Martel's Musings: Game 1 - Nashville vs Carolina
It's finally here: Nashville's first game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes gets underway about 7:00pm tonight at Bridgestone Arena.
After all of the preseason hullabaloo surrounding the Predators and whether Victor Bartley will lose his spot to Anthony Bitetto, whether Kevin Fiala will even get close to the opening night roster (spoiler alert: he won't and isn't) or if Austin Watson can finally earn a stable spot in Nashville, we can finally put all of those to bed and get started on the long, arduous grind to the postseason and beyond.
Line combinations based on morning skate:
Forward Line One: Filip Forsberg / Mike Ribeiro / James Neal
Forward Line Two: Colin Wilson / Mike Fisher / Craig Smith
Forward Line Three: Viktor Arvidsson / Cody Hodgson / Calle Jarnkrok
Forward Line Four: Eric Nystrom / Paul Gaustad / Gabriel Bourque
Defensive Pair One: Shea Weber / Roman Josi
Defensive Pair Two: Mattias Ekholm / Ryan Ellis
Defensive Pair Three: Barret Jackman / Seth Jones
SCRATCHES: Victor Bartley, Anthony Bitetto, Austin Watson
Three Things vs Carolina
Why Gabriel Bourque over Watson?
This is an easy one: Carolina is a quick team and Bourque provides a better option on the fourth line over Watson. It's not the most ideal of situations after Watson battled his way through camp to finally make the team and not get the start on opening night.
Head coach Peter Laviolette during his morning skate press conference was quick to point out that Watson will eventually get his chance to play, but tonight Bourque would get the call.
If you really think about it, Bourque has the boost in terms of experience, speed and penalty killing over Watson. Like I said, this isn't a poke at Watson, but more so what Laviolette has to do to match-up effectively against his nightly opponent.
Watch that third line
Viktor Advirsson, Cody Hodgson and Calle Jarnkrok compose Nashville's third line for tonight's opening game. I find it a really interesting combination as Arvidsson and Jarnkrok both complement each other fairly well, in terms of offensive capabilities, while Hodgson is a complete mystery as to what he'll be able to achieve this season for Nashville.
That being said, if the Predators can gain any type of stable offensive contributions from their third line, it could help to propel them through a couple of playoff rounds.
Plus, it's going to be entertaining as hell to watch Arvidsson shoot the puck 984 times this season.
Mind the defensive minutes
All the talk on defense during preseason was whether or not Weber and Josi would have more relaxed minutes this season as opposed to the last couple of years. Going against a quick and offensively-capable team like the Hurricanes will be a good test to see how Nashville disperses their defensive units.
Granted, it's only the first game of the season and things will change from games one to 82.
Player to Watch
Viktor Arvidsson - Arvidsson has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer, or more, for Nashville. He wasn't exactly the biggest offensive weapon during preseason, but tonight's a different story. The third line, mainly Arvidsson, should factor into the scoring tonight against the Hurricanes.
Nashville comes away with a 4-2 win against Carolina to start the season on a high note. No road teams taking points from the Predators on game one.