Nashville looks to rebound from their shootout loss against Calgary, as they take on Winnipeg tonight. The Predators hit a bump in the road on Tuesday night as they were outplayed by the Flames. They hope to make the proper adjustments and maximize on the opportunity to come away with two points tonight, before they face the Blackhawks tomorrow. I will say this much, even in a loss, Nashville still seemed to show glimpses that the new system is working. Nothing like a trip to Winnipeg to hopefully get back on the right track (key word being hopefully).
The Winnipeg Jets
The Jets have played three games so far, and none since Sunday. They looked strong in their first game against Arizona, but faltered against San Jose and Los Angeles. This is a team that didn't do anything to get better in the off season (Editor's note: Sorry, Mathieu Perreault). They don't really have a true identity, and you don't know really what to expect from them.
So far this season, they are giving up an average of three goals a game. Ondrej Pavelec hasn't been able to find a rhythm in net. It makes you think if moving Dustin Byfuglien to offense was the best decision for the team. That move just shows you how the team is struggling to find their identity. They took one of their better defensemen and moved him to a different position. The defense is struggling right now in Winnipeg, and if the Preds can sustain consistent pressure early, the Jets could be in trouble.
Offensively, Winnipeg relies heavily on the sticks of Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little. They carried a lackluster offense last year, and look to provide the same offensive output this year. With Evander Kane on injured reserve, the Jets are going to have to find someone who can pick up the slack, and provide some depth in scoring.
Dustin Byfuglien has to be the X-factor for Winnipeg. He causes havoc up front and is a menace to deal for defenses. If he is able to establish himself in front of the net, it could be a problem for the Preds.
The Nashville Predators
The Preds are looking to regain some of the magic they found in the first two games. Even in a shootout loss on Tuesday, Nashville still generated great offensive chances. If it wasn't for the Flame's goaltender, Karri Ramo, standing on his head, the Preds could have walked away with the full two points that night.
Both Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg found the scoring touch on Tuesday. The Forsberg-Roy-Smith line has been playing well through the first few games, and you knew it was only a matter of time before Forsberg got his first goal of the season. Ribeiro was able to notch his first goal playing along side Colin Wilson for the first time this season. Sometimes, all it takes for a player is that first goal to get over the hump.
James Neal has to get over that hump. He is getting some great chances, and I expect him to get his goal very soon. After all, it is the law of averages. It looks like he could be getting some help though. On Wednesday, Peter Laviolette decided to shake up the lines a bit. He had Forsberg practice on the first line with Neal and Ribeiro. If Laviolette decides to go with him on the top line, I expect Neal to cash in and get his first goal tonight.
With back to back games tonight and tomorrow, I imagine that Carter Hutton will be making his first appearance of the season tonight against Winnipeg. This will leave Pekka Rinne rested for tomorrow's game against the Blackhawks.
James Neal has to be the X-factor for the Preds. If he can find his scoring touch, it would do wonders for the team. Not only will Neal get the confidence, but the team will be clicking on all cylinders.
Reasons To Watch
It is the first road game for the Preds. It will be interesting to see how the team does when they are away from Bridgestone. Winnipeg isn't the really one of the toughest places to play, but if their team is playing well, the Jets' fans can be loud and tough to deal with.
Wouldn't It Be Funny If...
Blake Wheeler decides to continue his fighting rampage this season (two fights already) and tries to pick a fight with Shea Weber? Surely Wheeler, if he were to fight tonight, would pick someone who is a little more of an even opponent for him, right?
For all of you at home tonight, be sure to catch the game on FS-TN locally. The puck drops at 7:00 pm CST.