We'll know a lot more about the talent and resilience of this edition of the Nashville Predators after the next two-and-a-half weeks, as the team hits the road for their longest trip of the season, a seven-game stretch that includes a variety of Western and Eastern Conference contenders.
- Thursday October 31st at Phoenix
- Saturday November 2nd at Los Angeles
- Wednesday November 6th at Colorado
- Friday November 8th at Winnipeg
- Sunday November 10th at New Jersey
- Tuesday November 12th at New York Islanders
- Friday November 15th at Pittsburgh
Roman Josi Returns Thursday @ Phoenix
The best news surrounding the team these days comes from Mike Organ at the Tennessean:
Trotz said Josi would be in the second or third pair on Thursday at Phoenix, where the Predators begin a 16-day road trip. How long he stays there will depend on how far along he's come in his recovery from the concussion, which kept him out of action for three weeks.
The Preds have certainly missed Josi's presence on the left side after he was clobbered by Steve Downie on October 4th, but as Organ notes in the article linked above, the interesting question now turns to who gets scratched. Will Vic Bartley sit, or Ryan Ellis? Or might Barry Trotz run with 7 defense, as he did at times last season?
|2013 - Roman Josi||2||0||0||0||-2||0||0||0||0||5||0.0|
There is one absurdity in Organ's article that does have to be pointed out:
Goalie Pekka Rinne, who underwent arthroscopic hip surgery to clean out an infection, watched Tuesday's practice seated in a chair behind the glass.
Rinne will miss at least four weeks. He was not available for comment.
So he can give an interview to the folks back home at Urheilulehti, but the local reporter can't get a sniff? Boo...
Which Forwards Will Play?
Keen interest will also be found in the decisions up front, in light of Viktor Stalberg being a healthy scratch the last two games. David Boclair took a turn analyzing the impact of Trotz's recent roster calls over at PostSports today:
In short, Nashville has been much less productive when offensive-minded guys like Forsberg and/or Stalberg have been on the bench.
Both were injured for the first two games and, not surprisingly, the Predators started 0-2-0. In three contests last week one was on the bench was because the coaches put them there. Nashville won once in three games and was outscored 10-4.
If Viktor Stalberg does get back into the lineup, will he play with some scorers, or be expected to pull the plow on an "energy" line? Heck, I'd be OK with dropping him into Gabriel Bourque's spot alongside Matt Cullen and Craig Smith
Which Goalie Will Play?
Questions on the blueline, questions up front... and of course we have questions in goal!
Carter Hutton has been fine so far stepping into the gap, but not so insanely great that he should prevent Magnus Hellberg from getting his first NHL start.
|2013 - Carter Hutton||4||223||2||1||0||9||2.42||123||114||.927||0|
The thing is, where do you decide to start Hellberg? There are no games on back-to-back nights on this trip, which would provide the most obvious opportunity to split up the work. While I don't see any particularly soft opponents until November 10th at New Jersey, that's probably too long to wait. The model I look to here is the late, great Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, who used to call up kids from the minors and usually he'd start them in their very first game, reasoning that having them sit around watching would only build up their anxiety level - you might as well get them in there and get it over with.
What Bounty Will the Preds Bring Home?
So looking at the septet of games above, what do you think a realistic record is for this road trip? I'd certainly look at the Jets and Devils as teams ripe for the taking, while Phoenix (4-0-1), Los Angeles (4-2-0), Pittsburgh (5-2-0) and Colorado (5-1-0) have been tough on home ice, although the Avalanche look like a team that's due to take a tumble downhill.
I'm going to peg the Preds for three wins on this trip (beating the Winnithrashers, the Devils, and one other along the way), and if even one of those losses takes place in overtime or the shootout, that yields 7 points, which would have to be considered pretty successful.
What are your expectations for this road trip?
No matter how it turns out, let's wish the boys (including your new radio play-by-play man Willy Daunic) the best of luck as they head out on a hard road...
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