It's a busy week coming up for the Nashville Predators, with four games on the docket against non-divisional opponents. Over the last week they've climbed out of the Central Division basement (leaving Winnipeg behind), and have their sights set on the Dallas Stars in 5th. Can they continue their ascent this week against the following quartet of foes?
Monday vs Phoenix Coyotes
These are giddy times for the Phoenix faithful, as their long years of ownership turmoil led to a happy conclusion under a new regime which appears to be committed to making hockey work in the desert. Better yet, the Coyotes after off to a 14-5-4 start, giving them a leg up in the chase for the Western Conference playoffs, although their fundamental play pegs them as candidates to fall off the pace. For more on that line of analysis, check out Tyler Dellow's column at Sportsnet from a few days ago.
For now, however, those Coyotes will happily keep the legs churning, even if they're running off a figurative cliff at the time. As usual, their longtime captain is leading the way:
|2013 - Shane Doan||22||11||8||19||+3||8||6||0||1||71||15.5|
Wednesday at Columbus Blue Jackets
There was a line of thinking at one time that if the Blue Jackets could only get out of the big bad Central Division, they'd show themselves to be one of the NHL's more underrated squads. So far, life in the god-awful Metropolitan hasn't been kind to the BJ's, however, as they languish in 7th place, having lost 10 of their last 13 games.
The swapping out of stud scorer Rick Nash for Marian Gaborik hasn't paid off, and the drums are already beating for another big trade to shake things up in Columbus. This bit of reasoning struck
...it isn't just a red-light shortage that's the problem. It's that he's not generating chances. Gaborik has never been a volume shooter - even in 2007-08, his most prolific season, he averaged just over 3.5 shots per game - but he's someone who was always around the puck. That urgency has disappeared this year, along with the zip on his once-lethal wrister.
--- Allan Muir, SI.com
While Gaborik's shot totals are down a bit this year (42 in 17 games), he's usually been one heck of a "volume shooter". Where has he ranked in shots on goal in recent seasons? 17th, 14th, 85th (when he was injured and missed 20 games), and 16th overall starting with 2012-13 and going backwards to 2009-10. Gaborik's a shooter, alright, and the zip's just fine (he's scoring on 11.9% of his shots, in line with his career 13% average).
|2013 - Marian Gaborik||17||5||6||11||+1||6||0||0||0||42||11.9|
Thursday vs Edmonton Oilers
Can the Predators launch a tradition of holiday hockey in Nashville? They'll try to get that rolling with a healthy serving of turkey in the form of the Edmonton Oilers, everybody's favorite train wreck of a hockey team, loaded with promising young talent but unable to assemble a competitive team. The sad-sack Oilers have the 2nd-worst record in the entire NHL, frustrating those who thought this was the year that the pieces would finally fit together and they'd make a run for the playoffs.
Saturday vs Philadelphia Flyers
The Predators wrap up the week by hosting another Eastern Conference squad, the Philadelphia Flyers. Once they lost the opening three games of the season, the Flyers dumped head coach Peter Laviolette in favor of Craig Berube, who has squeezed a 10-7-2 record out of the team so far (including 6-0-1 in their last seven games). One thing you "Fire Trotz" conspirators can keep in mind is that Laviolette is an assistant coach for Team USA's entry at the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, so he'll have plenty of opportunity to establish a working relationship with David Poile, which could come in handy if the job ever opened up in Nashville.
The guy leading the way, as usual, is Claude Giroux. After a slow start, he's put up 8 points in his last 7 games and the puck's finally going in the net for him:
|2013 - Claude Giroux||22||3||12||15||-4||18||2||0||2||57||5.3|
The biggest challenge against Philly may be making sure Flyers GM Paul Holmgren doesn't kidnap Shea Weber on his way out of Bridgestone Arena Saturday night.
So what say ye, Preds fans? How will the team fare this week?
More from On the Forecheck:
- Sunday's Dump & Chase: A Return to "Predator Hockey"
- New York Rangers 2, Nashville Predators 0: Preds Shut Out For NHL-Leading 5th Time
- Patric Hornqvist Injury: Winger Leaves Rangers Game After Taking Shot to Upper Body
- Central Division Breakdown: Contenders & Pretenders
- Saturday's Dump & Chase: The Hated Rangers Come to Town