The Florida Panthers (5-0-1) return home after a four game road trip to start a six game homestand. Their first guest will be the Nashville Predators (4-5-0)
Thursday Feb 4th Nashville @ Florida 7pm
Friday Feb 5th Nashville @ Florida 7pm
A Look at the Predators
The Predators continue their roadtrip with a quick swing in Sunrise. The Predators have struggled so far on the road this year, as they have been outscored 19-7 on the road, going 0-4-0. The Predators last game was Monday when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 5-2.
The Predators weakness this season has been scoring, only scoring 22 goals in 9 games. The Predators leading point scorers are Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, each putting up 6 points. Arvidsson’s 4 assists lead his team in that category and Forsberg’s 4 goals lead his team in goals.
Juuse Saros has taken over starting duties in Nashville, as Pekka Rinne settles into a role as a backup. Saros is a placeholder until Yaroslav Askarov is ready. Saros has played 6 games this year, putting up a record of 3-3-0, with a .906 save percentage and a 2.82 GAA. Pekka Rinne has played 4 games going 1-2-0 with a .869 save percentage and a 3.31 GAA. Expect Saros and Rinne to split starts this weekend.
My player to watch is Nashville Defenseman Roman Josi. The defending Norris winner is one of the top three defensemen in the league. So far Josi has a goal and three assists in the 9 games. Josi drives a deep defensive core that is among the best in the league.
The Predators have underperformed the past couple of years, as the team is notorious for its slow reaction to change. Coach John Hynes is only the third coach in franchise history, while GM David Polie has been with the team since it’s 1998 inception. However, the Predators are still a deadly team and can easily rout you if you don’t take them seriously.
Forward Calle Jarnkrok returns to the lineup from injury.
Former Panthers on the roster include Rocco Grimaldi (2014-16) and Erik Haula (2020)
Predators Lineup Projection
21 Nick Cousins- 92 Ryan Johansen- 33 Viktor Arvidsson
9 Filip Forsberg- 95 Matt Duchene- 64 Mikael Granlund
13 Yakov Trenin- 10 Colton Sissions- 28 Eeli Tolvanen
19 Calle Jarnkrok- 56 Erik Haula- 25 Mathieu Oliver
59 Roman Josi- 4 Ryan Ellis
14 Mattias Ekholm- 57 Dante Fabbro
24 Jarred Tindori- 5 Matthew Benning
74 Juuse Saros
35 Pekka Rinne
Scratched: F Rocco Grimaldi, D Mark Borowiecki
Injury Report: F Luke Kunin (Lower Body, DTD); Brad Richardson (Upper Body, DTD, IR); Luca Sbisa (Upper Body, DTD, IR)
With the games being back to back, expect a split start. Nashville has not announced who will start tonight.
The 5-0-1 Panthers lead the league in points percentage, albeit playing the fewest amount of games. The Panthers host the Predators for a back to back set tonight and tomorrow. Despite their record, the Panthers have not been dominant. The Panthers have had five straight one goal games, including four in a row that went to the extra frame. The Panthers have also had an easy schedule, as they took on the struggling Blackhawks and Red Wings, as well as a transition Columbus Blue Jackets, where Pierre Luc-Dubois was gone and Patrik Laine had yet to arrive. The Predators are the first true test for the Panthers of the season. The Panthers have a tough month ahead, especially next week, where they battle the Tampa Bay Lightning three times in a row.
The Panthers offensive scoring is led by a quartet of players. Patric Hornqvist, Carter Verehaege, Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov each have scored 7 points. Hornqvist and Verehaege each have a team leading 5 goals and Huberdeau is tied with Anthony Duclair for the team lead in apples with 6.
The Panthers are expected to continue their 1a/1b tandem as they have started the season with Sergei Bobrovsky (3 GP, 3-0-0, 2.87 GAA, .894 SVPCT) expected to start tonight and Chris Driedger (3 GP, 2-0-1, 1.95 GAA, .937 SVPCT) is expected in net tomorrow. Driedger had his first career start at the BB&T Center against the Preds and shut them out 3-0 in a 27 save effort in November of 2019.
My player to watch for the Panthers is Right Winger Anthony Duclair. Duclair has been electric at setting up plays so far this season, as he has 6 assists. Duclair was expected to be a sniper but it is very interesting to see how his passing game has worked out. Duclair is an electrifying player with incredible speed and skill and will be a force to watch
Forward Owen Tippett was assigned to the taxi squad. The rookie struggled in his 5 NHL games this season with no points and a dismal -4 rating, as well as a bad play that led to a Dylan Larkin goal. Forward Brett Connolly draws in after spending the past weekend in Detroit in the press box. Aleksi Heponiemi and Juho Lammikko remain in the lineup. Blueliner Noah Juulsen is expected to make his Panther debut sometime soon, but is expected to be out tonight.
Panthers Lineup Projection
23 Carter Verehaege- 16 Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov- 91 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau- 21 Alex Wennberg- 70 Patric Hornqvist
77 Frank Vatrano- 27 Eetu Luostarinen- 10 Brett Connolly
20 Aleksi Heponiemi- 83 Juho Lammikko- 55 Noel Acciari
52 Mackenzie Weegar- 5 Aaron Ekblad
65 Markus Nutivaara- 6 Anton Stralman
3 Keith Yandle- 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
60 Chris Driedger
Scratched: F Vinnie Hinostroza, D Noah Juulsen
Injury Report: D Gustav Forsling (Upper Body, IR, DTD)
Thursday Confirmed Goalie: Bobrovsky; Friday Projected Goalie: Driedger
I am now 4-2 with my predictions on the year with no correct GWG predictions or correct score predictions.
Tonight, I predict a 3-1 Nashville win with the Game winner from Forsberg.
Tomorrow, I predict a 3-1 Florida win with the game winner from Huberdeau.