We turn to Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck for some inside info on tonight's opponent.
We've heard a lot about the loss of Ryan Suter - how much is that hype versus actual impact on the team this year?
There has definitely been a real impact, due to the fact that Suter could play a tremendous amount in all sorts of situations. Roman Josi is doing a fine job stepping up as the leading puck-mover on the left side, but we've seen Scott Hannan play perhaps too large a role as the other Top Four lefty at even strength. While Hannan is a respectable stay-at-home type, his passing skills leave a lot to be desired, and many rushes up-ice get nipped in the bud by a Hannan pass that's off-target.
How do Preds fans feel about the proposed realignment?
Losing Detroit is a big deal to most fans in Nashville, the Red Wings have always been the biggest villain on the schedule, and the Predators just passed them for the first time last season, in terms of regular season standings and the playoff series. Some would also like to see a rivalry with the Florida teams and Carolina, but overall I think the new setup will work just fine. Nashville & Dallas in particular should be able to get a good thing going, think Juliette Barnes vs. Pamela Barnes... is that the kind of barn fight Brian Burke was thinking of?
Are the current offensive issues systemic, the product of good opposing goaltending or something in between?
I think it's fair to say there are indeed systemic issues with the Predators' attack. Last season they ranked as a Top 10 offense, but it was built on unreliably high shooting percentages (3rd in 5-on-5 play and 1st on the PP, if I recall). Now that those numbers have plummeted, the nature of the forward lines is being exposed. There is an abundance of hard-working muckers, but not enough guys who instinctively drive the puck to the net and try to create scoring chances. Instead, the preference tends to be to make sure the puck gets chipped in deep and then go after it.
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