When the Nashville Predators (39-30-8, 86 pts) started announcing all of the trades during the trade deadline, very few people thought that almost three months later we’d still be worrying about a playoff berth, but here we are. Nashville sits at 86 points, just 3 behind both Calgary (2 games in hand) and Winnipeg (1 game in hand) for the 8th and final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. After tonight’s game, the next two matchups are against those two teams, so every game matters – but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about the matter at hand: the Carolina Hurricanes (50-18-9, 109 pts).
The Hurricanes enter the game on a three game winning streak, most recently a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators. However, the Canes aren’t likely to take this matchup lightly, as New Jersey (3 points back) and the Rangers (6 points back) are not out of the race for the Metro title just yet. The Hurricanes are a pretty stingy team on defense, as their 2.53 goals allowed/game ranks second in the NHL. The Carolina penalty kill is elite as well – they also rank 2nd in the NHL with an 83.8% PK percentage.
Surprisingly, the Predators lead the season series 1-0 after a record-setting 5-3 victory on January 5th – you may remember this as the game where Juuse Saros made 64 saves (a franchise record, tied for 3rd most in history) on 67 shots. Nashville’s defense let nearly everything through, but Saros being outstanding kept the Canes from coming back. However, Nashville is almost a completely different team than it was just 3 months ago. Nashville is without seven of it’s twelve forwards in that game, and without three of their defensemen. Among those missing this game that had points in the previous matchup are Filip Forsberg (1G), Mattias Ekholm (1G), Juuso Parssinen (2A), Mikael Granlund (1A), Roman Josi (1A), Alex Carrier (1A), Ryan Johansen (1A) and Matt Duchene (1A).
For Carolina, goaltender Frederik Andersen (20-9-1, 90.4% save) gets the start, and Teuvo Teravainen will rejoin the lineup, likely replacing Paul Stastny.
As for Nashville, it’s likely that Juuse Saros will get the start (30-22-7, 91.6% save percentage). Saros currently leads all goaltenders in Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) metric, and sits second in the league with 39.4 goals saved above expected (GSAx). Also, forward John Leonard was reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals yesterday, so Zach Sanford has been recalled and will likely take Leonard’s spot in the lineup. Based on last game’s lines, here’s the projected lines for the night:
Afanasyev – Glass – Tomasino
Sherwood – Novak – Evangelista
Trenin – Sissons – Asplund
Sanford – Jankowski – McCarron
McDonagh – Fabbro
Stastney – Barrie
Gravel – Foote
The Nashville Predators need to get points out of this matchup if they want to hold on to their slim chances at the playoffs. According to HockeyViz.com, the Predators sit at a 16% chance of making the playoffs. The result of tonight’s game will have a big impact on their chances:
- Nashville wins in regulation: 24%
- Nashville wins in OT/SO: 23%
- Carolina wins in OT/SO: 13%
- Carolina wins in regulation: 7%
Players to Watch: Nashville
Tommy Novak, F
One of this season’s biggest bright spots, Novak enters tonight’s contest with 17 goals and 41 points in 46 games. In his last three games, Novak posted three goals and seven points, however in the January matchup with Carolina, Novak was held without a single shot on goal and no points. Without the star power the Predators have been missing from the first matchup, Novak – perhaps the team’s best skater at the moment – will have to step up and take charge in this game to keep up with the fast-paced Hurricanes.
Players to Watch: Carolina
Seth Jarvis, F
Jarvis is an incredibly fun young player to watch in just his second NHL season. He currently has 13 goals and 35 points in 77 games for Carolina, slightly less than the totals from his rookie campaign (17G, 40pts). Jarvis has proven to be a solid two-way forward that can influence the ice on either end. Nashville will likely focus on stopping some of Carolina’s more high-profile players, so Jarvis will likely get several opportunities against Nashville tonight.
How to Watch
The game will be broadcast on ESPN+/Hulu and 102.5 The Game at 7 pm Central/8 pm Eastern.