Thursday night the Nashville Predators open up the home portion of their preseason schedule as the Atlanta Thrashers come to town. So far, it appears that the main storylines for roster spots in Nashville involve supporting roles; who is going to back up Chris Mason in goal (Pekka Rinne or Dan Ellis), who will be the seventh defenseman (Ville Koistinen or Kevin Klein), and whether there is any room for a brash youngster like Antti Pihlstrom to earn a job among the forwards.
There's been some good discussion over at the Predators' message boards around this topic, which I thought I'd distill over here. Most of the 23-man roster appears pretty set at this point, looking somewhat like this:
Centers: Jason Arnott, Radek Bonk, David Legwand, Scott Nichol, Jerred Smithson
Right Wing: J.P. Dumont, Jed Ortmeyer, Alexander Radulov, Jordin Tootoo
Defense: Greg de Vries, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Greg Zanon, Marek Zidlicky
Goal: Chris Mason
That covers 20 spots for now, setting aside Steve Sullivan until Thanksgiving at least.
Since we've got two weeks (and four more exhibition games) before the start of the regular season, I doubt we'll see much tomorrow night in terms of veteran players and what the actual line combinations will look like when the puck drops vs. Colorado on October 4th, but I would think there should be plenty of opportunity for prospects like Cody Franson to impress the locals and face some more NHL competition before being shipped off to Milwaukee.
In particular, I'll be keeping an eye on Koistinen (who may win that 7th spot for now given Kevin Klein's banged-up shoulder) and Pihlstrom (who has stood out in team scrimmages and the first preseason game against Columbus).
As a bonus, it looks like I'll get to meet up with the Falconer from Thrasher's Talons and Southeast Shootout, who's coming up to Nashville from Atlanta for the big tilt. It's really too bad Nashville and Atlanta don't play more often, as that would appear to be the natural local rivalry. Like everyone else, I'm waiting to see what the NHL comes up with for a revised schedule that tones down the divisional games and brings back the variety.