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Nashville Predators @ Vancouver Canucks: It’s Basically Seattle

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NHL: Nashville Predators at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Nashville Predators (19-8-1) take on the Vancouver Canucks (11-16-3) at Rogers Arena. The Predators are entering the game off of a grueling 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, while the Canucks most recently lost 3-2 against Minnesota.

Like the Buffalo Sabres, the Canucks are a young team with many players still learning the ropes. However, unlike the Sabres, the Canucks have been unable to sustain their early season success. They lack the depth posed by the Sabres up front and have numerous holes on defense.

However, tonight they get to prey on an injury-rattled Predators team. The Predators have rattled off two wins in a row despite the injured reserve piling up, can they make it three?

The Vancouver Canucks

Brother of Predators prospect Emil Pettersson, Elias Pettersson has been lightning in a bottle for the Vancouver Canucks. A prospect that a franchise could be built around, Pettersson leads all rookies in both points (23) and goals (13). He’s only played in 24 games, so he is scoring just under a point per game.

Bo Horvat is leading the Canucks with 25 points in 30 games but, after him and Petterssen, the scoring drops off into a chasm. Third-leading scorer Nikolay Goldobin only has 16 points and Brock Boeser, battling through injuries, only has 14. Loui Eriksson continues to be one of the worst contracts handed out over the past few seasons. There veterans on this team have done next to nothing to move this team forward, and is probably why they fell from their perch on top of the Pacific division all the way to 7th.

Is it the defense or goaltending that’s a bigger issue in Vancouver? It’s hard to tell. Jakob Markstrom has a 3.31 GAA and .897 save percentage, but their best defenseman is Erik Gudbranson, who has seven points, is -11, and has a 43.4% corsi-for at even strength. Gudbranson isn’t much better than Ben Hutton, who’s -13 and has a 45.9 corsi-for in five on five hockey, There may not be a worse defense in the league than Vancouver’s, and it shows.

The Nashville Predators

Head coach Peter Laviolette knew exactly what he needed his injury-riddled team to do against the Buffalo Sabres to pick up a win: ...play a trap game?

Sure enough, it worked, a testament to Laviolette’s ability to identify weaknesses in an opposing hockey club and adjust his club accordingly.

Now, it would be excellent if he could identify the Predators’ own weakness and fix them, like the power play, which sits at 26th in the NHL. In a bizarre turn of events, Laviolette has actually needed to adjust the power play simply because so many players who were used with the man advantage are injured. Subban, Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Turris all have been missing time, so Laviolette has needed Ryan Johansen to play a larger role. Many of us here at On The Forecheck have been clamoring for a bigger role for Johansen on the power play for a while, and he so far has fulfilled his increased responsibilities. Johansen has always been lethal from the half-wall with his vision and high hockey IQ. Now, when the Predators’ are heavily relying on Johansen, he is coming through in spades.

Reasons to Watch

  1. Elias Pettersson could be rookie of the year, provided that he can hold off Brady Tkachuk.
  2. Ryan Johansen has 24 points in 28 games, playing the best hockey of his career.
  3. I say this often, but you’re guaranteed for some spectacular Pekka Rinne saves if you watch tonight. As I write this, I’m half-expecting Juuse Saros to start, so if you miss Rinne making saves, at least you get to see Saros make a rare appearance.

Pregame Meal

Delivery pizza. I’m in the middle of studying for law school finals. There’s no time to cook.

Sights and Sounds

The game is at 9:00ct. Fox Sports South will televise the game while 102:5 The Game will carry it on the radio.