The Nashville Predators are set to kick off their twelfth season when they travel to Dallas to play the Stars at American Airlines Center tonight at 7 p.m. The game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Tennessee.
Coming off a tenth place finish last season when they missed the playoffs by a slim three points, the Predators are determined to get off to a better start this season after going 4-2 in the pre-season.
Last season, the Predators struggled until January when Steve Sullivan returned from a two-year absence and ignited the team to finish with one of the best records in the league in the second half of the season.
The Preds return with their top scoring line intact with Jason Arnott centering Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont.
They are looking for increased secondary scoring from the second line of David Legwand, Marty Erat and Rookie Mike Santorelli.
Santorelli had a productive pre-season with the Preds after scoring 27 goals and adding 43 assists in Milwaukee last year. He played seven uneventful games with the Predators last season with no points to show for it.
The remaining forwards are a mix of returning players and newcomers. Youngsters Ryan Jones and Patric Hornquist appear ready to play the whole season on the Pred’s third line with Marcel Goc at Center. Goc (pronounced Gotch) was acquired over the summer after playing four seasons in San Jose.
Agitator Jordin Tootoo, Wade Belak, the pugilist, Jerred Smithson, and last year’s surprise, Joel Ward, also return. Ben Guite who last played at Colorado rounds out the roster on the forward end.
Heralded rookie, Colin Wilson, is staring the year with a groin injury and it is unclear if he will remain with the Predators when he returns.
On defense, the Predators will be led by potential Norris Trophy candidate Shea Webber who had a break-out campaign last season, scoring 23 goals and adding 30 assists. He will be paired with another standout, Ryan Suter giving Nashville one of the best defensive pairs in the league.
Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Klein, rookie Teemu Laakso and new acquisition Francis Bouillon who played with Montreal for the last several years will man the remaining defensive slots.
Goaltending has always been a strong point for the Predators and this year is no different. Pekka Rinne who led the team last year with a 29-15-4 record returns as does Dan Ellis.
Rinne was slated to return as the starter this season but Ellis has had a better preseason so Coach Barry Trotz will have a tough choice on who to start on opening night. He has confidence in both and considers each of them to be worthy of a number one slot.
After tonight’s game, the Predators are idle until their home opener on Thursday, October 8 when they return to the Sommet Center to play the Colorado Avalanche to begin their 41 game home schedule.
Buddy Oakes for The Columbia Daily Herald
Tonight's Game in the MSM and the blogs...
Here's what the Dallas News said about tonight's opener as well as a match up page. A lot more can be found at the paper's Dallas Stars Page.
Here's the lowdown from John Glennon where he writes about the possibility of more scoring this year, injuries to Ward and Tootoo, and the game at a glance.
The best preview of tonight's action is at OnThe Forecheck. With a little help from Defending Big D, Dirk has all the breakdowns.
Brandon Felder also has his look at tonight's opener with a dim fact about how the Preds have faired over the years in road openers.
Late breaking from @whatthepuck: 'Best news of the day so far: @dellis39 gets the start tonight."
In Pred Nation...
The Pred's tradition of drafting quality young men with leadership qualities continues this season with news in this Jim Diamond piece that Ryan Thang will be Notre Dame's Captain this year. Blake Geoffrion will also be co-captain at Wisconsin as will Ryan Flynn at Minnesota.
Jim also has a good writeup about the meshing of defensive pairings. Let's hope the Pred's D does this sooner than later.
Admiral's Short Shifts has news about Milwaukee's opener at Chicagio tonight which will feature a rematch of a bunch of guys that played in the Nashville-Atlanta rookie games. It will also feature Mark Dekanich against Drew MacIntyre who was the Ad's primary goalie last season. Another interesting note is that the Ad's have three goalies on the roster. Ryan indicates that the orginization doesn't want a goalie to go through a third camp this year.
On a programming note, Ryan Miller of Admiral's Short Shifts will be one of our guests on POTG Radio Monday night.
FS-TN released it's 30 game HD broadcast schedule, that starts with tonight's game.
Around the NHL...
Gary Bettman, appearing on WFAN, yesterday was asked about franchises with a history of economic troubles and he replied, "Well Atlanta, the owners have been in litigation for the last 3 years and I think that ill sort itself out. Nashville is doing ok. And Florida is in a rebuilding mode and I think that there is a good fan base in south Florida, but when you don’t make the playoffs I think now for 8 or 9 years it begins to take its toll. That is not a market that I really worry about long term because I think if the team starts winning the fans will show.” I'm glad to know that Nashville has graduated to OK!
The NHLPA web site got a much needed upgrade. Take a look.
Versus has taken a lot of shots on their own merit aside from the DirectTV issue. Here is one writer's view.
Heather Engle chronicles the NHL expansion of the early nineties as well as the end of the decade in separate articles.
Finnally, congrats to ex-Pred Ville Koistinen for geetting the GWG in his new gig with the Panthers playing in his home country.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass