While Tuesday night may be the first time that Vernon Fiddler puts on a golden sweater, it certainly will not be the first time that a saber-toothed tiger will don the front of a sweater with his name on the back.
For the first time since 2009, Fiddler will take the ice as a Nashville Predator. On the other end of the rink, the floundering Vancouver Canucks will be visiting as part of a long road trip out east. Beginning in Nashville, the Canucks will then play in Columbus before making stops in the likes of Pittsburgh and St. Louis. All in all, it’s a six-game road trip for them. Yikes. And we always complain about our annual CMA road trip.
Even though the Predators have a +7 goal differential to the Canucks’ -27, only six points separate the two teams in the standings. Being as close as the Predators are to the playoff bubble, despite owning a spot, this is a game with importance. Win and the good guys in gold distance themselves further from the lower end of the playoff bubble. Lose and the Predators are letting competition stay close in the standings.
While the Canucks were projected by many to be the worst team in the Pacific Division this season, they have performed admirably and, despite still only being sixth in the division, are only five points away from a wild card spot.
A lot of credit has to be given to Bo Horvat who, after posting 40 points in 82 games last season, has exploded and already has 33 points in 52 games. At only 21-years-old, he has the potential to become a huge star out in the Pacific Division in upcoming years, even though he will likely be overshadowed by Connor McDavid over in Edmonton.
The emergence of Horvat comes at a convenient time for the Canucks, as their Swedish twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin are not getting any younger. The two still both have 32 and 28 points respectively this season, but they are not the world beaters they once were. Their form from 2009-2011 is long lost and, although they each had a nice 2014-15 season, it appears that their days of complete dominance are gone. While they are still good players, which is an achievement in itself when one is 36-years-old, they are no longer world class.
The goaltending duo of Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom has not been that impressive this season either. With GAAs of 2.64 and 2.56 respectively, they have not been the types to inspire confidence in their team. The ability for either of these two players to “steal a game” seems limited at best. Then again, Miller shut out the Predators back in January, so who knows.
Currently, the Canucks are on a three-game losing streak and are 3-4-3 in their last 10 games. They certainly would like to start out their six-game road trip with a much needed win in Nashville.
Well it was only a matter of time until David Poile made a move. Right before the Predators last game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Predators acquired Fiddler in a trade with the New Jersey Devils. He will likely play on the fourth-line and reinforce that line as a “shut down” line, limiting opponents opportunities.
Considering that he was on a line with Austin Watson and Cody McLeod yesterday, that certainly appears to be the case. Fiddler could also end up contributing on the penalty kill to give guys like Filip Forsberg a little more rest.
In the Predators last game, the Red Wings managed to escape with a 1-0 win. Were it not for the phenomenal play of goalie Petr Mrazek, the Red Wings would likely have found themselves in a tougher situation, as the Predators peppered 42 shots on him, 17 of which came in the third period.
Nevertheless, it feels as if a trend is developing of the Predators getting tons of shots on net, but being unable to convert them to goals. The last time these two teams met in January, the Predators put 30 shots on net but came up empty. The shots are pouring in, but now they need some of them to hit the netting.
Reasons to Watch
- Welcome Vernon Fiddler back to Nashville!
- The lines seem to be back up in the air with Fiddler’s arrival. Yesterday Arvidsson practiced with Colin Wilson and Calle Jarnkrok. I personally loved the chemistry that Arvidsson had with Forsberg and Johansen, so I’ll be skeptical if they do change that line up.
- It’s been three days without Predators hockey. Does that feel like an eternity to anyone else here?
Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day
Definition: Typically one of the worse players on the team, usually a slower player. Derived from how bad skaters sometimes have their ankles bend inwards.
Example: “Why on Earth did coach put the bender up on the second line?”
Sights and Sounds
You can head down to Bridgestone Arena for the game at 7:00 p.m. CST. Otherwise, the game will be televised on FS-TN and available on the radio at 102.5 The Game.