At the start of this season, the players of thirty teams all hoped to be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Only two teams remain after battling through nearly 100 games. The Nashville Predators, after battling through the murderer’s row of the Western Conference Playoffs, have proven themselves worthy to fight the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
It only makes sense that Pittsburgh would be the final test. In the first round, the Predators drew the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has won three cups in the last seven years, establishing a salary-cap era dynasty.
The Predators advanced.
In the next round, the Predators drew a bruising St. Louis Blues team that knocked the Blackhawks out of the playoffs the previous year. To make matters worse, Kevin Fiala, the young Swiss forward oozing with talent and poise, went hard into the boards in game two, breaking his femur and ending his season.
The Predators advanced.
Reaching their first Western Conference Championship in franchise history, the Predators were tasked with taking down the Anaheim Ducks. As if having to stop Ryan Getzlaf while avoiding Corey Perry spears was hard enough, Ryan Kesler was every bit of the pest he’s known to be. While the series wasn’t as physical per say as the Blues series, it was much, much dirtier of a series. The Predators then lost star center Ryan Johansen to injury after losing game four at home. With the series tied 2-2, things looked bleak.
Three constants in life? Death, taxes, and the Predators advancing past the Ducks.
Tonight comes the Predators’ reward for making it this far: playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. That being said, the Predators aren’t here to play. They’re here to win. Thus, even though they are rewarded with playing in this final series, they have yet to be rewarded with their goal: the Stanley Cup.
The Pittsburgh Penguins
Over the last week, us writers here at OnTheForecheck have previewed this series extensively. Here are all the hits:
The Penguins should be getting a boost to their forward corps tonight, as former Predator Patrick Hornqvist returns to the lineup. Although he did not practice in the Penguins’ optional skate today, neither did Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and many others.
Patric Hornqvist will return tonight, Mike Sullivan says.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) May 29, 2017
Hagelin still on the ice with the #Pens' likely scratches. Looks like he'll be the odd man out if Hornqvist plays tonight.— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) May 29, 2017
Moreover, it appears as if Pittsburgh may be close to getting a few more players back from injury sooner rather than later.
Optional skate starts. No Hornqvist. Kuhnhackl and Ruhwedel are out there wearing normal sweaters.— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) May 29, 2017
Nonetheless, Peter Laviolette may be finding out the Penguin lines later than he would like.
With an optional skate, there will be no indication of the Penguins' likely forward combinations, or who will be scratched.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) May 29, 2017
The Nashville Predators
While a lot of key skaters skipped the Penguins’ optional skate, the Predators’ practice this morning was widely attended.
A highly attended optional skate for the Predators. Mike Fisher and Craig Smith are among the participants.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) May 29, 2017
I don't see Colin Wilson at morning skate. I believe he's the only player unaccounted for.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) May 29, 2017
These were the lines from yesterday:
Apparent Predators practice lines:— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) May 28, 2017
A hearty congratulations is due to Gaudreau, who apparently has earned Laviolette’s trust and looks to take Cody McLeod’s spot on the fourth line. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Gaudreau is taking a spot away from Salomaki on what normally is a checking line. It’s interesting seeing Gaudreau on a checking line, especially since he and Fiddler do not seem to be complimentary players.
Reasons to Watch
- Really, guys? It’s the Stanley Cup Finals, and your Predators are in it.
Sights and Sounds
The puck drops in Pittsburgh at 7:00ct. The game will be televised nationally through NBC. Otherwise, you can catch the Predators on the radio at 102.5.