It's been a long time coming, but the puck finally drops on the 2012-2013 NHL season tonight at Bridgestone Arena, as the Nashville Predators welcome in the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:00 p.m. Central, Fox Sports TN).
Stay tuned for something new this season, as we'll be able to use SB Nation's "story stream" technology to feature all of the content related to tonight's game in a single package. There may be some bumps & bruises along the way as we get used to it, but I think you'll enjoy it.
Need tickets to tonight's game? Only a few are available via TiqIQ!
How the Preds Stack Up
Kostitsyn - Fisher - Erat
Smith - Legwand - Hornqvist
Wilson - Gaustad - Halischuk
McGrattan - Spaling - Yip
Josi - Weber
Hannan - Klein
Gill - Ellis
Pekka Rinne, of course, is expected to start in goal.
3 Questions With The Cannon
For some insight into what's been going on in Columbus, I fired 3 Questions over to Dan Parker of SB Nation's Columbus blog, The Cannon:
1. Blue Jackets fans may have received the biggest kick in the proverbial nuts over the last several months, between the lockout, the All-Star Game cancellation, and of course the Rick Nash trade. Where is there reason for optimism in Columbus?
It really depends on how you define "optimism" for many fans. I tend to fall into the group that is pretty sure this season is going to be a rough one in terms of wins and losses, but it also may be the first ray of light in a while.
The biggest reason for optimism, purely and simply, is John Davidson. His hiring was a coup. He's a bona fide top-of-the-organization executive, and he jumped at the chance to come to Columbus when he probably could have had any job he wanted around the league or in the broadcast world. The off-shoot is that, between Davidson's desired team identity and the players that came on board and/or will be taking over the leadership roles this season, Columbus is going to try to become a full-ice gritty, tough team to play against.
Another good thing to think about is the notion of addition by subtraction: losing Nash hurts in the stat sheets, but it's also not a coincidence that their last two top draft picks are Captains of their junior clubs, and Jack Johnson was brought in and has been a Captain multiple times for Team USA. While Nash was the Captain, everything from practice habits to on-ice effort has been the subject of whispers. If, under this new direction and with the influx of new "good leadership" guys, they can develop that 60-minute effort and build an identity around it, the rest will fall into place in subsequent seasons.
2. Goaltending has been an issue there ever since Steve Mason's second season, so what's the story in net?
The story is that everyone's kind of holding their collective breath. Sergei Bobrovsky couldn't be more of a wild card. Will the Jackets see the starter-quality play of his rookie year and during the lockout in the KHL? Or will they see last season's spotty play? The book on Bob is that he's willing to work hard and is motivated to improve--two things which never seemed to be part of Mason's psyche--and that Columbus might end up with at least a bridge until some of their younger, more highly-regarded guys in juniors are ready.
The hope with Mason is that actual competition will force him to elevate his game. Given 48 games in 99 days, however, both guys are going to have to step up big time if the Jackets hold out any hope of competing.
3. Who has made the biggest impression in training camp, in terms of offering potential to take a leap up the Columbus depth chart?
I'm going to take this in a different direction and list two guys who didn't actually make the club: Tim Erixon, and Boone Jenner. Erixon was, of course, one of the guys who came over in the Rick Nash deal, and is Springfield's (AHL) highest-scoring defenseman and an AHL All Star. His cut was a bit of a surprise, but it's looking more and more like the 5-7 spots on D are going to be a round-robin of Adrian Aucoin and youngsters John Moore and David Savard. The club clearly wants Erixon to continue playing every day instead of getting lost in that mess. As for Jenner, the 2011 2nd round pick is Captaining the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. He looked good enough and physical enough to have made the Jackets' roster as a third- or fourth-line center, and his two-way play--and the potential for wearing a letter someday--is certainly a reason for much optimism for the future. He went back to the OHL because they didn't want to burn a year of his ELC in a shortened, crazy season, and because he can continue to develop his leadership qualities as he Captains Oshawa for the second straight year. If he doesn't make a legitimate push to be on the club to start next season, the Jackets' brass will have to be disappointed.
For more on the BJ's, check out The Cannon's Season Preview section.
Question of the Day
So as we get ready to dust off our Game Day routines (make sure to review the OTF Unofficial Glossary in preparation for tonight's Game Thread), I'll toss a question out there for discussion. Who scores the first goal of the season for the Preds?