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Nashville Predators vs. New York Rangers Preview: At Last

Nashville hockey. At last.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Pardon me, folks. I’m a bit rusty here. It’s an honor to be in my second year of previewing games with OTF.

Tonight’s game once again sees the Predators starting their season on the road. They face two contests in New York before returning to Smashville.

The Nashville Predators

Well, without rookie Eeli Tolvanen in the lineup, Nashville is skating a pretty familiar crew. With the addition of Dan Hamhuis on defense, the top-4 defensive pairings will likely look exactly like they did last season. Hamhuis will skate with Yannick Weber.

Ryan Hartman is starting the year off on Injured Reserve. It seems he’s not completely healed from his offseason shoulder surgery, so we will see Frederick Gaudreau, Miikka Salomaki, or Zac Rinaldo in the lineup to slot in for Hartman and the suspended Austin Watson. Coach Laviolette did note that Hartman might skate on the trip depending on how he feels during practice.

I’d expect to see the JoFA crew and the STF/FiTS line to start the season. The fourth line will probably include Rinaldo, and I have nothing nice to say about that.

Lineups from this week’s practice sessions are here:

Finally, in goal, you will see your reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Pekka Rinne. Nashville loves this goaltender. What I’m curious about is how Coach Laviolette will split the games between Rinne and young backup Juuse Saros.

In predicting my first Nashville goal of the 2018-2019 season, I’m betting that Ryan Johansen tallies on a slick wrist shot.

The New York Rangers

The Rangers have a new face behind the bench. David Quinn replaces Alain Vigneault as the Rangers head coach. Quinn is the former head coach of the Boston University Terriers.

The Rangers shed some players around last season’s trade deadline in order to begin their rebuilding process. In goal, you have a familiar Swede in Henrik Lundqvist. “Hank” is still a stellar goalie, but he’s regressed a bit in the last two seasons. He’s backed up by Alexandar Georgiev.

On defense, you’ll see the familiar faces of Marc Staal and Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk is healthy after a season filled with injuries. Will he be able to produce like he did two seasons ago in Washington?

Rounding out the defense is Brady Skjei, Neal Pionk, Adam McQuaid, Fredrik Claesson, and Brendan Smith. McQuaid was a strange offseason pickup from the Boston Bruins and Claesson signed as a UFA.

Skjei and Shattenkirk are the first defensive pairing, and Staal and Pionk will be on the second pairing. Expect these four to eat up big minutes.

The Rangers have a few young guns in their lineup at forward. Youngsters Filip Chytil and Brett Howden are two. Many younger players will be developing in Hartford. Back in the lineup are Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad, Vladislav Namestnikov, Kevin Kayes, Ryan Spooner, and Chris Kreider.

It looks like Cody McLeod will start the season in the press box.

2017 first-rounder Lias Andersson was sent to the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL for additional development. Like Tolvanen, Andersson might benefit from more minutes at the AHL level.

Here’s a deeper dive into the Rangers lineup from Blueshirt Banter.

Memories and Feelings

-Zero people like Jimmy Vesey, but we have to wait to boo him in Bridgestone Arena. Feel free to boo loudly from wherever you are watching the game.

-Speaking of Vesey, Filip Forsberg should probably stay very far away from him. We can’t have any stupid suspensions this early in the season.

-A sentence about Cody McLeod. Another sentence about McLeod in the press box.

Reasons to Watch

-If I need to provide you with a reason to watch the first game of this long-anticipated 2018- 2019 campaign, you’ve either been under a rock or possibly dead.

-Game 1 of 82. Let’s do this!

-How many minutes will Nashville spend in the penalty box?

-What tradition are you going to start this season? Are you going to watch all away games from your couch wearing full hockey gear? Do you wear a specific jersey for away games? Do you have a special game meal or drink?

Tonight’s Theme Song

“High Hopes” by Panic! At the Disco. Yes, I’m aware this song is overused when it comes to the NHL, NHL awards, and NHL 19. However, it gets the message across for tonight’s opening game.

“Burn your biographies, rewrite your history…we wanted everything.”

Tonight’s Drink of Choice

Tonight, I plan to sip on a Wiseacre Coffee Milk Stout. I tried it at Beer Fest and my best friend and I were broken hearted when Wiseacre ran out of it before we got a third (fourth? Fifth?) helping. It’s basically a whole meal in a bottle, and it’s fantastic.

Rangers Social Media

  • @NYRangers
  • Blueshirt Banter is the Rangers’ SB Nation Page: @BlueshirtBanter
  • The Rangers have a service puppy in training named, predictably, Ranger. He is training to be a service dog for a child with autism. The videos on his Twitter are adorable and if you need a dose of cuteness, check him out: @NYRangersPup

How to Watch

Tonight’s matchup is featured on NBC Sports. You can hear the radio call from the legendary Pete Weber on 102.5 The Game or stream the radio call on your Predators NHL app. Puck drop is at 6:30 Central.