Tonight the Nashville Predators (29-18-4) play the Vegas Golden Knights (29-18-4) in a matchup of even-record teams, a rare sight this late into the NHL season. The Predators will be one of the few teams this season to face the Golden Knights without staring down a familiar face, as James Neal, selected by Vegas in the expansion draft, now plays in Calgary.
In the second quarter of this season, the Golden Knights woke up from their early-season slumber. Storming their way back to a top three spot in the Pacific Division, their newfound health has paid off in spades for their club. Will the Predators manage to hold them back tonight?
Vegas Golden Knights
A large story last year was made of William Karlsson and his tremendous season for Vegas, potting 43 goals and 78 points. However, many pundits were quick to point out his unsustainable 23.4 shooting percentage as the reason for such an increase in scoring. As expected, Karlsson is far off of his pace this season with only 16 goals so far, but he is still shooting 15.5%, indicating that he just may very well be one of the better snipers in the league when the puck is on his stick.
Leading Vegas in points this season is the 22-year-old Alex Tuch with 39 points in 42 games. With 37 points last year, the young gun already surpassed his previous total and is on his way to being one of the most underrated stars in the NHL. A fast player who makes very quick decisions with the puck, he has been driving play for Vegas. With an even strength corsi-for percentage of 53.7%, Tuch’s influence can be felt whenever he touches the puck.
Marc-Andre Fleury of course holds down the duties between the pipes, with Malcolm Subban, P.K.’s brother, as his backup. Signing a hefty contract last off-season, Fleury has posted a respectable .911 save percentage and 2.50 goals against average. Expect him to put up a strong showing against the Predators tonight.
After serving a two-game suspension for a high stick against the Winnipeg Jets, Ryan Johansen returns to the lineup tonight. Despite the Predators' going 1-1 in his absence, it cannot be overstated how critical Johansen is to this Predators roster. Especially with Kyle Turris still not playing due to a lingering injury, the Predators need Johansen in the roster to provide a center capable of matching up against other teams' top centers.
Even against the Avalanche in their 4-1 win, the Predators were heavily outplayed at even strength. Considering how bad their power play has been all season, the Predators absolutely cannot afford to play poorly at 5v5.
The Predators have earned a number of “bad wins” this season where they have played poorly and still come away with a win due to luck and Rinne stopping everything in his path. The Colorado game is just another in a list that most notably includes the 4-0 win over Toronto and 3-0 win over Winnipeg. In these big games Rinne has come up huge, but he should not need to.
Hopefully with Johansen returning to the lineup, the Predators can put together the complete performance that fans have not seen in quite a bit of time.
Reasons to Watch
- Ryan Johansen returns, re-uniting JOFA and re-igniting our hearts.
- On the note of JOFA, Viktor Arvidsson already has ten goals in January. February may be Filbruary, but Jarvuary has to finish first.
- After Gnash’s guitar skit last game against Vegas, will they have any special pregame banter in store?
Unfortunately I have an adult league game tonight starting at 10:50et, so I will not be watching the game tonight. I’ll be having some chicken parmesan a few hours prior to get some pregame carbs in before puck drop.
Sights and Sounds
The game begins at 9:00ct. NBCSN will televise the game while 102.5 The Game will broadcast it over the radio.