The Predators will look to continue their post-bye week winning ways as they take on the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone tonight. After a 1-0 win over Vegas on Tuesday and a 3-2 shootout win over Arizona on Thursday, the Predators can make it three straight tonight since having a week off.
And it looks like they might get one of their best players back in the lineup to help them do it.
The Panthers are a mediocre team in a bad division.
Sitting at 19-19-6 and with only 44 points in 44 games, they find themselves at 5th place in the Atlantic Division, which is probably the most top heavy division in hockey. The Lightning are dominating, Boston is pretty good, but everyone else is either average or terrible.
Still, the Panthers have some decent talent and always seem to play the Predators tough.
While they only have the 19th best offense in the league (2.82 goals per game), they have one of the best top lines in hockey in Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Evgeny Dadonov. They’ve combined for 41 of the Panthers’ 124 goals so far. Add in Vincent Trocheck and those four have 58 goals, or 47% of all the Panthers’ scoring.
Looking at the scoring network from HockeyViz and it really is all about these four guys:
While it isn’t great for a team to basically rely on one line to score most of your goals, it can still be problematic to deal with. The Predators will have their hands full containing Barkov, who is one of the most underrated players in the league. And if they spend all their time worrying about Barkov, someone like Nick Bjugstad can sneak in and put a couple of goals up.
Defensively, the Panthers have been pretty terrible. They give up the 26th most goals per game (3.20) and recently lost their starting goaltender Roberto Luongo. James Reimer has been decent in his absence, but still gives up over three goals per game and has a save percentage of only .910.
I like the matchup for the Predators going against the bottom half of the defense. Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad are tough, but Mark Pysyk and Mike Matheson is a pairing that can be exploited.
Word from the Predators is that Viktor Arvidsson has been activated from IR and is set to go for tonight. Frederick Gaudreau was sent back to Milwaukee to clear the move.
This is great news. The report about him being helped off the ice at practice on Monday was alarming, but I’m confident he must be fully recovered from whatever that was if they are willing to put him back in the lineup after a four game win streak and with a bottom-half team in town.
Based on practice lines from today, here’s what we could see tonight:
Hartnell - Johansen - Arvidsson
Fiala - Turris - Smith
Aberg - Bonino - Jarnkrok
Salomaki - Sisson - Watson
Pontus Aberg was on the 2nd line in practice, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Turris line is reunited, bumping Aberg to the 3rd line. Speaking of Aberg, he really needs to get something going offensively. Five points in 39 games? Not gonna cut it.
Defensively is it a bit of a mystery. Mattias Ekholm didn’t practice today, but it could have just been a maintenance day. He played all three periods plus overtime on Thursday, so it isn’t likely to be an injury.
Here’s my guess:
Josi - Ellis
Ekholm - Irwin
Emelin - Subban
Reasons to Watch
- ARVY’S BACK!!
- Our first look at the Panthers! Ok, maybe that’s not a reason to watch.
- The team we love is in first place and has a chance to build that lead even more! Ok, that’s more like it.
I have been obsessed with this song recently. Hopefully the Preds find a luckier lucky penny before tonight’s game.
The Important Details
7 p.m. puck drop. FS-TN for your TV, 102.5 The Game for radio.