I always find the Predators an interesting study. Perpetually hampered by budgetary concerns, the duo of David Poile and Barry Trotz nevertheless consistently manage to squeeze blood from a stone and keep the club competitive. They may dwell in a realm between the elite and the underclass forever, but it’s probably prefereable to the never-ending rebuilds other "less fortunate" franchises in the NHL seem to endlessly engage in *cough* Atlanta *cough*.
As usual, the Predators are somewhat thin up front and will be relying on Trotz’s heavy bench management and a "score by committee" mentality to get by. Erstwhile Flame Matthew Lombardi leveraged a career year in Phoenix (irony!) to score a 3 year, 3.5M/year contract with NSH in the off-season. Unfortunately for the Preds, Lombo recently suffered a concussion, a condition not unfamiliar to him since the infamous Hatcher elbow during the Flames Stanley Cup run. Lombardi isn’t the greatest player but he’s good enough to be a concern for a club like NSH that needs all hands on deck.
He’s certainly not the only weapon though. The Predators also have the emergent Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson, Martin Erat, JP Dumont (although Trotz had him skating 4th line minutes last year) and Steve Sullivan to get pucks to the net. The club also boasts a heavy-duty checking line featuring David Legwand, Marcel Goc and Joel Ward. Those guys face a lot of big guns every night, start out at the wrong end of the ice and still somehow manage not to be murdered. It’s a good bet Iginla/Tanguay will see a heavy dose of Legwand et al tonight.
The Preds back-end is probably their strength, although depth is somewhat lacking there as well. She Weber and Ryan Suter anchor the point, with Shane O’Brien, Cody Franson, Fancis Boullion and Kevin Klein rounding things out. Aaron Johnson found his way to Nashville after the Oilers let him walk this summer, although he’s currently playing in the AHL for Milwaukee. In net, The Preds continued their tradition of promoting an unknown guy only to see him challenge the incumbent recently. Prospect Anders Lindback filled in for an injured Pekka Rinne (who usurped Dan Ellis, who usurped Chris Mason, who usurped…well you get the idea) and won 2 out of the 4 games he appeared in, managing a .920 SV% all the while. Rinne is most certainly going to reclaim the starters role once he returns, but Lindback’s noteworthy performance after being thrown into the fire makes things more…interesting in the Nashville crease going forward.
Anyways, The Flames and Predators always seem to have one bizarre barn-burner per season. Perhaps tonight will be this year’s iteration.
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