Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Bridgestone Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: FSTN, SUNS
Opponent SBNation Site: On the Forecheck
One big question going into tonight’s game is, will Jon Cooper ride the hot hand and keep Andrei Vasilevskiy in net? Or will he use Louis Domingue to relieve our starter? What do you guys think?
Edit: Coop went with Domingue.
Should Coop play Vasy or Domingue tonight?
This poll is closed
Vasy. Ride the hot hand.
Domingue. Vasy made 40 saves last night, rest that guy.
Five questions with Alex Daugherty, Managing Editor of On the Forecheck
Raw Charge: Coming off last night’s Tampa Bay Lightning victory in Chicago, we have to pause and enjoy the moment. How great is it to see Chicago in last place?
Alex: It’s fantastic, but frankly not that surprising. Their defense is a train wreck, they will be without Corey Crawford for maybe the rest of the season, and their strange decision to “get older” in the offseason has resulted in an aging offensive core that’s forced to work with young players in roles that don’t make sense. What even is a Ryan Hartman? Third-line center? Top-line winger? And how in the world do you not have a home for Alex DeBrincat yet? Maybe they are finally paying their dues for bad contracts or for their “clever salary cap management.”
Unfortunately being last place in the Central isn’t a death sentence and I am confident they will make an annoying late push for the playoffs and probably get in.
(But yes, it is fantastic seeing them in last place.)
RC: Pekka Rinne has been solid for you guys this season. How do you think he’ll hold up going into playoffs, and how’s your backup situation?
Alex: As long as the Preds play their goalies about like they did down the stretch last year, he should be fine going into the playoffs. Last year, Pekka Rinne started 30 of the team’s final 42 regular season games, with Juuse Saros taking the other starts. This may not seem like much of a difference, but it essentially gave Rinne one night off a week and that made a huge difference. With rested legs, he was sensational in the Blackhawks series, great in the Blues and Ducks series, only to eventually struggle against the Penguins. He was probably the Preds’ most consistent player in the playoffs last year, despite the poor finish.
With 37 games left in the year, as long as Rinne only starts about 25-27 of those, he should be fine. Saros is a more than capable backup. The so-called goalie of the future has been amazing in his last nine games: he’s got a .956 save percentage and the team has gone 5-1-3 in those games. The future in goal looks bright with Little Bear on the roster.
RC: This question is admittedly a mess: Why are you guys so damned lucky that you have PK Subban playing as a THIRD PAIR defender? Please tell us how great your defensive corps are and whether you roll all three pairs evenly or what’s going on here. Also PK is second in points on your team as a third-pairing guy so that seems even more unfair.
Alex: Woe is us!
Honestly, it’s all so deceiving. Subban is clearly a top pairing defender... and so is Roman Josi. And so is Ryan Ellis. And so is Mattias Ekholm. But because Laviolette can balance these guys so evenly, while also matching them with complementary partners and while also being forced to fill out his lines on gameday, it creates oddities like having Subban or the Ekholm/Ellis pairing listed as third pairing.
Not bad for a bottom pairing defenseman pic.twitter.com/EL6f13zrhR— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) January 17, 2018
Truly, there is no top pair and there is no bottom pair on this team. The even strength ice time suggests that Josi, Ekholm, and Subban are all equally treated as number one defensemen, and the only reason Ellis isn’t included in that is because he’s been out all year. By the end of the year, I imagine all four will be equally used on the ice and there will be no shortage of baffling looks as the Predators trot out top pairing Matt Irwin and stick that bum Subban on the bottom pair with Alexei Emelin.
(Also, when you consider that Subban has been handcuffed to Emelin all year, it makes his 34 point, Norris-caliber season all the more impressive.)
RC: Since Forsberg’s injury, who’s been stepping up offensively? Basically, who do the Lightning have to fear? Is it the Fiala-Bonino-Jarnkrok line?
Alex: Unfortunately, no one. The offense has been missing Forsberg badly. In eight games since his absence, the Preds only have 18 goals. Putting up barely two goals a game is very un-cool after watching this team put up over three goals a night for three months. With Forsberg out of the lineup, Laviolette had to disband the top line, relying on the Turris line (with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala) to handle the goal scoring. They’ve been fine, but they can’t do everything. And then Viktor Arvidsson got hurt and then we thought Johansen would be out and oh me, oh my it wasn’t pretty there for a bit.
The good news (for us) is the team is now 5-1-1 since Forsberg has been out, namely because of the folks mentioned in Q#2 and Q#3. The defense has been doing a lot of the dirty work over the last three weeks and the goalies have been tremendous.
As far as the biggest worry for the Lightning, I’d say Kevin Fiala, mostly because of his last three outings. He scored a sick goal against Vegas a week ago in a 1-0 win at home, then put up two more goals against Florida on Saturday. He’s been a star to watch for about three years now in Nashville and it’s finally starting to happen thanks to Kyle Turris.
RC: Conversely, how is it working to have Scott Hartnell be on your first line, and what’s that all about?
Alex: I’d say Hartnell has been as advertised. He doesn’t have the legs that he once did in Nashville, but he’s got a great physical game, decent puck and shooting skills, and great offensive vision/presence. He has been excellent when paired with Colton Sissons, but for some reason that partnership hasn’t been used much.
Hartnell has been moved into the top six more frequently since Forsberg went down, but that’s just a stopgap. In an ideal world, he’s a winger on either the third or fourth line with either Bonino or Sissons as his center. He plays a similar game to those two at this stage of his career, only he drives possession much more successfully, so that’s probably where he belongs.
Tampa Bay Lightning
If they are anything like yesterday, kind of like this. It’s possible Cedric Paquette takes a night off, he looked to be a little banged up in last night’s game.
Nikita Kucherov - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Chris Kunitz - Steven Stamkos - Vladislav Namestnikov
Yanni Gourde - Matthew Peca - Alex Killorn
Michael Bournival - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Anton Stralman - Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev - Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Preds had optional skate today, so still no idea about lines.
It appears Juuse Saros will start against the Lightning.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) January 23, 2018