The changes in Smashville have come fast and furious since the Predators were eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes back in May. The team lost defensive pillar Ryan Ellis and beloved forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson while welcoming new names like Cody Glass, Matthew Luff, and Philippe Myers. The youth “retooling” is well underway, and John Hynes has just three exhibition games after tonight to decide who will make the final Predators roster and which line combinations and pairings will best set Nashville up for success.
- Forsberg, Duchene, Johansen - how much will we see them together?
Even before Arvidsson’s postseason exit ensuring the dissolution of the JoFA line, the trio of 9, 95, 92 generated some buzz playing together at the end of last season. They were together for a good portion of the training camp scrimmages last week creating some exciting and unexpected action. It will be interesting to see if John Hynes give these three more ice time together to build on their blossoming chemistry or if their value on tonight’s roster will come playing on lines with some of the younger, on the cusp players to help identify who is most ready to play opening night. It is hard to say how much - or if - fans will see FoDuJo (?) action tonight. Whether they are together or split up, what happens with and around these three veterans will provide valuable information for Coach Hynes and fans.
2. How will the defensemen sort out?
Despite the “retooling”, there are some absolutes, especially on the blue line - Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm (and probably a healthy Dante Fabbro). But with a plethora of young defensemen ready to compete for a roster spot, Hynes will be carefully watching players like Alexandre Carrier, Jeremy Davies, David Farrance, and Philippe Myers (who arrived in Nashville via the Ryan Ellis trade). Who has strong defensive play to complement a more offensively minded defensive partner like Josi? Who can anticipate and interrupt an imposing offensive attack by the Tampa Bay Lightning down low? A handful of defensive breakdowns in front of the net against Florida need to be eliminated in tonight’s match up. There is plenty of young defensive talent in Nashville, but how to best pair up the blueliners will become a little more clear with each preseason outing.
3. Who can step up on special teams?
The power play was the abysmal nightmare of last season with Eeli Tolvanen periodically being a lone bright spot. With Tolvanen out of the line up tonight, is there someone who could step up and show out on the man advantage? Forsberg, who was responsible for a majority of assists on Tolvy’s power play goals, will be on the ice and could help produce some magic on the power play. Could Rem Pitlick or Tommy Novak shine on special teams in tonight’s line up?
It’s true that preseason games are very much like the TV comedy show Who’s Line Is It Anyway - the points don’t always matter. There are still important storylines to watch as this specific Predators roster takes the ice at Amalie Arena this evening. What John Hynes and his staff take away from this game will influence roster moves as the team approaches October 14 opening game.