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Nashville Predators vs. Buffalo Sabres Preview: Saturday Night’s Alright

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The Predators face off against the Buffalo Sabres on the first half of a back-to-back tonight at Bridgestone. In addition, the Predators can clinch the Central Division with a win tonight and a Jets loss to Toronto.

The Preds seek to complete a perfect homestand this evening. To put the icing on the cake, Eeli Tolvanen is here and skating with the Preds. He could potentially make his debut this evening. What a heck of a Saturday night in Nashville it’ll be!!!

The Nashville Predators

The Predators were firing on all cylinders on Thursday...with the minor exception of the power play. The Predators continue to take far too many penalties, and it might not be an issue against Buffalo, but it’s certainly an issue against teams like Minnesota and Winnipeg.

We could see Juuse Saros back in net tonight, leaving Pekka Rinne to face off against Tampa Bay tomorrow on the second half of this home-and-away back-to-back. He performed admirably on Thursday, keeping his team in the game against a fierce Sharks team. Young Saros can boast a .925 save percentage. Not bad for a 22-year-old kid.

Viktor Arvidsson is one point shy of his 30th goal of the season (Jared), and Ryan Ellis has 28 points in 39 games. P.K. Subban continues to put up points...he has 55 on the season. As mentioned in Bobby’s article last week, Craig Smith has been ripping it up recently for Nashville. He notched a goal on Thursday to add to his 46 points.

The Fox Sports broadcast continually brags on how Mattias Ekholm (a new dad!!!), Colton Sissons, and Austin Watson are having career years. It’s true. There are so many stars on this team because the entire team puts forth effort every night. 14 players have over 20 points on the season.

If you’ve missed the Eeli Tolvanen news, you’ve likely been under a rock or perhaps dead. He arrived in Nashville early Thursday, and was kind enough to do radio and TV interviews during Thursday’s game. He’s been practicing with the team, and Coach Laviolette mentioned he would get a game this weekend. #11 is here, folks.

Side note: The team store will have Tolvanen shirseys and jerseys tonight! Run!!!

The Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are 24-41-12 on the season. They sit in the bottom of the League, and may the lottery draft gods be with them.

The Sabres signed their own “new” kid last week. Draft pick Casey Middlestadt signed from his college club and has skated in a few games already. He has tons of promise, and could prove to be a good lineman for Jack Eichel.

The Sabres have accepted their fate for the season, but they haven’t rolled over and given up. Coach Phil Housley has ensured his club continues to fight, and Buffalo has pulled off some wins against one big club last week: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jack Eichel has 25 goals and 32 assists in a difficult season for the kid. He’s struggled with Buffalo’s rebuilding, but he is certainly a leader who can lead them to future success. Ryan O’Rielly has 54 points on the season, Sam Reinhart has 44, and Kyle Okposo has 40. Again, their prospects simply need time to develop into NHL-level talent. They have the right mix of leaders and youth to succeed in the next few years.

Buffalo is certainly lacking in the goaltending department. The Predators saw Linus Ullmark on their trip to Buffalo two weeks ago. He’s only started 5 games, and he has a .935 SVC. Robin Lehner has started 53 games and he has a .908 SVC. Chad Johnson has done even more poorly in his 31 games. He has a .897 SVC. The Sabres need to find solid goaltending in order to compete against other Eastern conference teams.

To be honest, Buffalo is a team I want to succeed in the future. They’ve sat in the lower half of the League for what seems like 30 years, and they’ve selected plenty of high-end talent in the draft.

Memories and Feelings

-”Little Bear” Juuse Saros’ first NHL start was against the Buffalo Sabres. It wasn’t a great game, so I’m sure Saros will be looking to avenge that outing at home in front of the Seventh Man.

-Nashville Predators fans feel very strongly about Eeli Tolvanen. He was trending on Twitter for most of Thursday.

Reasons to Watch

-We have Eeli Tolvanen, he has a golden wrist (and might even play)

-How will the Preds play against a statistically eliminated-from-the-playoffs team?

-The Predators can clinch the Central Division FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FRANCHISE HISTORY with a win against Buffalo (and a Jets loss to the Leafs).

Tonight’s Theme Song

“Don’t Stop Believing’” by Journey. Ladies and gentleman, it’s nearly April. We have Eeli Tolvanen in Nashville. Guys like Yannick Weber and Calle Jarnkrok are healing up. We have plenty of things to believe in as we push toward the playoffs. It’s time to hold on to that Stanley Cup feeling!!!

How to Watch

Tonight’s game, as always, will be on Fox Sports-TN. The radio call is on 102.5 The Game, and puck drop is at 7 pm Central.