THE BOYS ARE BACK! After a summer of drastic changes, the lineups are set and the Nashville Predators are back on the ice looking to take on the NHL’s best. With a new coach, Peter Laviollete, the Predators look to instill a new, uptempo offense where defensive players will play an offensive role in the scheme.
The new additions to the team have been substantial. Adding perennial 20 goal scorer, James Neal, veterans Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Anton Volchenkov, the Predators have added a veteran presence to boost a young squad of talented players. With All-World defenseman, Shea Weber, and Vezina trophy nominated Pekka Rinne, Nashville looks to take back the Central Division and fight towards the playoffs.
Coming into the Bridgestone Arena are the Ottawa Senators. With 2012 Norris trophy winner and Captain Erik Karlsson (74 points in 2013-14), Bobby Ryan (23 goals in 2013-14), former 1st-round pick Kyle Turris, and former Nashville Predator, David Legwand, the Ottawa Senators look to disrupt the Opening Night festivities in Smashville.
Keys to watch:
Will Pekka Rinne be a Vezina-worthy candidate again?
The health of Pekka Rinne has been constantly discussed among fans since his initial surgery in May 2013. After an injury-plagued 2013-14, Rinne looks to bounce back and return to his dominant form. After being named the MVP of the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus (1.88 GAA/.928 save percentage), there is reason to believe that Rinne is on his way back. Only time will tell, yet the Predator faithful remain optimistic about their goalie.
The return of David Legwand
With needed help defensively, the Senators signed long-time Nashville Predators forward, David Legwand, to a two-year, $6 million contract. Legwand will bring much needed help to a group that is looking for assistance in the defensive end and on the penalty kill. In 2013-14, the Senators ranked 22nd on the penalty kill, 27th in goals against, 20th in plus/minus (-18), and 27th in goals against (258) away from Ottawa.
Erik Karlsson vs. Shea Weber
When it comes to the top defenseman in the NHL, Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber are two names that typically come up in discussion. Both, prolific scorers that led their teams in points in 2013-14, will look to begin this year’s campaign on a winning note. If all goes to plan, do not be surprised seeing both of these players in Las Vegas contending for the coveted Norris Trophy in June.