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Nashville Predators @ Tampa Bay Lightning Preview 3/15/21: I’ve Got Expectations In Low Places

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The Predators get a little bit of a boost in the line-up, but still have a tall hill to climb against the league’s best

NHL: Nashville Predators at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Monday afternoon hockey, ladies and gentlemen! The Nashville Predators finish off their two-game series on the Gulf Coast today at 3:00 PM CT for reasons not entirely clear. But hey, at least it’s not an 11 P.M. start, right?

Saturday’s game against the Lightning saw the Predators play an overall solid game that still resulted in a 6-3 loss. The Preds spent a lot of time in the Tampa Bay zone, even putting three goals past Vasilevskiy (a rare task). But what makes the Lightning a special team is their ability to capitalize on their chances. All it took were a couple of small, 30-second momentum swings, and viola... we saw a Lightning goal.

It certainly didn’t help that the Predators are still without many of their “big guns.” Six rookies took the ice against the Lightning Saturday. Today, however, the Preds should get a little boost in the line-up.

Three Things to Watch

  1. The Return of Dante Fabbro
NHL: Nashville Predators at Columbus Blue Jackets
Dante Fabbro is expected to return to the Predators lineup Monday afternoon against the Lightning
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The 22-year-old blueliner is expected back in the lineup following a two-game suspension for a bad hit on Carolina’s Brock McGinn last week. Fabbro’s couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Preds, who are currently missing Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mark Borowiecki due to injury.

With Fabbro back in the line-up, the Preds now have a bit more “normalcy” at the top of the defensive depth chart with he and Ekholm on the top pair. Fabbro’s been one of the Predators’ most-improved players this season; He’s been reliable in his own zone, and is starting to come into his own offensively. There’s still plenty of room to growth, which is why these next few games are going to be critical for his development.

2. Can The Youngsters Continue to Shine?

If there’s been one bright spot for the Preds the past few games, it’s been the (somewhat surprising) performance of their rookies, especially on the blueline. Alexandré Carrier has looked like a rising star in his two-game stint on the Preds top pair, which saw him carry the lion’s share of the team’s power play and penalty killing minutes. Jeremy Davies, who has inherited more ice time since Borowiecki’s injury and Fabbro’s suspension hasn’t really stood out one way or another. But that’s in no way a bad thing. He’s simply making routine plays without making huge mistakes, which is exactly what you’d want to see from someone just 3 games into his NHL career. Frederic Allard, on the other hand, had an up-and-down debut Saturday. He had one noticeable misplay, which led to the rush that spurred Tampa’s first goal, but he followed that up with a couple of great plays in his own zone.

Up front, Yakov Trenin is coming off easily the best game of his career. Trenin has evolved from that exciting “big body” who dished out big hits into a more well-rounded player who’s using his size and physicality to set up quality scoring chances.

There have been plenty of flashes of brilliance. Now what I want to see is the up-and-comers start stringing these flashes into consistent solid play. Chances are they’re going to get a lot of opportunities to do so over the next several weeks.

3. Help For Pekka

NHL: Nashville Predators at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Juuse Saros is reportedly close to a return, but as of this publication, he has yet to removed from IR, which makes it likely Pekka Rinne will make his seventh consecutive start. That’s the longest such streak for him since the 2018-19 season. The results have not been great during this stretch; The Preds are 1-4-1 since Saros’s injury, and Rinne has allowed 5 goals or more in four of those games.

That being said, he hasn’t had the best help in the world either. The Predators are giving up an average of just over 32 shots per game over the last six games. A lot of those are coming from second-chance opportunities born from the inability to clear the front of the net, or rush chances created by offensive or neutral zone turnovers.

Is Pekka Rinne the same Pekka Rinne from the 2010s? Of course not. But he’s also made a lot of saves that have kept the Preds in games they had no business being in. The best thing Nashville can do to help out their goalie is to make it harder to put pucks on net, and perhaps start capitalizing on their own chances on the other end of the ice.

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How To Watch

Puck Drop: 3:00 PM CT
Local TV: Fox Sports Tennessee
National TV: NHL.TV (subscription required)
Radio: 102.5 The Game