Vancouver Canucks @ Nashville Predators Preview: Playoff Preview?

Batman_vs_predator_i-799940_medium vs. Captaincanuck_medium
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Twice! Danny Hamhuis has skipped out on his homecoming twice now! How are we going to pay him back in boos for his comments, if he never comes around? Seriously, though, Hammer has suffered another concussion and we can only wish him a speedy recovery. Earlier this season, Hamhuis said in so many words that he'd consider retirement, if a second concussion happened. And while this one doesn't seem particularly bad, you have to wonder what's next for Dan, both this season and in the future, as:

1. The NHL just instituted a new protocol for treating concussions more carefully.

2. Day-after concussion prognoses are often wrong (see: Lombardi, Matthew)

Here's the video of the latest hit:

 

In spite of his controversial preseason joke, I've always felt protective of Hamhuis' legacy in Nashville. I consider him in the same tradition of Timonen, Suter, and Weber--excellent defensemen, who debuted with the Preds.  He's not as good as those three, but he's a solid #4. And if there was an all-time Preds roster, he'd easily be on the second pairing. Hopefully, he has a long, productive career in BC.

Although less likely than last week, the Predators are still a potential playoff partner for the Canucks. The 'Nucks are cruising to the top seed in the west. And while Nashville currently sits at sixth, that's no guarantee. After beating the utterly useless Red Wings in another @#$% overtime game last night, Chicago now sits just 2 points back of Nashville with a game in hand. 

So what to make of Vancouver as a potential playoff opponent? They're good--that's obvious. They've got a one of the better non-Rinne goalies in the league. And in many ways, they resemble last year's Blackhawks--a highly skilled, up-tempo, puck-moving team. Those attributes could make them a good matchup for Nashville, however. 

These Predators--while certainly not the best group to ever wear the blue, gold, copper, white, black, and occasionally light blue trimming--might be the most Trotzian. The Preds are essentially rolling with four shutdown centers now and trying to play the match up game to perfection. Alain Vigneault lost his own shutdown center, Manny Malholtra, for the season, which could play right into Trotz's hands. 

The season series is 2-1 for Nashville, and in order to have continued success against Vancouver, Nashville needs to execute "Predators hockey." In the Canucks' offensive zone, get pucks behind their defenseman and challenge their defensive-zone awareness with a persistent forecheck. Control the neutral zone. Basically, the Predators need to bring the tempo down to that nice, familiar slog the Predators call home.  

Lines

Nashville 

Erat - Leggy - Ward
Kostitsyn - Fisher - Horny
Spaling - Smithson - Tootoo
 Willy - Geoffrion - Dumont

 Suter - Weber 
Klein - Blum
Franson - O'Brien
Rinne

Vancouver

Burrows - H. Sedin - D. Sedin
Raymond - Kesler - Higgins
Torres - Lapierre - Hansen
Oreskovich - Bolduc - Tambellini

Salo - Ehrhoff
Ballard - Bieksa
Tanev - Rome
Luongo (C)
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