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Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks Preview: The Journey Begins

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It's been just over five months since we've seen meaningful Predators hockey. The wait is over.

Nashville Predators v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After the biggest trade in franchise history, the Nashville Predators are finally ready to take the ice for the first time this 2016-17 season. They will take on Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena tonight, the first of a back-to-back against the Blackhawks this opening weekend.

We’ve previewed the Predators in great depth this summer so far. To recap, here are some quick links to get you started:

We know the players for the Predators, so what about the Blackhawks?

The Chicago Blackhawks

Let’s all say this together now: NO MORE ANDREW SHAW

Along with that, here are some new guys in their lineup: Ryan Hartman. Nick Schmaltz. Tyler Motte. Vince Hinostroza. Michael Kempny. Gustav Forsling. Yep, this is not the same Blackhawks team that we’ve loved to hate over the last few years. Give it time, we will hate all of them, I'm sure.

The Blackhawks are counting on six rookies to help round out their lineup. Most of them are of the two-way variety and will mostly play stand-in to the usual cast of characters that make the Hawks a tough team to beat. Guys like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa. Returning also is last year’s Calder winner Artemi Panarin, 2nd line center Artem Anisimov, and most of their defense including Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Corey Crawford is still in goal.

The Hawks lost their opening night match-up against the Blues on Wednesday, falling 5-2 in the United Center. The Blues out-shot the Hawks 34-19 in the game, but the difference was on special teams. Chicago couldn’t stay out of the penalty box in the 2nd and 3rd periods, which led to three power play goals for the Blues. Overall, it wasn’t a great debut for the Hawks. They will probably be eager to forget that performance and try to steal one at the Bridge tonight.

The Nashville Predators

Tonight will be the 18th home opener in Predators franchise history. Here's a look at how the Preds have fared in these:

Preds Home Openers

Date

Opponent

Result

10/10/98

Florida Panthers

L, 0-1

10/02/99


Los Angeles Kings

L, 0-2

10/13/00


Washington Capitals

W, 3-1

10/06/01

St. Louis Blues

T, 2-2

10/12/02


Edmonton Oilers

L, 2-3

10/09/03

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

W, 3-1

10/05/05


San Jose Sharks

W, 3-2

10/05/06

Chicago Blackhawks

L, 6-8

10/04/07


Colorado Avalanche

W, 4-0

10/11/08


Dallas Stars

W, 3-1

10/08/09

Colorado Avalanche

W, 3-2

10/09/10

Anaheim Ducks

W, 4-1

10/13/11


Phoenix Coyotes

L, 2-5

01/19/13


Columbus Blue Jackets

L, 2-3

10/08/13

Minnesota Wild

W, 3-2

10/09/14

Ottawa Senators

W, 3-2

10/08/15


Carolina Hurricanes

W, 2-1

Since the beginning the Preds have managed a 10-6-1 record in home openers, so overall, the team does well in this situation. There are some hiccups here and there, however.

I particularly remember that 8-6 loss to the Blackhawks back in 2006. The team had just come off a surprising playoff run, losing in the 1st round to the San Jose Sharks. Over the summer, the team signed two elite players in J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott. Leading points man Paul Kariya would be back on the top line. Returning goalie Tomas Vokoun had been in the Vezina discussion the previous season and would be back. An impressive rookie named Shea Weber emerged in training camp.  In short, there were pretty high expectations.

The Blackhawks put up a flurry of goals that night and most of us were pretty shocked that the Predators could score six goals and still lose. It was pretty sobering.

I say all of this to remind folks that the home opener is also just another game. There won't be a lot to learn about this team other than maybe some surface level observations ("Subban is fun to watch", "Fiala is fast", "The 4th line can get nasty", and so on). The home crowd is usually ready to rock and the place is usually full, so that helps the atmosphere. But if the final score is something like 7-4 Blackhawks, the sky is not falling.

Hopefully the Preds will score early and often so we can all shout our brains out and give the Blackhawks fans some righteous headaches.

Reasons To Watch

  • I have a feeling that Subban and Josi will be an absolute delight to watch together on the ice. Tune in just for that, if anything.
  • See how Kevin Fiala fares on the big stage. He won't be expected to just impress the coaches, but actually produce out on the ice. Watch to see how he reacts to adversity as well as how he reacts to success. I have a great feeling about this kid.
  • I wasn't kidding about that 4th line. Last year, the snoozes began as soon as ole #28 trotted out onto the ice. Not so this season. Keep your eyes peeled for whenever Sissons, Salomaki, and whoever else they are paired with take their shifts. They are absolutely ferocious.

Pregame Entertainment

There may be elevated expectations for this team, but remember: this league don't owe 'em a thang.

The Important Details

The game officially begins at 7:00 PM, but there will be a host of festivities before the puck actually drops. TV: NBC, Radio: 102.5 The Game