We had a good chance to see what Nashville's lineup was capable of on Thursday night against Carolina. With fairly predictable line combinations, the Predators put themselves up 2-0 early and controlled the play in the first while only allowing five total shots for the Hurricanes in the same respect.
However, that mid-game collapse from last season reared its ugly head and the Predators found themselves in a dogfight during the last 10 minutes of the third to hold on for the win.
Line combinations based on morning skate (projected):
(Nashville cancelled its gameday morning skate. The following lines are projected based on the previous practice)
Forward Line One: Filip Forsberg / Mike Ribeiro / Calle Jarnkrok
Forward Line Two: Colin Wilson / Mike Fisher / Craig Smith
Forward Line Three: Viktor Arvidsson / Cody Hodgson / James Neal
Forward Line Four: Eric Nystrom / Paul Gaustad / Gabriel Bourque
Defensive Pair One: Shea Weber / Roman Josi
Defensive Pair Two: Mattias Ekholm / Ryan Ellis
Defensive Pair Three: Barret Jackman / Seth Jones
SCRATCHES: Victor Bartley, Anthony Bitetto, Austin Watson
Three things vs Edmonton
The Connor McDavid storyline
This poor kid.
The Oilers come in after dropping their opener 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues. Noted prodigy McDavid failed to record a point and ended the evening with a -1.
I don't see anyone dare call him a bust, but man alive the level of scrutiny this young man faces -- and will continue to face for the next handful of seasons -- remains at an unbelievable level. I fully understand that McDavid could be the savior to an organization that hasn't seen the playoffs in nine seasons -- currently the longest such streak in the NHL -- however it's going to take a handful of games for the pressure to die off a tad for him to grow into his own.
Saturday night's game against the Predators could give McDavid the chance to get one of those many proverbial monkeys off his back. He won't remain pointless for more than a couple of games, at best.
Play 60 minutes
Nashville dominated the opening 20 minutes against the Hurricanes on Thursday night, looking like the dominant team that showcased themselves early last season. However, like the Predators during the first round of the playoffs against Chicago a few months back, Nashville let Carolina storm back in the second period and found themselves clinging to live in the third.
Part of that is a testament to how the Hurricanes never let up throughout the final 40 minutes, but another is due to the Predators absolutely taking their foot off the gas with a two goal lead.
Teams that win the Stanley Cup every year just don't take their foot off the gas when they have a lead. Nashville needs to remember that as the season continues on. Fast teams like Edmonton will burn you if allowed any type of edge throughout the course of the evening.
If the Predators get up by a handful of goals in the first period this evening, there is no reason they should sit back and let the Oilers bring the play to them.
Calle Jarnkrok: First line forward
During Friday's practice, Jarnkrok and James Neal were switched between the first and third lines. Apparently this was done in an effort to produce more at even strength? At least, that's what head coach Peter Laviolette said to media following practice. Via the Nashville Predators official website:
"We’re just looking at things and moving around," Laviolette said of the switch. "5-on-5, we’ve got to be better. We’re not producing as much as we’d like."
"We're not producing as much as we'd like"? This quote coming after one game? I really liked the fire that Nashville's third line brought against the Hurricanes on Thursday night. In fact, they were the only line to produce on the scoresheet at even strength. Why fiddle with that after one game?
Remember the "Gabriel Bourque: A First Line Experience" that Laviolette attempted in game one last season? That didn't pan out very well.
I'm not advocating for Jarnkrok to never get top line minutes, but I don't feel it's the right time to test that out. I guess we'll find out how well that works in a few hours, if the lines remain true to Friday's practice?
Player to Watch
(Game 1 PtW: Viktor Arvidsson. Result? Notched the game-winning goal against Carolina in Nashville's 2-1 win)
Calle Jarnkrok: If the line combinations from Friday hold, Jarnkrok is going to find himself alongside Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg in a huge attempt to generate some offense for Nashville. That makes him tonight's X-Factor for the Predators. He'll want to make a good impression -- regardless of what line he's on -- and I think he states his case.
(Game 1 Prediction: 4-2 Predators win. Result? 2-1 Predators win. CURRENT RECORD: 1-0)
Nashville will find itself up 3-1 midway through the second period before letting up and allowing Edmonton to claw back in the game. The Oilers will tie it up late in the third period before both get teams get their first taste of 3-on-3 hockey.
It'll be quick, but the Predators find a way to pull it out. 4-3 Nashville in overtime.