The Nashville Predators kick off the 2010-11 season tonight at Bridgestone Arena with a preseason tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes, and with that comes your first game day preview of the year. For every preseason, regular season, and playoff game this year, this feature will provide you in-depth analysis of the night's matchup, lineups, starting goalies, and typically a word or some information from the opposing side.
Essentially, On the Forecheck is your one stop shop on game day for everything Preds - besides game previews, we'll also host game threads where you can discuss the game as it happens with us and fellow fans, and have a recap up shortly after the game ends.
On to the night's game. Tonight signals the first of several opportunities fringe players such as Sergei Kostitsyn and Ryan Ellis will have to make an impression on Barry Trotz, and, hopefully for them, make the roster. The race for backup goalie also intensifies. More after the jump.
For the Predators, the focus is on the battles for the 6/7 defensive spots, and the bottom six of the forward corps. The preseason is all about finding out what you have and who will play where, so expect to see lots of lineup juggling tonight and moving forward.
We have a pretty good grip on who will play in the top six - Lombardi, Erat, Hornqvist, Sullivan, Wilson, Dumont. The bottom six, though, is a jumbled mess. David Legwand, Joel Ward, Jerred Smithson, Sergei Kostitsyn, Jonas Andersson, Marcel Goc, Jordin Tootoo, Nick Spaling, Cal O'Reilly, Wade Belak, Andreas Thuresson, and perhaps Blake Geoffrion all enter the preseason with a real shot at making the team. The cream begins to rise to the top tonight, so don't expect any of the bigger names on the ice as Barry Trotz starts to cull through what he has to work with.
Defensively; Weber, Suter, Klein, Bouillon, and Franson have their spots locked up. Ryan Ellis, Jonathan Blum, Ryan Parent, Alexander Sulzer, Teemu Laakso, and Aaron Johnson are the candidates to fill out the depth chart.
Here's a total guess based upon the Predators' released lineup for tonight's game, but Barry Trotz tends to throw things in a blender to get his line combinations, so who knows how it will go. Expect things to change from the moment the puck drops.
(No Weber, Suter, or Sullivan, so I'd say that Dumont, Goc, and Hornqvist get the "A's". But again, only a guess.)
Mark Dekanich will be the other goalie dressed against the Canes.
The Hurricanes arrive in Music City off a 4-1 defeat in their first preseason game, against the Florida Panthers. Despite their dismal 2009-10, they are not without some elite prospects; particularly blue chip defenseman Jamie McBain. Take a look at what SB Nation's Hurricanes blog Canes Country had to say about McBain following their loss to the Panthers:
The Calder-eligible defenseman didn't register a point, but he still showed flashes of what a threat he can be. But most impressive was the physicality McBain showed, using his body more and out-muscling a few Panthers in his own zone. Stat to know: McBain had 7:07 of power play time, a minute more than the next closest Carolina player. The Canes power play went 0-for-6, looking predictably sloppy given the lack of time spent on it so far in training camp.
Looks like the Hurricanes are going to field a pretty full roster, including captain Eric Staal, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Erik Cole, and veteran defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Joe Corvo. You can check out the rest of their lineup at the team's official website.
UPDATE: Carolina will start off tonight's game lining up like so:
The Canes will leave franchise goaltender Cam Ward in street clothes tonight; opting for two younger faces.
It's just the preseason, but tonight should be pretty fun. Free tickets were given away in large quantities for the game, and it will mark the Bridgestone Arena debut of Tennessean Blake Geoffrion. Ryan Ellis and Taylor Beck will play, too; so the future will be on full display. That said, the Hurricanes have brought almost their full arsenal. The Predators will probably find tonight some tough sailing in a 3-1 loss.