Nashville finished the lockout-shortened season with a disappointing 16-23-9 record, landing them in 14th place in the Western Conference. But the Predators have made some moves in the offseason, drafting Seth Jones with the fourth-overall pick at the draft and adding free agents like Viktor Stalberg and Matt Cullen in hopes that the team can again compete for a playoff spot.
Last week, the NHL released the 2013-14 schedule, which will highlight some exciting things, such as division realignment and the Olympic break. For the Predators specifically, however, here are five games that any Nashville fan should mark on their calendar:
October 6, 2013
Nashville at Colorado
All of the talk leading up to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft was about who would be taken at No. 1, Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche decided to take MacKinnon with the first pick and Jones fell all the way to No. 4 where the Predators picked him up. These two were the most highly touted players in the draft this past year and they will have a chance to face off against one another very early on in the season.
October 8, 2013
Minnesota at Nashville
Nashville’s home opener brings with it the return of former Predators’ defenseman Ryan Suter. In his first reappearance at Bridgestone Arena last season, Suter was not received warmly. It would be shocking if he did not get much of the same treatment, especially with the Wild now joining the newly-aligned Central Division. Minnesota finished 2013 as the eighth seed in the playoffs and expectations for them will be high again, but the Predators have expectations of their own. This will be the third game of the season for the Predators, but it’s importance is huge as they open up against three straight divisional opponents.
November 16, 2013
Chicago at Nashville
There are plenty of good story lines in this divisional match up. The Blackhawks will arrive in Nashville as the reigning Cup champions, though it will be over a month into the season before they actually meet. Still, Nashville will look at this game as a good test of their own talent as Chicago is shaping up to be a stellar team again. Another big story is how Viktor Stalberg will do as he faces off against his former team as the Predators come off of a 16-day, seven-game road trip. The Predators are expecting big things from Stalberg, whom they signed to a four-year, $12 million contract in July. Mostly a role player during his tenure with the Blackhawks, Stalberg will be counted on for some big minutes up front and this game could be a chance for the two-time Cup champion to show his former team what they lost.
December 30, 2013
Detroit at Nashville
I don’t know if “rivals” is a suitable term for these two teams, but they did face off against one another in the Central Division since the Predators joined the league in 1998, which is a good recipe for some bad blood. That, and of course, the time in the 2012 playoffs when Shea Weber tried to smash Henrik Zetterberg’s head against the glass. Even though these two teams now reside in different divisions, this game near the midway point of the season could be a huge test for the Predators. The Red Wings are perennial Cup contenders and have bulked up offensively with the acquisitions of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Though these two are not directly fighting each other for a playoff slot, it could be a game that points to how good of a team Nashville really is.
March 30, 2014
Washington at Nashville
The Washington Capitals do not come to visit Nashville until the end of the season, but this is a game to highlight due to the return Martin Erat, a player who had been with the Predators since he was drafted in 1999. During his career in the Music City, Erat totaled 163 goals, 318 assists for 481 points, according to NHL.com. In just nine games with the Capitals last year, he managed one goal and two assists, but was held pointless in the Capitals’ first round loss in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see the welcome Erat receives from the fans in Nashville, as he was one of the better players they had since their inception. Also, if Filip Forsberg is on the Predators roster, fans will be able to get a glimpse of the how the youngster can match up to the player he was traded for.