Preview: Carolina at Nashville
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
The Nashville Predators enter the season with high hopes following a successful 2014-15 campaign that ended with a six-game playoff loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. With all the key players back from a 104-point season, the Predators kick off the new campaign when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
After missing the playoffs two straight years, Nashville jettisoned Barry Trotz and brought in Peter Laviolette prior to last season to reinvigorate a dormant offensive attack. Having an emerging superstar-in-waiting helped speed up that process as rookie Filip Forsberg paced the team with 26 goals and 63 points. The Hurricanes had one of the league’s worst offenses last season and attempted to rectify the problem with an addition-by-subtraction approach, buying out the final three years of Alex Semin’s contract after a wretched six-goal campaign. Carolina looks to get off to a better start after going 0-6-2 in October a year ago.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Carolina, FSN Tennessee (Nashville)
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (2014-15: 30-41-11, 8TH IN METROPOLITAN): With captain Eric Staal (23) the only player to reach 20 goals, Carolina is desperate for offense and one of the best hopes to supply it is newcomer Kris Versteeg, a three-time 20-goal scorer. Goaltender Eddie Lack was brought in to challenge mainstay Cam Ward, who is in the final year of his contract and could be dealt to a contender during the season. The strength of the Hurricanes is along the blue line, where Justin Faulk backbones a unit that added veteran James Wisniewski and rookie Noah Hanifin, the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft.
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (2014-15: 47-25-10, 2ND IN CENTRAL): James Neal joined Forsberg, Craig Smith and Colin Wilson as 20-goal scorers by tallying 23 times in his first season with Nashville and expects familiarity with Laviolette’s system to yield bigger dividends this season. Captain Shea Weber anchors a defense that includes another rising star in blue-line partner Roman Josi and added veteran Barret Jackman to a unit already featuring strong young talent in Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. Pekka Rinne rebounded from an injury-plagued 2013-14 season to register 41 wins and finish second in the Vezina Trophy race.
1. Rinne is 4-1-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average in five starts versus Carolina.
2. The Hurricanes owned the league’s fourth-best penalty-killing unit last season at 84.7 percent.
3. Josi finished third on the team in scoring with 55 points, including 40 assists.
PREDICTION: Predators 3, Hurricanes 1