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Nashville Predators @ Carolina Hurricanes Preview: New Year, Same Preds?

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Nashville hopes to wash away the taste of their loss to the Stars by beating the Hurricanes to ring in the new year.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After 2015 ended with an embarrassing loss to the (statistically) best team in the NHL, the Nashville Predators fly into Raleigh to hopefully right the ship against the Carolina Hurricanes.

It seems like every games we are saying "this could be the one that gets them on track" or "maybe now that they've won they'll go on a streak." That hasn't happened. Nashville has been just as inconsistent this holiday season as they were at any other time of the year. The Christmas break started with the first consecutive wins in over a month. It ended with a narrow loss to the Red Wings, followed by a mostly dominant game against the Rangers. Just when it seems all is back on track, they blow two important games against division foes.

Tonight, it may seem like an easy opponent, but the Hurricanes are probably a little better than their place in the standings suggests, or at the very least more competitive night after night. They also ended the Washington Capital's nine-game win streak on New Years Eve, so they have some momentum.

The Carolina Hurricanes

In a few years the Hurricanes are probably going to be a competitive, possibly scary team.

Their blue line is looking like it may challenge for one of the better ones in the league, especially with Justin Faulk at the front of it. Make all the jokes you want about how he's their only All-Star, he actually is pretty good. Though he seemed to be a one-trick pony this year, scoring all 12 of his goals on the power play, he has since scored each of his next two goals at even strength.

Carolina just needs to add more offense to help guys like Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner, as well as find decent goal tending. Cam Ward hasn't been good since 2006, and Eddie Lack has been on and off all season, with more of his 12 starts falling in the latter category.

Maybe they'll get a buyer for Ward (doubtful, at least for a good price) and some desperate GM is bound to over pay for past-his-prime Eric Staal (cough cough), but the Hurricanes look to be on the path to challenging for a playoff spot within the next few years. 2009 was a long time ago and, given the attendance numbers this year, the fans are tired of watching a bad product that isn't getting any better.

The Canes have won six of their last 10 games and most recently handed the Capitals their first defeat in nearly three weeks. It was against an injury riddled squad, on the back end of a back-to-back, and they never had to face a Washington power play, but Carolina is happy to get the two points in a one-goal game. Nothing about tonight's game will be easy, and if the Predators are not ready to play then the Hurricanes will find a way to feed them their dinner.

The Nashville Predators

Who even knows with this team anymore?

Seriously, it might be time to be done with asking whether or not this is a good or bad team, close your eyes and open them at the end of the season hoping for the best. 38 games in, the Predators are an amorphous blob of inconsistencies, frustrations, and fleeting outbursts of play that makes them feel like a dangerous team.

The embarrassment at the hands of the Dallas Stars on Thursday should clue in the players, the coaches and the front office that whatever is going on right now isn't working. Even if they blow Carolina out of the water tonight, it won't mean a single thing if they drop three of their next four games.

Welcome to real life.

And Now, This...

Reasons to Watch

  • It's a good time to scout Nashville's future number one center, Eric Staal. *dodges the volley of rotten vegetables being thrown*
  • I was in town for the Capitals game, and I'll be in town tonight as well. PNC Arena is actually a pretty cool place to watch a game, but more on that in an upcoming OTF Travel Diary. Once we sneak down to the lower bowl, it shouldn't be too hard to pick us out from the other 10,000 people in the place.
  • Is this the game where Nashville turns it around? Probably not, but you can dream.

Important Stuff

Remember to have your snacks and drinks ready an hour earlier, as this is a 6 p.m. start tonight. Catch the game on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game.