2020–2021 NHL season, with its exclusively intradivisional schedule as a result of the pandemic, in many ways resembled an ACC football schedule. You know, the one where N.C. State plays rivals from time immemorial like Syracuse and Boston College every blessed year but only gets graced with a game against Duke, 30 minutes up the road, a couple times a decade.
Going back to a normal schedule meant that the Carolina Hurricanes’ regular dose of teams they don’t see all too often would revert back to its normal occasional occurrence, and you might be able to go more than two weeks without seeing the same opponent.
Ha. Silly you, thinking you’d get beyond game two before seeing the Nashville Predators pop up again on the schedule. (The regular season schedule, that is; how would we have survived without seeing them twice in the preseason as well??)
Well, here we are, and following an opening night track meet that was a throwback to bonkers Hurricanes/Islanders games of years gone by, the Canes hit the road for their first road trip of the season beginning tonight in Nashville. The Predators are looking for their first points of the season, after serving up the first win in the history of the Seattle Kraken on Thursday.
Seth Jarvis will not make his debut yet, much to the dismay of one Matt Somma, but not tinkering with the lineup is understandable two nights after the Hurricanes erupted for six goals against what is widely perceived as the stingiest defensive team in hockey. A regulation win tonight would mark the first time in twenty years that the Canes opened a season with two regulation wins in a row.
(Seriously. I couldn’t believe it either, but the media guide doesn’t lie.)
Here’s how the Hurricanes will look, very similar to how they looked on Thursday:
Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Sebastian Aho - Martin Necas
Andrei Svechnikov - Vincent Trocheck - Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook - Derek Stepan - Steven Lorentz
Jaccob Slavin - Ethan Bear
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Ian Cole - Tony DeAngelo
Injuries and Scratches: Seth Jarvis (healthy), Brendan Smith (healthy)
The word “pesky” was invented specifically to define the Nashville Predators. The Hurricanes probably took them a little too lightly last year in the first round of the playoffs, but full credit to the Preds for hanging around for six games and forcing overtime in the final four matchups of the series.
That Preds team looked a bit different than this year’s edition. Gone are Calle Jarnkrok, Viktor Arvidsson and old friend Erik Haula, and in to replace their 35 goals are...um, a hoped-for renaissance from either Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen? There are a whole lot of 2011-era Hurricanes vibes around the Predators right now, although they still have a past Norris Trophy winner in Roman Josi and one of the league’s better goalies in Juuse Saros on the roster.
The Predators seem better equipped to prevent goals than score them, so if the Canes can get another solid offensive performance, they should escape Music City with a victory.
Here’s how John Hynes’ squad will set up:
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Matt Duchene
Eeli Tolvanen - Mikael Granlund - Luke Kunin
Nick Cousins - Cody Glass - Philip Tomasino
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Tanner Jeannot
Roman Josi - Alexandre Carrier
Mattias Ekholm - Philippe Myers
Ben Harpur - Dante Fabbro
Injuries and Scratches: David Rittich (Covid protocol), Mathieu Oliver (IR lower body), Rocco Grimaldi (healthy), Mark Borowiecki (healthy), Matt Benning (healthy)
Referees: Kendrick Nicholson #30, Michael Markovic #31
Linesmen: C.J. Murray #68, Libor Suchanek #60