The Predators will look to get 2018 started off right by visiting the red hot Vegas Golden Knights tonight. The last meeting ended in a 4-3 shootout win for the Knights in what was an exciting game between two premier Western Conference teams.
Tonight, the teams meet each other as the 1st and 2nd teams in their respective divisions. It should be a good one!
The Vegas Golden Knights
The Knights are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, so it is safe to call them the hottest team in the NHL. Their surprising start should be surprising no more: this is an excellent hockey team. Their talent on the ice is undeniable, as are their results.
Vegas is 2nd in the league in goal scoring at 3.51 goals per game. Who would have thought a collection of castoffs could generate that kind of offense?
Well really, what we’ve learned is that the term “castoff” does not equate with “has-been” or “replacement-level” or anything of the sort. Really these players were stolen, straight up robbed off of the production line of some excellent NHL teams. Jon Marchessault, who leads the team with 36 points, is a career 13.1% shooter and scored 30 goals for the Panthers last year. William Karlsson has had a breakout year with 20 goals in 37 games, but he was likely underutilized in Columbus who had a large number of quality forwards getting the bulk of their minutes.
Of course, we all know James Neal is one of the best goal scorers in the league over the last nine years... in fact he’s scored the 14th most goals of anyone in the league in that time. So it’s no surprise (to most of us) that he’s been a crucial part of their offense.
Other guys like Erik Haula (14 goals), David Perron (9 goals), and Reilly Smith (9 goals) make a combination of under used forwards with a lot of talent and up-and-coming goal scoring talent. Why Minnesota essentially handed Haula and Alex Tuch over to Vegas is a mystery to me.
Oh and hey, look. Marc-Andre Fleury is back in goal. Even though Malcolm Subban has been great in his absence, Fleury will always give Vegas a chance to succeed.
This team isn’t going away anytime soon. We should be prepared to see them in the playoffs, so tonight is an important glimpse.
The Nashville Predators
We’ve recently learned a little bit more (but not everything) about Filip Forsberg’s injury. It appears to be some sort of hand or wrist injury, but obviously the images in that link are nothing definitive. We still have to wait on the official word from the league and/or Forsberg’s camp.
I suppose it could suggest that there might be no worry of a concussion or other more long term damaging effect for Fil, but again we don’t know for sure. I am glad to see that Forsberg appears to be out and about this holiday season and not locked in a dark room with a white noise machine.
The team must still charge on without Forsberg in the lineup, as they did on Saturday against the Wild.
But the good news?? Ryan Ellis returns to the lineup!
This will be a huge boost to the lineup, for many reasons. One, it’s Ryan Ellis. Two, Alexei Emelin might have his minutes reduced. Three, the bottom pairing might not have as large a role and it might also not feature a pairing that is unbearable to watch play defense (any combo of Irwin, Weber, and Bitetto just isn’t going to work long term).
Here were the practice defensive pairings at practice yesterday:
Apparent D pairings for the #Preds today:— Robby Stanley (@RStanleyNHL) January 1, 2018
I’d be fine with that, though I’d rather see Subban back with Ekholm.
Also Gaudreau was sent back down on Sunday (clearing the way for an Ellis return). So, here’s what the lineup might look like tonight:
Fiala - Turris - Smith
Arvidsson - Johansen - Jarnkrok
Hartnell - Bonino - Aberg
McLeod - Sissons - Watson
Josi - Ellis (!!)
Emelin - Subban
Bitetto - Ekholm
Reasons to Watch
- Ryan Ellis will return! That’s incredible news.
- You have another chance to see James Neal, which I know you want to do.
- The Turris line is on fire. Kyle Turris himself has 18 points in 22 games, while Fiala and Smith have combined for 19 goals since the trade in early November. It’s the new top line in Nashville with Forsberg out and they are certainly playing like it.
Reasons to Cheer
- Because we are fans and we can cheer all we want for the team we love.
The Important Details
9 p.m. puck drop tonight! FS-TN for the TV, 102.5 The Game for the radio.