Hi, y’all, and welcome back. It’s time for a game preview because there’s ACTUAL NASHVILLE PREDATORS HOCKEY TONIGHT. Hockey! HOCKEY! Hockey! *passes out*
Ok, here we go.
Here at OTF, we’ve gone over the offense, defense, young guns, and goaltenders in depth. We’ve studied this team for a few weeks and we’ve reported from practices and scrimmages. Whatever this roster is...whatever this team’s identity is...it’s time to see them put their practice to work tonight. Their main goal is to be tougher to play against. We need to see that happen as soon as the puck drops.
We’d love to see a big game from the JoFA line and I’m positive we’d love to see Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund begin their “redemption” seasons in a big way. Right now, we still have more questions than answers. Where does Erik Haula fit? What about Eeli Tolvanen? Who’s playing with Brad Richardson on the fourth line? And where does Luke Kunin go?
The defense remains relatively stable. Look for Roman Josi with Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm with Dante Fabbro, and the very shiny yet gritty third pairing of Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning.
It seems a little bit more than talk at this point...Pekka Rinne is no longer Nashville’s starter. 25-year-old Juuse Saros will be in net for tonight’s puck drop. His play in the qualifying round in August was pretty poor and he will certainly be looking to bounce back from three rough games against the Coyotes.
Behind the bench, it’s John Hynes, Dan Hinote, Todd Richards, and Dan Lambert.
The Blue Jackets look mostly the same as they did last season. They haven’t had any massive, major changes like many other clubs. On defense, they added Michael Del Zotto (it seems like Del Zotto has played for every team). Max Domi will line up at center for the Jackets.
37-year old Mikko Koivu, former Minnesota Wild captain, will be part of the Columbus lineup. He was not re-signed by the Wild. Mikhail Grigorenko, most recently with CSKA Moscow of the KHL, was signed by Columbus in the offseason. He’s a big body who might find himself in the middle 6.
In net, the Blue Jackets are pretty proud of both Elvis Merzlikins as well as Joonas Korpisalo. Likely riding the bench on the taxi squad will be Matiss Kivlenieks. Merzlikins has a very nice .923 Sv% in 33 games last season. Korpisalo played 37 games for Columbus, posting a .911 Sv%.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, who led Columbus last season in points with 49 (18 goals, 31 assists), has been recently re-signed to a bridge deal. He, however, wants out of Columbus.
As mentioned above, Max Domi was brought in from Montreal and can bring some edge to the top six. Cam Atkinson had a down year in 2019-2020, posting 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists). He’ll be looking to get back to his high-intensity, high-scoring ways in 2021.
Aside from a few free agent signings (Gavin Bayreuther, Michael Del Zotto) and trades (Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara), the defense doesn’t look too much different than it did in the summer. Trading both Nutivaara and Murray was questionable back in October. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski continue to lead the defensive corps and Jones is due for a big season and has seen his name appear in some Norris Trophy talk. Vladislav Gavrikov and David Savard are Columbus’s sneaky-good blueliners who really don’t get too much attention. Savard is one of those guys you’d miss if you DIDN’T have him, but he’s not going to score a ton of flashy goals.
John Tortorella is the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Reasons to Watch
I should not have to give you a reason to watch this game. Hockey, y’all.
Tonight’s Theme Song
“I Like it, I Love it” by Tim McGraw
How to Watch
Puck drop is at 7:00. FS-TN has your TV coverage and 102.5 The Game has the radio call.
(Author note: It’s an absolute honor to be able to bring you coverage this season. In the middle of a pandemic, an absurd world, and big life changes, the OTF family has stuck by me. I’m proud to be a part of this family.)