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Nashville Predators vs. New Jersey Devils preview: Welcome Back, P.K.

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The Preds expect some fun antics when they face their former teammate at Bridgestone Arena.

2016 NHL All-Star - Red Carpet Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Tonight, the Predators are back at Bridgestone Arena to take on the New Jers...

Eh, let’s skip all that. We know what you’re watching for tonight. It’s P.K. Subban’s return to Smashville.

While it’s still early to fully grade the circumstances that sent Pernell Karl to the Devils, you can’t argue that losing Subban didn’t sting a little bit. And that’s not just because he was one of the best defensemen in the league.

The trade meant the loss of a guy who invented countless hours in improving lives around Nashville; whether it be teaming with Metro Police to start the Blueline Buddies program, going undercover to plan a free Christmas celebration for a family in need, or just spending some time with kids in the most dire need of some positivity.

Plus, he was just a fun guy to watch!

Barring some last-minute tirade against Pekka Rinne, catfish, or Dolly Parton, Subban is going to get a well-deserved ovation from the Preds faithful tonight. His former teammates, however, sound like they’ll be a bit more ruthless with their welcome.

Welcome back, P.K.

The Matchup

The Line Blender Returneth

Another game, another shake-up with the Predators’ lineup.

Peter Laviolette’s experiment of a Forsberg-Johansen-Duchene super-line lasted only half of a game (partially due to Johansen’s ejection). The trio were okay Tuesday against Tampa Bay, posting a Corsi For percentage of just over 55%. But they didn’t have a huge impact on the game.

So instead, Laviolette will return to a couple of combos that HAVE worked this season. Calle Järnkrok and Ryan Johansen have spent most of the season on the same line, while Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris showed good chemistry in a limited sample size together. Mikael Granlund, meanwhile, looks like he’ll be out of the line-up again with a lower-body injury.

Yakity-Yak, Welcome Back

Another roster change is the addition of Yakov Trenin, last week’s AHL player of the week, to the Preds’ lineup. The 22-year-old is having a breakout season in Milwaukee, with 26 points (14G, 12A) in just 19 games.

The 6’2” forward has been somewhat overshadowed by other Predators prospects, but he’s quietly developed a more well-rounded game in the AHL over the past calendar year (something Eric noted at the end of last year).

Trenin will start on the fourth line next to Colton Sissons and Austin Watson, and with Mathieu Olivier back in Milwaukee, this call-up could be an audition for Trenin to earn a long-term spot in the Preds’ bottom six.

A Devil of a Dumpster Fire

There’s not many ways to sugar-coat what’s been happening with the Devils this season. They have the second worst record in the league. What makes it worse is that New Jersey was supposed to be fairly competitive, especially after adding Subban to a core that included Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and this year’s number one pick Jack Hughes.

The Devils fired coach John Hynes after a 7-1 loss Monday night. But so far they haven’t found any better luck with interim Alain Nasreddine. They’ve lost both games since the coaching change, including last night’s 2-1 loss to Chicago.

One of the biggest culprits to the Devils’ struggles has been goaltending. The three goalies who’ve suited up for the team this year have a combined save percentage of just .884, second worst in the league, only in front of Detroit. That’s despite the Devils playing pretty sound defense in front of Mackenzie Blackwood and Louis Domingue; New Jersey’s actually fifth best in the league in expected goals against at 2.35 xGA, and they don’t give up a lot of high-danger chances.

Micah Blake McCurdy: HockeyViz.com

This game might also give the Predators a much-needed opportunity to scout the aforementioned Taylor Hall. The 28-year-old is reportedly on the trade block, and several of the Preds’ division rivals, including Colorado, St. Louis, and Dallas, are rumored to be kicking the tires on a deal.

Reasons to Watch

  • P.K. Subban’s return
  • A reason to stay inside with a cup of cocoa and a blanket on a cold December night
  • P.K. Subban’s return
  • It’s either watch this, or watch Ohio State win another dumb conference championship
  • The return of P.K. Subban
  • And finally, being able to see P.K. Subban’s homecoming to Bridgestone Arena

How To Watch

Puck Drop: 7:00 P.M. CST
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee, ESPN+ (if you don’t have it, you can get it here.)
Radio: 102.5 The Game