After yet another dispiriting loss to finish out their road trip, the Nashville Predators return home to face off against the New York Rangers. The Rangers have had a middling, up-and-down kind of season, but they come into tonight off a big win—8-2 over the Detroit Red Wings, who are actually having a good season this year.
The Nashville Predators
Kevin Lankinen was in net for Thursday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche, and looked very mortal. There’s been a current of belief in some quarters that Saros is the problem, and hopefully that took a much-deserved shaking up this week. While Saros hasn’t been his late-season self, he has been far from the only problem with this team.
The Preds have a bad habit of taking too many penalties against better teams and then failing to kill those penalties. They struggle to score, due in large part to a lack of offensive creativity and good passing. These are correctible issues, but every game it gets harder to believe that they’re going to be corrected.
Cody Glass and Eeli Tolvanen were bright spots in Thursday’s loss, though they didn’t get much icetime. Filip Forsberg continues to display a drive to win that isn’t always matched by his linemates. Players like Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen show some flickers of living up to their contracts. There have definitely been moments that make the Preds worth watching this season, but the record—and the overall experience—have been frustrating.
However, there’s another spark of excitement: the team has sent Jordan Gross back down to Milwaukee and recalled Jusso Pärssinen to take his place. Pärssinen is a talented young forward with an impressive work ethic, and he’ll be motivated to succeed in this chance at the NHL level.
The New York Rangers
The Rangers are probably not having quite the season their fans had hoped for either. Top-shelf draft picks like Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko haven’t yet been the prime contributors one might expect, but the Rangers are still getting plenty of scoring from more experienced imports.
Artemi Panarin leads the team with 21 points on the season—15 assists and 6 goals. Young defender Adam Fox has also been racking up the assists, bringing 12 as well as 4 goals, while Mika Zibanejad leads the team in goals with 9 and has added 9 assists of his own. Chris Kreider is still a threat as well, with 6G/7A, though given the state of the Preds this season he’s more likely to score on whoever’s in net tonight than skate into them.
Igor Shesterkin has been having a pretty decent season. He’s handled his workload well and turned in an above-average performance with it, for a sv% of .909 on the season. Jaroslav Halák, a decade older than Shesterkin, has backed him up to the tune of a .882. Halák has yet to record a win on the season.
The Rangers have a good power play and a fine penalty kill which is also a threat offensively, and they’ve been drawing more penalties than they take. However, for once they’re not riding the high tide of impressive shooting and save percentages—a long-time staple of the team’s even-strength play. What that will look like on the ice tonight, we’ll have to find out.
How to Watch
The game starts at 7PM Central (8PM Eastern) again at last, and will air on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.