Fisher Returns as Preds Host Sharks Tonight

Today, the Nashville Predators open a three game home stand against the San Jose Sharks.  The Sharks are typically a physical team that plays a puck possession game.  That style will be especially tough for a Nashville team that’s found it difficult to win puck battles and maintain possession long enough to put shots on net.  On the bright side, Mike Fisher will return to Nashville’s lineup and could help.

Keys to the Game

  • Nashville needs Mike Fisher to hit the ice skating fast, win the puck battles and put pucks on net for the Nashville playmakers.  If Fisher is tentative coming off his shoulder injury, it’s going to affect his ability to win puck battles the most.  Trotz is giving Fisher a lot of help in his first game back by pairing him with Craig Smith and Sergei Kostitsyn (at least from practice).
  • If the lines from practice are any indication, Patric Hornqvist is being moved up to the line of David Legwand and Colin Wilson.  It’s time for Hornqvist to make his presence known.  He and Wilson will be expected to win those puck battles for this line.  This line should be able to effectively play a puck possession game and put pucks on net.
  • Tonight might be Shea Weber’s first opportunity in a while to show up on the score sheet.  With two forward lines capable of playing a puck possession game and throwing plenty of shots on net, that should open some lanes for the heavy shooting Weber to put a couple on net.
  • The Predators’ power play has reverted to typical levels of ineptitude.  While somewhat explainable with the absence of Fisher and Erat, the Predators still had the ability to put out at least one unit capable of maintaining possession as well as having the determination to throw pucks at the net.  Instead, fans have seen the same even strength forward combinations rotated through for the most part.  Tonight should be an opportunity for that predictability to actually pay dividends as those top two lines seem ready made for the power play.
  • With the game being in Nashville, Barry Trotz will have last change.  Going up against the physically imposing Sharks, I expect Trotz will continue to heavily protect that third defensive pairing- especially against the Thornton line.  In the past, Trotz would likely have thrown out the Fisher line against Thornton.  It will be interesting to see whether Fisher or Legwand will be given the primary duties of containing the Thornton line.

David Singleton

You are invited to follow me on Twitter (@SingletonPreds).  For game recaps of all Predators games as well as great insights on the Predators and the NHL, check out my HockeyIndependent colleague, Mark Willoughby (@TheViewFrom111).

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