By: Marc Nathan
The Nashville Predators begin a brief three game homestand tonight, facing off against Western Conference foes, the Arizona Coyotes (previously identified as the Phoenix Coyotes.)
This marks the Preds sixth game of an 82-game NHL season, and what we have learned from the first five is that the team has looked good at times, great at others, and is always competing with a level of skill and determination not seen much in the prior two campaigns. While only missing the post season by three points last season, the Preds know that this early success is a great foundation towards cementing a spot in the post season this year. The Predators have yet to lose in regulation time thus far, with three wins and two overtime/shootout losses. Good for eight points out of a possible ten, and setting them atop the super-competitive Central Division in the Western Conference.
Tonight’s opponents, the Coyotes, have played four games, winning two, losing two, and with four points, sit in sixth place in the Pacific Division. Arizona’s offense has been led early on by forward Mikkel Boedker, who has tallied five goals in the young season. The Coyotes also feature two studs on the blueline in defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Former long-time Predator Martin Erat returns to Bridgestone Arena, having been dealt by Nashville to Washington two seasons ago, and subsequently moved to Arizona last season.
The Predators received young forward Filip Forsberg in the trade for Erat, and dividends are starting to mount, as the swift Swede, at just 20 years old, leads the team in scoring with a goal and four assists through the first five games. The always dangerous, and perennial Norris Trophy candidate for the league’s best defenseman, Shea Weber has chipped in a team-leading three goals and continued to supply rock steady defense in front of All Star goaltender Pekka Rinne, who will most probably get the start tonight.
On Thursday the Preds face off against their chief division rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, and they close out the three game set with a Saturday affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kane, Toews, of Chicago, Crosby, Malkin of Pittsburgh… all on ice at Bridgestone Arena against a newly re-tooled, highly charged Nashville Predators hockey team. Seeing all these great stars reminds me to let you know more exciting news. The Preds have been awarded the 2016 NHL All Star Game, and you can bet that many of the names mentioned will be skating in that one, so for now, come on out and spend this week at Bridgestone and cheer on your Nashville Predators!