If you’re just tuning in, it’s been days since the Nashville Predators closed out their annual CMA road-trip, but it’s felt a lot longer.
Three days off is basically three weeks in hockey time, and the Preds return to Bridgestone tonight is more than welcome. Not to mention it’s time to give Kyle Turris a real Smashville welcome to the family!
Unfortunately, the Preds will be facing the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time at home since the Stanley Cup Final. Fortunately, there’s no better time to finally put the demons to rest with the flightless birds than in-front of the hometown crowd.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
The defending cup champions are coming off a 4-1 road loss to the Washington Capitals Friday night. Thanks Trotzy!
The Pens are 9-7-2 in their first 18 outings, however their road record is less than impressive at 4-7-1. This could be a huge advantage for the Preds, who are currently 3-1-1 at home. While the Penguins are no strangers to winning at Bridgestone, they’re facing a completely different team tonight.
We all know what the Penguins are capable of so it’s no surprise that guys like Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are already putting up 19 and 20 points this season. Don’t worry, Sidney Crosby is still in the mix too with five goals and 13 points. Surprisingly when he’s not trying to get away with cheap penalties and turning Ryan Reaves into his on-ice lackey he’s still pretty good at hockey.
What may be surprising about the Penguins this season is Matt Murray. After two seasons of trying to climb out from under the shadow of Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray has finally taken over the role of starting goaltender.
It hasn’t been an easy transition for the 23 year old. With a goals allowed average of 2.90 and a save percentage of .906, Murray has allowed 41 goals so far in 15 games. Overall sharing the workload may not have seemed ideal, but Murray seemed to benefit from it. If the Preds’ new offensive arrangement can find their groove early, and elevate the puck over Murray, the young goaltender may be in for a long night.
The Nashville Predators
The Preds are coming off a successful road trip, as well as finally acquiring the final missing link to their offense. It’s been a big week for the hometown team, despite only playing one game.
The addition of Kyle Turris should finally be the spark the offense has been missing all these years. Turris played 11 games with Ottawa before being traded. In those games he scored three goals and posted nine points. The Senators might have been rolling Turris as their first-line center, but it looks like the Preds have every intension of using him on the second-line. The addition of Turris and a healthy Ryan Johansen should be enough to give Preds fans the Stanley Cup Final rematch we’ve been waiting for.
The addition of Turris saw the departure of Samuel Girard. While that stings, it stings a little less when Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber are stepping up and doing what they can to round out the defense until Ryan Ellis returns. The defense will have their hands tied with Malkin, Kessel, and Crosby, but home-ice advantage, the Penguins lack of road wins, and a newly rounded out offense should all work in Nashville’s favor.
The final question mark for the Preds, is of-course, goaltending. Pekka Rinne has been incredible this season. He’s only allowed 23 goals in 11 games posting a goals allowed average of 2.08 and a save percentage of .934. Rinne’s record against the Pens has been pretty brutal. They’ve always seemed to have his number, but the Rinne we’ve seen lately is a man possessed with a one goal mentality, and that goal is winning the Stanley Cup with the Nashville Predators. To do that, Rinne’s going to have to get the Pittsburgh monkey off his back once and for all.
Reasons to Watch
- Kyle Turris - It’s his first game as a Nashville Predator and it’s at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins. What more can you ask for on a Saturday night in Smashville
- Pekka Rinne - It’s time for Rinne to prove the Penguins aren’t his Achilles’ heel.
- Ryan Johansen - RyJo has to score a goal soon...right? He will score a goal again...right?
Song of the Game
Sights and Sounds
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. CST at Bridgestone Arena. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Tennessee or listen live on 102.5 The Game.