NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 24: Jerred Smithson #25 and Nick Spaling #13 of the Nashville Predators celebrate after scoring a goal against Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks on March 24, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
9:30 PM CST | SportSouth (HD) | 102.9 FM
"We've got a lot of unfinished business we know we want to finish. We've got a lot of gas left in the tank and we want to get things done our way." - Steve Sullivan
This scenario is not unfamiliar. The Nashville Predators have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, and they continue to bring with them the burden of never having advanced past the quarterfinal round. Yes, they've been competitive, but the means to the end matters little. The truth is that the Preds are 0-5 in playoff series, and organization-wide frustration is high. If you're pessimistic, you have a right to be.
Tonight, though, begins a new season. There's an untarnished sheet of ice waiting at the Honda Center for two teams that, for all intents and purposes, are 0-0. It is perhaps the classic case of "unstoppable force vs. immovable object" - the Predators' rock-solid defense against the Ducks' high-flying attack. We don't know who will prove the better team; predictions are essentially useless, but then, that's the beauty of it - the Predators don't have to bring their history with them; they're operating with a blank slate.
This isn't Jason Arnott supposedly taking a shift off or Dan Hamhuis turning the puck over at the blueline. Instead, it's Mike Fisher laying out to block a slapshot, and upon being hit, getting up and doing it all over again. It's Nick Spaling, lying on his stomach while killing a penalty, clearing the puck out of the zone with his glove, or Pekka Rinne deciding that he's not going to lose this game.
No, they're not perfect, far from it. But this is a Predators team with a seemingly different personality, one that when kicked in the teeth, refuses to surrender. Could they choke? Yes. Yes, they could. But it hasn't happened yet, and so, I believe. You might not shout your belief from the rooftops, but you're going to tune in at 9:30, because maybe, just maybe, this is the year.
Lineups after the jump.
Tonight's projected lineups:
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||64||3789||33||22||134||2.12||1905||1771||.930||6|