On Thursday, the Nashville Predators made themselves known against the L.A. Kings. A 5-goal shutout saw tallies by Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith, and Colton Sissons. Forsberg’s goal was as important as Sissons’ goal. Forsberg’s return from injured reserve involved a laser shot over the shoulder of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, and Colton Sissons scored for the first time in many, many games.
This is the first time the Predators have skated as a team fully healthy this season. With Mike Fisher returning to the lineup in the near future, it’s an all-systems-go approach for the mighty Predators. #FisherWatch2018
That being said, the powerful Western Conference continues to give us fits. Vegas keeps winning, but St. Louis and Winnipeg both dropped games on Thursday. It’s a roller coaster ride to the finish. Hold on tight, folks.
Tonight, the Predators face the New York Rangers for the second time this season. The last clash between these teams resulted in a Predators loss. Tonight will be different.
The New York Rangers
The Rangers can boast one of the best goaltenders in the League in Henrik Lundqvist. However, his team has not been playing well in front of him, and Lundqvist has been hung out to dry. A perennial playoff team, the Rangers are barely hanging on in the stacked Metropolitan Division against the likes of the Islanders, Penguins, and Flyers. Lundqvist gives his team the best chance in net, but the aging netminder is repeatedly failed by his underachieving teammates.
On Thursday, the Rangers dropped a game to the surging Toronto Maple Leafs. Poor Lundqvist was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots. He’s been pulled a bunch recently. King Henrik is on pace to play a ridiculous 70 games this season, and fatigue might be a factor in his performance.
Thursday’s loss was the Ranger’s fourth loss in five games.
Mats Zucarello leads his team in points with 37. Much-loathed Jimmy Vesey has 10 goals and seven assists, good for 17 points.
The Rangers have been subject of much discussion in recent weeks about whether they’re going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. It doesn’t seem like anyone is exempt from this list, including captain Ryan McDonagh and Michael Grabner.
Kevin Shattenkirk is injured and will be out indefinitely after knee surgery in January. He’s a power-play quarterback, and his presence on the blue line is missed.
After Cody McLeod was placed on waivers last week by the Predators, the Rangers picked him up. He’s skated in one game for the Rangers, replacing Vinni Letteri on the fourth line. Letteri was sent back to the AHL for more playing time. As a reminder, McLeod hadn’t skated in an NHL game since January 2nd, and he has one goal, one assist, and 72 (!!!) penalty minutes this season. Perhaps he will drop the gloves with a former teammate tonight?
There is honestly no telling what this team will do at the end of February, but even with a few trades, the Rangers could possibly still be in playoff contention come April. They’re trending in the opposite direction at the moment.
Lundqvist has a .919 save percentage, and Ondrej Pavelec has a .912.
The Nashville Predators
Thursday’s game was a statement game. A fully healthy Nashville team cannot be underestimated. P.K. Subban still leads the team with 38 points, but now-healthy Forsberg is right behind him with 36 points. Subban is a few goals away from a career-high.
The JOFA and FiTS lines were reunited, and both lines were threatening from nearly every angle on ice. Turris and Johansen continue to feed pucks to their linemates, resulting in chance after chance.
In a pleasant surprise, the fourth line produced some points on Thursday. Young Colton Sissons scored his first goal in 20-something games off a feed from Miikka Salomaki. Along with Austin Watson, these grinders cannot be forgotten. Perhaps Sissons will continue to produce with added confidence from his last goal.
It does appear that the defense pairings are back to “normal,” with Roman Josi skating with Ryan Ellis and Subban skating with Mattias Ekholm. This leaves a question mark next to Alexei Emelin. Who can he best slot with on the third pair? The overall need is for Emelin not to suck, or worse, waste money sitting in the press box.
Our taller Finnish goaltender Pekka Rinne has now posted back-to-back shutouts and is on a 6-game win streak. Because we are in the second half of the season, we can’t be certain that Rinne will start tonight. However, with reliable backup Juuse Saros, the Predators are guaranteed a solid Finn in goal. It makes sense to give Rinne rest, and Saros has performed well, nearly equal to Rinne in the last few months.
Reasons to Watch
-Booing Jimmy Vesey.
Memories and Feelings
-Booing Jimmy Vesey is the best feeling.
-The last time the Rangers were in Nashville, Vesey scored the game-winning shootout goal on Juuse Saros. Let’s not repeat that tonight.
Tonight’s Theme Song
“If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. It’s pretty clear that this team has depth and can find ways to win games without their key players. However, with a fully healthy lineup (#FisherWatch2018), they can expect to remain dominant.
How to Watch
Puck drop is at 7 pm. Watch the game on Fox Sports-TN or listen to the radio call on 102.5 The Game.