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John Hynes faces tough lineup decisions heading into playoff opener

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Will Eeli Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro see the ice tonight?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

I’m not trying to be sensational, but John Hynes caused some commotion throughout the Nashville Predators fan community when he made comments on the radio on Friday that Eeli Tolvanen may not be in the line up for Game 1. This caused a shockwave that threw a lot of people off as they looked toward tonight’s game. However, he was able to address the situation during media availability on Friday afternoon.

First and foremost, he got a major elephant out of the room by saying that the lineup would probably change from game to game. Now, whether or not this happens remains to be seen, as the nightly lineup during the qualifying round last season seemed almost set in stone. At this point, I’m willing to take him at his word, because we’ve reached a point in his tenure with the team where John Hynes knows his players and knows what he has in each one of them. He also knows enough to know when they aren’t performing at the top of their game.

Of course, when he was asked about Eeli Tolvanen, he seemed very comfortable pointing out that he didn’t think Tolvanen came back from his injury the same as he was when he went out. That’s not a point I can argue against. It’s safe to say we all thought that the return of Tolvanen—and his reunion with Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, Roman Josi, and Ryan Johansen on the first power play unit—would be like throwing a Kroger bag of gasoline into a fire, but it wasn’t.

NHL: MAR 30 Stars at Predators Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tolvanen was also absent from practice that same day, so it appears there’s something keeping him from being back at 100%. If you take that absence as a “maintenance day”, it may just mean he needed to rest something that was nagging him so he would be able to return at 100% for Game 2 (or maybe even Game 1).

Hynes said he felt like Tolvanen had another level he could reach at this stage, and I’d have to agree. I would much rather have him miss Game 1, then come back in for Game 2 at 100%, than I would have him come into Game 1 with a nagging holdover from his injury and struggle.

And while we’re at it, Hynes also mentioned Dante Fabbro needing to find his higher gear after returning from injury as well. He mentioned being quicker to execute, but didn’t go into as much detail. I would not be surprised to see either or both of those players missing from the lineup tonight, but I would, for sure, prefer to see them both back in at 100% whenever they take their first shift in the playoffs.

Hynes said there would be players out for Game 1 that we would probably think should be “in” for Game 1. However, as there’s been all season long, there’s a heavy team focus and Hynes pointed out that those individuals would stay ready to go. So, it may not be what you want to see, but there’s a big part of me that wants to say this is for the best. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen.

Dallas Stars v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images