It took a global pandemic and a confluence of events that few if anyone ever saw coming, but tonight, the NHL will feature a long-overdue first: a divisional matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators.
The two teams have played 31 times since the Predators joined the league in 1998, but with eight matchups between the teams this season they will increase that number by more than 25% just in the next four months. Plenty about this season will be a one-off, but it’s easy to make the argument that if the NHL keeps anything on the books post-COVID, more frequent meetings between Carolina and Nashville should be near the top of the list.
The Hurricanes are likely to still be without captain Jordan Staal, who remains on the COVID protocol list for a fourth straight day. Fortunately, no other Hurricanes players have been added to the list in the past two days, so the roster should be similar to the one that dropped a 4-2 decision to the Red Wings on Saturday.
But just because the roster is the same, the lineup will look a little different. Andrei Svechnikov and Warren Foegele will swap places on the left wing, with Foegele joining Vincent Trocheck and Martin Necas while Svechnikov will slot in with Jesper Fast and Jordan Martinook, who trades places with Morgan Geekie.
After Petr Mrazek got the start in both games against Detroit, James Reimer will take the reins tonight for his first start of the season. Reimer has played in seven games against Nashville in his career, with a 4-1 record and a .914 save percentage. Here’s how the lineup should look for Rod Brind’Amour tonight:
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
Warren Foegele - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Martinook - Jesper Fast
Ryan Dzingel - Morgan Geekie - Brock McGinn
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Jake Gardiner - Haydn Fleury
Scratch: Jordan Staal (COVID protocol)
Taxi squad: Max McCormick, Steven Lorentz, Jake Bean, Joakim Ryan, Alex Nedeljkovic
The Predators swept their first two games of the season against the Blue Jackets, joining Tampa Bay as the only two Central clubs to get off to a 2-0 start. If they can continue their hot start with a win over the Hurricanes, it will mark their first win in the past four games between the two in Nashville. While that doesn’t sound like much, it actually came more than five years ago, in October of 2015.
New arrival Luke Kunin has started the season with two goals in as many games, one of seven players to tally a goal in their sweep of Columbus. Juuse Saros played both games against the Blue Jackets, which likely indicates that the Hurricanes will see Pekka Rinne for one game of the back-to-back set. Here’s how John Hynes will send out the Predators tonight:
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Erik Haula - Matt Duchene - Luke Kunin
Nick Cousins - Colton Sissons - Rocco Grimaldi
Calle Jarnkrok - Brad Richardson - Yakov Trenin
Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - Dante Fabbro
Mark Borowiecki - Matt Benning
Scratches: Luca Sbisa (healthy), Jarred Tinordi (healthy)
Taxi squad: Eeli Tolvanen, Cole Smith, Connor Ingram, Mathieu Olivier