We often hear that teams need time to come together during the early weeks of an NHL season, although typically we only hear that from teams which aren't doing well in the standings. Nonetheless, this will be an important week for the Nashville Predators to sort things out, as they face three opponents from outside the Central Division, leading up a slate of four games next week which are against Central foes.
Consider this week a dress rehearsal, if you will, before things get really intense next week. Those battles for the marginal roster spots will be worth special attention, as we've already seen forwards Gabriel Bourque, Nick Spaling, and Rich Clune scratched at least once. On defense, Roman Josi's recovery timetable is still a mystery, so expect the current sextet of Shea Weber, Seth Jones, Kevin Klein, Mattias Ekholm, Victor Bartley and Ryan Ellis to remain intact.
For now, though, let's consider the task at hand this week:
Tuesday vs Florida Panthers
Tomorrow night the Florida Panthers come to town, the team which helped the Predators land Seth Jones, by selecting center Aleksander Barkov at #2 overall in this summer's NHL Draft. They sport a modest 2-4-0 record coming into this game, after getting shut out by the Kings on home ice yesterday, but Barkov has been terrific for them so far, with two goals and three assists through six games. The Panthers will be without veteran goalie Tim Thomas and defenseman Ed Jovanovski for this one.
Thursday vs Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are off to a solid 4-2-0 start and are led up front by Jeff Carter, who has four goals on 25 shots, to go along with a gaudy 70.8 faceoff winning percentage. Los Angeles is a favorite to win the Pacific Division title, but will have their hands full keeping up with the red-hot San Jose Sharks.
Saturday at Montreal Canadiens
The Preds wrap up the week by launching a 3-game road trip at the Bell Centre in Montreal, against a Habs team which is looking to repeat their division championship from last season. The hot scorer in Montreal is winger Lars Eller (five goals & two assists in five games), but considering his ridiculous shooting percentage (40.7%) I expect he'll cool off by the time the Predators visit.
What Constitutes Success?
My question to you, then, is what would constitute a successful week for the Preds? We'd probably look at Florida as a very beatable team, while the Kings & Canadiens are definitely tougher matchups. Would 3 points (a win and two losses, one being in overtime or shootout) be sufficient?