After two very close victories, the Nashville Predators limp into Denver for a Central Division bout against the last place team in the Western Conference.
With the trade deadline looming, there are some interesting story lines to follow tonight. The Predators just traded for Colorado enforcer Cody McLeod yesterday. Did he even fly out from Denver to Nashville before the game tonight? The other interesting pieces potentially in play are Matt Duchene and Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. Duchene has been a rumored trade piece for what feels like a few seasons now, while Landeskog’s name has just recently surfaced. While Landeskog is certainly having a lackluster season at 13 points in 30 games, he would still fit in well on most teams’ second line. Plus, he’s Swedish, so he belongs on the “Tre Predators” for that reason alone.
Remember when everyone was saying that the Avalanche were better by subtraction after parting ways with coach Patrick Roy at the start of the season?
The Colorado Avalanche still are firmly in the bottom of the Central Division. While the Blues, Predators, and Stars have all regressed this season, the Wild and Jets have “raised the floor” above the Central basement dwelling Avalanche. They still have a firm depository of young talent in Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, and Tyson Barrie, but the cannot put wins together.
Their problem lies in the back end of the ice, as the only defender of note is Tyson Barrie. Nobody else can really be called a solid option where they are played. Erik Johnson is an average second-pairing defenseman playing first-pairing minutes. The rest of the defense is forgettable. Yes, the goaltending has been atrocious this year, as Seymon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard each have a GAA over 3.00, but a large part of that is due to the terrible blue line in front of them.
Hindsight is a wonderful, terrible thing, but imagine if this team had taken hometown boy Seth Jones instead of Nathan MacKinnon. Their defensive pairings would fall into place and, despite having a little less punch up top, their lineup would be much more cohesive.
Roman Josi and Colin Wilson were just placed on injured reserve. That means, in addition to those two, they will be without the services of four starters with P.K. Subban, and James Neal all banged up. For a while, the Predators have been struggling to replace their roles. Nobody was stepping up to the plate and being a difference maker in their absences.
Enter Austin Watson.
It has only been three games, so I am still withholding judgement that he has turned a corner, but Watson has been carrying this Predators team with three goals in as many games. He’s becoming that physical, net front presence that the Predators have needed so badly. Filip Forsberg has also come out with fire recently. His goal against Boston on Thursday night was pure determination.
The Predators are a young and emotional team, which is where some of their inconsistencies come from. That’s understandable and happens. However, when they are angry, like they were Thursday, they play outstanding hockey. Here’s hoping they keep the chip on their shoulder today.
Reasons to Watch
- Matt Duchene would look realllllllly good in gold.
- Cody McLeod will be making his Predators debut tonight. Known as an outstanding enforcer, I doubt we’ll see him take swings at his former teammates of two days. Nevertheless, weirder things have happened.
- The Predators could go on a winning streak! No, for real! Serriously!
- Sometimes I love being wrong, and I certainly have been about Austin Watson. With all the injuries hitting the Predators, he is really taking on the mentality of “next-man up” and is helping drive this team.
Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day
- A game with numerous fights, perhaps getting out of hand.
Example: “With as many Predators in casts and hospital beds as there are, let’s hope there isn’t another gongshow tonight.”
Sights and Sounds
The game will be on on FS-TN and you can listen to it on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 2:00pm central.