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Game Preview/Live Thread: Nashville Predators @ Florida Panthers 3/21/24

Jan 22, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators players celebrate after a goal by Nashville Predators defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (not pictured) during the second period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators hit the road tonight to face the Florida Panthers, a powerhouse looking to rebound from back-to-back recent losses. The Panthers have lost three in a row only once this season, in a mid-January slump that saw them go 0-2-2.

They are, in almost every respect, a great team. They’ve combined fantastic special teams with getting the much-needed bounces in those situations, and they’ve had the enviable combination of great goaltending behind great defense at even strength. Anthony Stolarz in particular has stood out, with some exceptional work resulting in a .925 sv% in his limited starts. Sergei Bobrobvsky has also been extremely good, managing a .916 with a heavier workload.

The Panthers’ one weakness, if you can call it that, is that they’ve had terrible shooting luck at even strength. They get to the front of the net often and with verve, take a lot of shots, and are just not scoring as many goals as they should be, coming in tied for 26th in the league in 5v5 goals. This is a scary thought, since they’re still comfortably above average in total goals scored (222).

Sam Reinhart leads the team with 48 of those goals, as well as 79 points, while Matthew Tkachuk is right behind him with 76 points and a team-leading 54 assists. Carter Verhaege and Aleksander Barkov round out the biggest contributors, but there are a lot of players not to overlook.

The Panthers’ even-strength luck is bound to return at some point, and until then they can stifle their opponents at even strength and hurt them on the power play. We’re likely to see a lot of special teams tonight, as both teams play a style that leads to both taking and drawing a lot of penalties. Matthew Tkachuk and Eetu Luostarinen have both been excellent at getting under their opponents’ skins this year, so hoping not to see the Panthers’ lethal power play at all is probably too much to hope for.

The Preds have been playing great lately, but this game is going to be a challenge. It starts at 6:30 Central, and airs on ESPN+ and Hulu, or tune in to 102.5 The Game for the radio call.

Statistics from naturalstattrick.com. Additional background from hockeyviz.com.

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