Nashville looks for another two points to stay ahead in the playoff race.
After a thrilling 4-1 victory over the Panthers last night, the Nashville Predators return right back to work this evening for their final game against Florida in the regular season. As Dallas chases the Preds’ down for the final spot in the playoffs for the Central Division, every game is crucial; tonight is no different.
In my game preview for last nights’ game, I mentioned shutting down Panthers forward Aaron Ekblad as one of the keys to the game. Nashville did just that; Ekblad was held to zero points, the first time that has happened since April 19. The lone goal scorer for Florida was Sam Bennett, who rebounded the puck off of his skate and into the net past Saros. Despite only scoring once, Florida has to be happy with its’ play in the second period. The Panthers out-shot Nashville 22-5 in the middle twenty minutes of hockey, and would have scored at least a couple goals if not for the heroics of Juuse Saros.
One storyline to watch tonight for Florida is the goaltending situation. After only giving up one goal against Nashville, goalie Chris Driedger was benched for Sergei Bobrovsky with five minutes left in the second period. The reason for the move was not known when it happened, so it will be interesting to see who starts for Florida tonight in goal.
The bottom-six stole the show for Nashville in last nights’ game; goals from Nick Cousins, Erik Haula and Yakov Trenin sealed the game for the Predators last night, but the players were creating chances for the entire game. Imagining how lethal this Predators offense could be if these players stay cooking and Filip Forsberg is added to the lineup gives me goosebumps, but I digress.
Even with the four goals that the forwards put on the board, this game could have still gone sideways if not for Saros. In the second period, when all hell broke loose for Nashville, Saros stood on his head and carried the entire team on his back. It is unclear who will start in net for the Predators tonight, whether it be Saros or Pekka Rinne, but a similar performance to tonight from either goaltender would almost guarantee another two points.
Three Keys to the Game
- Play a full 60 minutes- Nashville is truly lucky to have gotten out of the second period with a lead. While Saros is playing incredible hockey at the moment, it is unreasonable to expect him to handle that many shots every night. If the rest of the group can create consistent pressure and let Saros rest from time to time, he will only get better.
- Keep the fourth line intact- With the impending addition of Filip Forsberg to the lineup, Twitter has begun debating how to integrate the Swede into the units. Regardless of where Forsberg ends up, the line of Trenin-Sissons-Jeannot needs to stick together; they are simply too good right now.
- Play with playoff intensity- Just like last night, Florida will be looking to clinch a playoff spot in this evenings’ game. Nashville will need to come out of the gates with the same level of hunger and desperation it had in yesterday’s game, because the Predators need this one just as bad.
Where to Watch/ Listen
Tonight’s game can be watched on Bally Sports at 8:00 EST and 7:00 CST. You can also listen to the game on 102.5 The Game.