Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images
This is the only meeting between the Nashville Predators and the Florida Panthers. Both teams are deep into the playoff hunt with Florida 3rd in the Eastern Conference with the division lead and Nashville holding firm in 5th place in the West.
Nashville will see a few familiar faces tonight as the Florida Panthers boast some former Predator talent: Marcel Goc, Mike Santorelli and the recently traded Jerred Smithson.
Smithson’s replacement Paul Gaustad should start tonight for Nashville and with that comes size, skill and one helluva face-off specialist (think a 6’5″ Yanic Perreault).
Game time is 6:30 Central.
This Year’s Series: N/A
Looking at the Panthers: The Panthers were the most active team over the summer as they were on a spending spree to make the salary cap floor. What they brought in was an astonishing blend of size, speed and finesse. Such notables were Versteeg, Fleischmann, Campbell and Bergenheim.
Versteeg leads the team in goals and points and Brian Campbell is one of the league leaders in points for a defenseman. A key loss for Florida was the services of Tomas Vokoun (another former Predator) to the Capitals. The addition of Jose Theodore has been the stop-gap in net as he has played average but effective to keep Florida well into a playoff spot.
Looking at the Predators: The Predators looked haggard and confused Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes would outwork the Predators and force some sloppy penalties to score 2 PP goals. The breakaway goal from Allen was the back breaker as the Predators could not muster enough offense to counter-balance.
Andrei Kostitsyn played Tuesday night, but not as well as expected. In his defense, however, Andrei met the team in Carolina and was thrust onto the ice in an unfamiliar system. The time off from Tuesday gave the team much needed practice time to integrate Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad into the “Predator way”.
For the Panthers to win: Using the scouting of Smithson might help the Panthers spoil the hopes of the Predators getting two points. Smithson knows the Predator playbook front to back and I’m sure the Florida coach will be asking Jerred how to shut down one of the league-leading power plays.
Versteeg is dangerous and can score at will given time and space. The match-up between Weber/Suter and Campbell/Garrison should be quite the defensive square-off. If Theodore is playing, he’ll have his hands full with the rested and ready Predators offense with its new ingredients.
For the Predators to win: Come out fast and hard and use the three days of rest to pounce on the defenses of Florida. Having the extra practice time for Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad will pay huge dividends for the Predators in building the team chemistry that is at the heart of Predators hockey.
Pekka Rinne should be in net tonight and his work this year has been in a word: stellar. Many thought that Tuesday night’s loss could have been avoided had Rinne been in net. While this is highly unfair to Anders Lindback due to his lack of playing time this season, it is a valid point in that Pekka Rinne simply plays better the more he plays. But every goalie needs a rest, case in point Miikka Kiprusoff.
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Stay HardCore, friends