Nashville Predators vs. Buffalo Sabres Preview: Issa White Out

The Predators break out their Winter Classic jerseys, and an old tradition, for a critical game against the Sabres

The Predators will have a different look when they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight, and I’m not just talking about the changes they (hopefully) make after Thursday’s abysmal 4-2 loss against Anaheim.

Tonight, the Predators are wearing their white Winter Classic jerseys for the first time at Bridgestone Arena.  And to celebrate, the team’s making this a “White Out” game.

The O.G. Preds fans might remember when the white outs were a yearly event.  Small child Nick always thought they were the coolest games to go to in person, primarily because I always got a free t-shirt out of it.  But you can’t deny there’s something cool about seeing an entire arena/stadium coordinated into a single look.

Now, let’s hope the fans have something to cheer for as well as the color.

Tale o’ the Tape

Time is of the Essence

In a vacuum, you could chalk Nashville’s performance against Anaheim as just “an off night.”

Unfortunately, the Predators “off nights” have been far too frequent this season.  And given the events of the past few weeks, and GM David Poile’s blunt remarks about the team, any game like Thursday’s is going to go under the microscope.

Including tonight, there are 36 games left in the regular season, and the Predators are just six points out of a wild card spot.  All it takes is one three-week hot stretch, and suddenly, the season looks more optimistic.

However, the Preds are running out of time to flip that switch and go on a run, and it seems like every time they rack up two or three solid performances, they take a big step backwards with a performance like the one they had Thursday.  If Nashville can’t get a good run going here soon, Poile may have some tough decisions to make this time next month.

More Line-Up Tweaks Coming

The Predators shuffled the roster a bit after Thursdays loss.  They sent three guys back to Milwaukee: defenders Jarred Tinordi and Alexandre Carrier, and the more surprising name, forward Yakov Trenin.  Trenin had been impressive during his latest 12-game stint with the Preds, racking up 6 points (2 G, 4 A) and finding chemistry on the fourth line with Kyle Turris and Colin Blackwell.  That trio had been one of Nashville’s more consistently good lines.

With Trenin out, it appears Austin Watson will return to the line-up tonight, as will Matt Irwin,

The logic makes sense.  The Preds are about to begin an eight-day break, so sending Trenin, Carrier, and Tinordi down to Milwaukee will give them some extra ice time during the break.  The first two are also AHL All-Stars, in a game which will be played the day after the NHL’s.

For guys like Irwin and Watson, it’s a chance to showcase what they can do in new coach John Hynes’s new system.  Watson hasn’t played the Boston game (which happened before Hynes’s first practice), while Irwin’s been out since the Chicago game — you know, the Pekka Rinne goal one.

Sabres Stay in the Hunt

Much like the Predators, the Sabres find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.  And there could be another offseason shake-up in the City of Light if Buffalo can’t change that situation.

That said, the Sabres have been fairly impressive since the start of the new year, going 5-2 in the month of January.  That’s been enough to pull them within five points of the playoffs, definitely still in striking range.

A main reason why has been Jack Eichel.  The 23-year-old is in the middle of the best season of his career.  His 28 goals has already tied a career high, and his 62 points is tied for seventh-best in the league this season.

There’s been more support for the captain than in years past.  Victor Olofsson leads all rookies with 35 points, while former #2 pick Sam Reinhart is having his best year with 40 points (16 G, 24 A.)  Last year’s top pick, Rasmus Dahlin, has points in five of his past six games as well.

Defensively, the Sabres aren’t going to give up a ton of even strength chances.  Their 2.11 xGA at 5-on-5 is sixth best in the league.  The one downfall has been their penalty kill (75.5% this season, 26th worst in the league,) so this might be an opportunity for the Preds’ power play to get some chances.

Projected Line Combinations









Reasons To Watch

  • It’s our first Saturday without any sort of football since August.  Why not fill it with some hockey?
  • Remind yourself what Bridgestone Arena looks like with a sea of white instead of a sea of gold./

Try to watch the game and tell me Jack Eichel doesn’t look like a young Marv from Home Alone...

How to Watch

Puck drop: 7:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee
Radio: 102.5 The Game