Nashville, TN -- In the Predators final preseason home game before the start of the 82-game grind, Nashville dropped a 5-2 decision to the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets. Pair that with a four point night from Jackets forward Brandon Saad -- formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks -- and it wasn't too great of a night for the Predators.
Yet, as it's still preseason, there were things to take away from this game as Nashville looks to finalize its roster.
Austin Watson Strengthening His Case
I've spoke previously during this seemingly never-ending preseason that Watson should absolutely make the roster for Nashville. He's played 200-plus games for the Milwaukee Admirals without a true legitimate shot under the bright lights of the NHL.
For every game that the Predators have thrown Watson into the lineup over the past couple of weeks, he's continually impressed not only members of the media like myself, but the coaching staff as a whole.
"I thought he was real good in his role tonight," said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette. "He did a real good job on the PK tonight when he was out there. Anytime you can turn a penalty kill and gain offense from it like he did, he made a real nice individual play to get that goal. That's the role that he fits on our team. It was a big play at the time and a good job by him."
There should be zero argument that Watson can't be just as effective as current bottom six players Gabriel Bourque and Eric Nystrom. After Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Watson proved how valuable and effective he could potentially be for the lineup.
Stealing the puck away during a Blue Jackets power play, Watson skated in and roofed a puck over goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to give Nashville a 1-0 lead via his shorthanded tally.
Like I've said before, it would be an absolute shame if Watson didn't make the Predators roster at this point. Crazier things have happened, but I just don't see a legitimate scenario where he doesn't start the year in Nashville.
The big question: Does Watson think he's shown enough to the staff to make the team?
"I think so," said Watson. "Tonight was big, I wanted to do more offensively. Getting here and trying to get acclimated with the systems and everything and get on the right page. I just want to keep going. I want to keep getting better like everyone does here at camp."
"We're a week and a half in here, two weeks now, and now it's time to start playing your best hockey."
Hodgson and Jackman Make Fairly Quiet Preseason Debuts
Nashville's big offseason splash in free agency consisted of two players: former St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman and former Buffalo Sabres center Cody Hodgson. Both spent the majority of the preseason nursing ambiguous injuries, not really having the opportunity to really do much with the core of the roster.
However, with both in the lineup against Columbus, it was expected they would be eased into the lineup and be given a chance to gel with their new teammates.
It's fair to say that's exactly what happened: both Jackman and Hodgson were essentially eased in and began the slow learning curve of gaining team chemistry.
Both combined for a total of 28:50 ice time, with Hodgson gaining the majority of it in 15:36. Yet, neither did do too much to really impress in their first game of the preseason. This includes both players combining for a whopping -5 and Jackman registering the only point between the two in Nashville's 5-2 loss.
You can't really expect them to be stellar in their first taste of actual competitive hockey in nearly five months. It's going to take a bit for both to really get acclimated to not only their teammates, but the system that Laviolette implements.
Finally Gaining Some Real Learning Experiences
You can safely say that the Predators earned their fair share of adversity and took one on the chin tonight.
It's the first time this preseason that Nashville was really kept in check throughout its penalty-filled evening. On the flip side, Columbus seemingly converted on every chance they earned. A stark contrast from the way the Predators have been playing for the majority of preseason.
"We made a couple mistakes systematically that cost us two goals," said Laviolette. "I don't think we gave up 20 shots. I don't think we gave up double-digit scoring chances, but the ones we gave up you can't give up. They're systematical things. We've got new people in the lineup and I think we can fix those mistakes."
This definitely isn't a bad thing, either. Nashville needed a true dose of reality before entering the regular season. Things aren't going to be all roses and cupcakes for 82 games. If you think they are, you're absolutely kidding yourselves.
Push comes to shove, Nashville's going to be just fine. Laviolette did some strange things with the lines for this game and it was a great way to test what Nashville had in different areas under different circumstances.
Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Saad had two goals and two assists for the Blue Jackets in their 5-2 drubbing of Nashville. He's going to score plenty for them and it's not even going to be fair.
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Speaking of players who are going to score plenty of points, Johansen had himself quite a night as well with a goal and two assists.
Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets -- Top it off with another three-point performance by new captain Foligno. He's just one of the handful of players for Columbus who made the best with the chances they had.