This past weekend, the Nashville Predators traveled to Detroit for a Friday night game against the Red Wings, and then came home for a tilt against the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
You’ve heard ad-nauseam (pun intended) about the circumstances that surrounded the Preds during the weekend’s games. First, the team dropped the game in Detroit 5-3 and in the process lost a number of roster players to food poisoning. Then, with a severely depleted NHL roster, reinforcements arrived from Milwaukee (the team’s AHL affiliate) and improbably beat the Penguins handily 5-1 in front of rookie goaltender Juuse Saros.
While the effort in Detroit appeared to be disappointing, it was only after we learned that forwards Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith had to excuse themselves from the game early on, and goaltender Pekka Rinne gutted out the entire sixty-minutes despite suffering the effects of the tainted chicken soup that we could certainly not hold the team responsible for the end results.
As the team boarded a plane (20 players, 2 bathrooms) back to Nashville, GM David Poile scrambled to make the proper arrangements to actually ice a team for the following contest at Bridgestone. Johansen rebounded and was able to play, but Smith, along with Rinne, Colton Sissons and Mike Fisher could not answer the bell. Additionally, fourth line forward Cody Bass was injured during the Detroit game and was placed on Injured Reserve.
When the team skated out for warm-ups prior to the start of the Saturday night contest there was a Smith, but he wore #23 and answered to the name Trevor. #26 was Zolnierczyk (Harry), #32 was Gaudreau (Freddie, in his first NHL game) and leading the group on to the ice was #74 Juuse Saros, who had been called up for one game last season, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Buffalo Sabres.
Less than three hours later, the Preds (and some Admirals) skated to center ice, and raised their sticks confidently and victoriously. Led by forwards Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson (two goals apiece) and goaltender Saros, the team entertained the sellout crowd and sent a number of Pens fans back to their cars for an unhappy nine hour drive home.
While the team got healthy, a couple of practice days were in order before they headed out to Southern California for games against the Ducks (last night) and Kings (tonight) and then onto San Jose, Colorado and Arizona. The next Predators home game will be Saturday, November 5th – starting a four game homestand against Carolina, followed by Ottawa, St. Louis and Anaheim.
Last night in Anaheim proved to be a pre-Halloween nightmare. With significant manpower returning to the fold, the Preds fell behind early, and were held off the scoresheet in the first period, as the Ducks took a 1-0 lead with just under three minutes of play gone by. It was the second period that was Nashville’s undoing, as the team gave up five Duck goals and watched the deficit soar to 6-0 as Rinne was mercifully pulled after four, and Mazanec found no relief in sight as he gave up goals five and six over the final three minutes of the middle stanza. A Colin Wilson goal in the third period broke up the Anaheim shutout but didn’t do much to instill confidence in the fan base that stayed up late to watch the sad result.
Tonight in Los Angeles, the #Preds will face a Kings team that has won three consecutive games. Having lost both their number one and two goaltenders, LA turns to veteran Peter Budaj in nets. Budaj, signed by LA before the start of the 2015 season, has set a number of records as the starting goaltender of the Kings AHL affiliate in Ontario, CA. The team also added former Preds goaltender Anders Lindback, to at least skate for the Reign in the foreseeable future. This move acts as an insurance policy if Budaj were to go down.
While I expect a better effort from our Nashville boys, it will be the Kings who will be acutely aware of the Predators slow start to the season, and will try to capitalize on that and deliver a continued sad punctuation to the 2-4-0 Preds.