Y’all... we’ve made it. 151 days after the Nashville Predators last played a meaningful hockey game, we’ve arrived at the regular season!
This year’s Predators season has a bit of a non-traditional start; the Predators play the San Jose Sharks in Prague, Czechia. Today is the first game of a two-game double-header between the two in Prague as part of the NHL’s Global Series. The second game will happen on Saturday, after which, the Preds will return to Bridgestone Arena for their home opener against the Dallas Stars this Thursday.
There’s no shortage of storylines heading into the season for the Preds, so let’s get to it!
Three Things to Watch
- Can the Predators Handle the “Novelty” of the Weekend?
The Predators have been fortunate to take part in some games with unique atmospheres in recent years, such as last season’s Stadium Series and the Winter Classic in 2020. The downside of that is that the Preds didn’t exactly fare well in those games.
There was a bit of a trend in both of those prior games. The Predators jumped out to hot starts, fueled by a energy of the atmosphere, but as they game got going, they never seemed to settle back into their gameplans.
Obvious, there are some differences between those games and today’s. This isn’t outdoors, and the Sharks aren’t exactly the ‘20 Dallas Stars or the ‘22 Tampa Bay Lightning. But any game 5,000 from home in front of a different set of fans is still going to have a different feel.
The question today is whether the Predators can shake off the “different-ness” and settle into their routines. They had a little difficulty doing that at the start of their preseason game against SC Bern, but found their groove as the game went on. The Preds are hoping to continue that momentum, and hope that the Bern game serves as a “tune-up” for these next two that actually count in the standings.
2. Are Auditions For Roster Spots Still Happenings?
If a tweet from Willy Daunic is any indication, it appears the Preds may enter their opening game with the same line combinations we saw in Bern. That lineup most notably features Kiefer Sherwood on the second line with Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter, and long-time Admiral Cole Smith on the fourth line with Cody Glass and Eeli Tolvanen.
The Sherwood and Smith inclusions would have seemed like a surprise just a few weeks ago, but both players have earned their spots with near-flawless preseasons. The obvious question is where this leaves some of the other players vying for spots, such as Phil Tomasino (who seemed primed for a top six role just a week ago,) Michael McCarron, and Zach Sanford.
There’s a strong chance we still see a couple of those guys this weekend. With back-to-back games and the Preds getting to use an extended 27-man roster for the Global Series, it would make sense for Hynes to perhaps give a couple of different guys a chance in the lineup.
3. Former Preds Playing Prominent Roles in San Jose
This year’s Sharks line-up is littered with former Preds with something to prove against their former team. One of the more notable ones is Luke Kunin, whose play with the Preds last season didn’t exactly make him a fan favorite. This year, however, Kunin’s gelled with his new Sharks teammates. He’s spent a bulk of the preseason playing on the Sharks’ top line with Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl and has played in a number of special teams situations.
Another player expected to earn some big minutes this season is Matt Benning. With injuries and age plaguing the Sharks blueline, Benning found has found himself with a bigger responsibility than he had in Nashville. That, apparently, includes a role on the Sharks’ power play.
#SJSharks power play units at practice: Karlsson-Meier-Hertl-Couture-Kunin, Benning-Ferraro-Bonino-Lindblom-Labanc— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) October 6, 2022
And of course, there’s Nick Bonino. The former Preds fan-favorite is still trucking along in the Sharks’ bottom six. While not the same player he was a few seasons back, he’s still a decent threat to score when on the ice, with 16 goals last season.
How to Watch
Puck Drop: 1 PM CST
TV: Bally Sports, NHL Network
Radio: 102.5 The Game