Despite riding high on the first line during yesterday afternoon’s practice, newest Predator Simon Moser will not make Nashville’s opening night roster, the club announced. Barry Trotz’ last cut leaves the lineup as follows (per Preds PR department):
Forwards (13): Gabriel Bourque, Rich Clune, Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher, Filip Forsberg, Paul Gaustad, Matt Hendricks, Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand, Eric Nystrom, Craig Smith, Nick Spaling and Colin Wilson
Defensemen (7): Victor Bartley, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Kevin Klein and Shea Weber
Goaltenders (2): Carter Hutton and Pekka Rinne
Viktor Stalberg will start the season on injured reserve.
Moser’s demotion means that one of Flip Forsberg or Patric Hornqvist is ready to go for opening night against the Blues, good news as the Preds will need all the help they can get against a typically stingy Ken Hitchcock defense. If today’s practice lines remain unchanged, David Backes and Co will be lining up across from:
Wilson – Legwand – Forsberg/Hornqvist
Playoffs If: Wilson shrugs off last year’s injuries and puts up a 60 point season, complete with the defensive game that comes with playing big minutes for Trotz. Legwand reigns in his unusually high goals-against en-route to 50 points, while Hornqvist actually gets some bounces and goes back to being a 25-dirty-goal-a-season forward. A 20/20 season from Filip Forsberg is also acceptable.
Lottery Time If: Bumps and bruises limit Wilson to 55 games while old, bad habits creep back into his game. Legwand can’t be the defensive conscience for the resulting revolving door of wingers. Somebody still has a functioning Patric Hornqvist voodoo doll from the lockout. The Predators struggle to generate goals. Again.
What to Expect: Modest-but-passable offensive production and good defense from all three cogs. Forsberg taking a few trips up and down the lineup but sticking somewhere meaningful.
Bourque – Cullen – Smith
Playoffs If: Gabriel Bourque defies the concept of regression (hey, he did score on every fifth shot
in Milwalkee, too) and maintains or better’s last year’s 26 goal pace. Matt Cullen continues thriving as the “easy matchups” guy like he did once Minnesota got an actual first line and drops a respectable 47. Craig Smith remembers what being an NHL forward feels like. The other half of Forsberg/Hornqvist finding a home on this line is also acceptable, and also extremely likely.
Lottery Time If: Bourque spent his offseason training exclusively with Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers. Matt Cullen’s 36 year old body crumbles to dust at the thought of an 82 game season. Neither Smith nor Forsberg are ready for the show.
What to Expect: Modest but passable offensive production and good defense from all three… If you haven’t noticed, there’s a theme here. With a full slate of forwards and productive seasons from Bourque/Cullen, there won’t be much separating Nashville’s first two lines of offense unless Wilson really goes off, and that’s not a bad thing.
Spaling – Fisher – Nystrom
Playoffs If: Fisher plays like the big mean checking center he is. Nystrom turns out to be an excellent role player, not a player who took advantage of an easy role in Dallas. Spaling becomes more than just an effort guy. The line dominates possession and is absolutely dismal to score against when paired with Josi and Weber.
Lottery Time If: Nobody cares about how many goals the line prevents because it isn’t scoring any. Fisher loses over 20 points from 2012 because his wingers are offensive black holes, while Spaling gets banished to the press box in short order.
What to Expecct: An effective shutdown line that doesn’t lose that much production from Fisher. This combination will also take heavy defensive zone draws in conjunction with the fourth line, ensuring the maximum amount of possible offensive deployments for the scoring forwards. This is a good thing.
Clune – Guastad – Hendricks
Playoffs If: Gaustad and Hendricks drag a terrible PK by its bootstraps and mold it into one of the best units in the league, while also forming one of the premier energy units.
Lottery Time If: Paul Gaustad becomes synonymous with “compliance buyout.”
What to Expect: Defensive zone starts and solid special teams play. If Gaustad can kindly remind the Predators why they spent a first on him, it’ll give Trotz some diverse looks in the matchup game that most coaches don’t have. All in all, Trotz and his Predators are going to have to stay healthy and grind their way to the postseason – and that looks to have been their plan all along.
EDIT – Because Barry Trotz loves shuffling the deck, the top six for the opener actually might end up:
Per David Legwand’s post-practice interview yesterday. See what I mean about the top six being interchangeable?
Will Eldredge covers the Nashville Predators for the Hockey Writers. Previously, he’s studied the Sabres for Buffalo Sports Daily and SabresFans.com, and his nuanced take on Nashville was honed in by four years at Skidmore College and even longer discussing the sport on HF Boards. Will has plans of someday working in an NHL front office.