while the Maple Leafs are at 63 PIM.

Finally, we get to see Calle Jarnkrok again. He was lost in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft and has already faced the Predators six times, scoring a goal and an assist.

The two matchups last season between the Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs were one-goal games, both going to Toronto.

5-2-0. 116. NHL Network. Saturday, Oct 28. TOR -137, NSH +114 (FanDuel). 3-4-0. 151. 6 PM CT