With a 2-4-1 record, Nashville enters tonight’s contest on a five-game losing streak, having last dropped an ugly contest to the Philadelphia Flyers. They’ll welcome division rival St. Louis (3-2-0) to town, who fell to the Edmonton Oilers last night, 3-1 with Jordan Binnington in net.
This will be as close to a must-win contest as you’ll find this early in the season. If Nashville continues to drop points, will questions about staff changes become more prominent? Can the power play begin to right the ship? Take a look below for everything you need to know before this Central Division matchup.
Last time out, Nashville dropped a 3-1 contest to the Philadelphia Flyers despite controlling possession the entire night (59% to 41% Corsi For at 5-on-5). In fact, Nashville controlled almost the entire pace of the game. They nearly doubled the Flyers in high-danger shot attempts (13 to seven) and notched 2.36 expected goals to the Flyers’ 1.77 at even strength. Regardless, Carter Hart pitched a shutout at even strength and a 0.969 save percentage overall. There are some encouraging signs there, but Nashville has to start burying their chances in all situations; the power play currently sits 29th in the league at a putrid 6.9% success rate.
Defender Mark Borowiecki has been released from the hospital with no major injuries after a check from Morgan Frost. Nashville announced on Sunday that his return to the ice is subject to further rest and testing. Alongside that, John Hynes has shown that Nashville will be switching up its defensive pairs for this game:
#Preds are gonna be switching up the D-pairs this week.— Robby Stanley (@RStanleyNHL) October 25, 2022
The Predators still rank last in the league in goals allowed in the final three minutes of any period — something that continued against the Flyers:
After including yesterday's games, I've updated these charts that show which teams allowed the most goals against in the final 3 minutes of any regulation period and regulation— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) October 24, 2022
No surprise, but #Smashville ranks dead last in both metrics@OnTheForecheck @RenegadesOfPuck pic.twitter.com/27zvsYGgPo
At forward, Nino Niederreiter continues to lead the team with four goals, and Mikael Granlund leads the squad with six points in seven games. While some depth pieces have gotten their fair share of criticism, Nashville needs more out of its top six; Granlund and Eeli Tolvanen are rocking 45.86% and 45.52% shot shares at 5-on-5 and Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen are just barely scraping above 50%. On the other hand, Cody Glass continues to shine relative to his competition. He’s sporting a 65.30% expected goals-for rate compared to Michael McCarron’s 27.51% at 5-on-5 play. I wouldn’t expect any major lineup changes among this group.
With a long break, I imagine Hynes will go back to Juuse Saros in the net; he’s looked pedestrian so far this season stopping just 0.21 goals above average.
Player to Watch: Mattias Ekholm
The Mattias Ekholm-Ryan McDonagh experiment has failed to start the season. As OTF friend Alex Daugherty noted, that pairing is 89th out of 96th in expected goals allowed. With them likely being split up tonight, Ekholm has a chance to rebound and show his true value to this club. Otherwise, Nashville’s defensive depth could be in trouble.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues lost 3-1 to the Edmonton Oilers last night before traveling to Nashville. Despite their winning record, the Blues haven’t played particularly sound outside of outstanding goaltending from Jordan Binnington. They have a team 5-on-5 save percentage of 92.7% and a 43.3% Corsi For rate; they’ve also scored just seven 5-on-5 goals compared to their 10.4 expected goals-for.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Justin Faulk are leading the team offensively, but the team has been dealing with some significant injuries. Forward Pavel Buchnevich is currently on injured reserve, and Brandon Saad did not play last night due to an upper-body injury. As a result, Head Coach Craig Berube moved Ivan Barbashev up to the top line alongside Ryan O’Reilly and Jordan Kyrou. The Blues also signed camp invitee Tyler Pitlick to a one-year deal this week to compensate for Buchnevich’s absence.
St. Louis’ defense will be led by Colton Parayko and Nick Leddy on the top pair with Torey Krug and Justin Faulk behind them.
Entering tonight, the Blues are sporting a league-best 100% penalty-kill success rate and a 16th-best 22.2% power-play conversion rate.
Player to Watch: Thomas Greiss
With Jordan Binnington getting the start last night, expect Greiss to start his second game of the season against the Predators. Greiss was busy earlier this week, stopping 39 of 42 shots in a 4-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
How to Watch
Puck drop is at 7:00 pm CDT tonight, and you can watch on ESPN+ or Hulu. The game will not be broadcast on Bally Sports South. As usual, the Nashville radio call will be on 102.5 The Game.
All statistics are courtesy of NHL.com, Natural Stat Trick, or hockey-reference.com.