After a strong performance, but ultimate loss against, the Carolina Hurricanes on January 18, the Nashville Predators were hungry for a quick turnaround to test themselves against the Hurricanes once again. Unfortunately, the second game in the back to back was cancelled on January 19 after five Hurricanes players were placed in COVID-19 protocols.
Tonight this makeup game against a strong Carolina Hurricanes team will reveal whether the Predators are finally starting to gain a modicum of momentum or are just recent beneficiaries of a favorable schedule.
It has been a tumultuous stretch for Nashville since they last faced Carolina. The Predators come into this matchup having won four of their last six games. Of course, those four wins came against two of the bottom feeders in the newly created Central Division and have done little to erase the struggles the 10-11 Preds have faced. The successful series over the Blue Jackets highlighted the stand-out play of young Eeli Tolvanen and also the return of Mattias Ekholm, who scored two goals and made key defensive plays.
It is likely the Predators will continue to rely on Ben Harpur on the third defensive pairing with Mark Borowiecki still out with an upper-body injury. The Predators will have Mathieu Olivier available after missing eight games due to an upper-body injury. Sunday’s game against the Blue Jackets saw Luke Kunin head down the tunnel in the second period. His return to the lineup against Carolina is questionable.
The Predators found what could be an offensive spark with Filip Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen together on a line. The “Super Stache Bros” are the biggest offensive threat on the ice, so expect Carolina’s defense to focus on shutting down the Jedi and his Padawan.
If the Predators want to be taken seriously in the division, they will need a win against a solid team like Carolina.
Carolina swoops into Music City after an overtime win against a tenacious Florida Panthers team just last night. Despite only scoring three goals in Monday’s game, the Hurricanes have plenty of offensive firepower to keep the Predators busy. Vincent Trocheck leads the team with ten goals, followed by Nino Niederreiter with nine goals. Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Staal, and Brock McGinn have each netted seven, and Sebastian Aho has scored six times. Only Filip Forsberg on the Preds has more goals that those six Hurricanes players.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Carolina lately though. The Hurricanes recently dropped three games against top-ranked Tampa Bay. They have also had losses this season against Detroit, Chicago, and Columbus. They aren’t infallible.
Three Things the Preds Must Do:
- Produce Offensively. Carolina ranks 8th in the NHL with 3.25 Goals For/Games Played while Nashville sits at lowly number 28 in the league with a 2.29 Goals For/Games Played. Forsberg and Tolvanen will garner plenty of defensive attention. This would be a great time for players like Johansen, Duchene, and perhaps a D-man or two to find the back of the net.
- Limit little (and big) mistakes. This game is within reach if the Predators do the little things well—puck possession, faceoff wins, limiting penalties, executing on power plays. The Preds cannot turn over the puck in the defensive zone and not expect Carolina (or, as we saw, Columbus) to capitalize on that. Too many little mistakes and the game could quickly get away from them.
- Good in goal. After Saros started both back to back games against Columbus, it is likely Pekka Rinne will be in goal for the Predators. The team will need a vintage Pekka performance to keep the Predators in the game.
How to Watch
You can watch the Hurricanes/Predators makeup game on FS-TN or listen at 102.5 The Game. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM Central.
Let’s set the mood with an inspiring musical sports classic...with a twist. This performance serves as an accurate metaphor for how the Predators could snag a potential victory over Carolina at Bridgestone tonight.