It's a pretty well-known story when it comes to describing the Nashville Predators the last multitude of years. You scan down their roster, noticing probably only a couple notable names as you make your way down, and you see some very tall goaltenders at the bottom (as long as they're Nashville-drafted). This has been the case for years, and continues to be the case now. Shea Weber is a name that everybody probably notices, given either their knowledge of players who can fire a puck at 110+ miles per hour, those who are very tall and intimidating people, or those who have last names that are fun to say (weberweberweberweberweberweber). The newer, and possibly, even more fascinating name on Nashville's roster list this year, though, is a young American boy of the name "Seth Jones." Anyone who read a single draft preview article last year likely knows at least a little bit about Jones. He was raised in Colorado, he's big, he's smart, he can do just about anything you want in a better-than-serviceable top-4 defenseman (oh yeah, and the fact that he's a teenager). Since the start of the season, Jones has done just about everything to prove to everyone (especially the Colorado Avalanche) that he should have been the first overall pick in the NHL draft. In the time that his fellow defenseman Roman Josi was down, Jones served on the top pair for Nashville, playing his off-side with Shea Weber. During this period of time, he played the toughest competition the opposition could throw at the Preds, and he did so successfully. Again, I emphasize that he did this as a teenager. Much has been said about Nashville's ability to draft defenders and goaltenders (6-4 rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec has been pretty good as well this season), and a team that drafted Shea Weber and Ryan Suter certainly deserves that praise, but not enough can be said about their drafting of Seth Jones. Did he fall into their laps, to some extent? Of course he did. But if you can draft a kid fourth overall that is already performing just about as well as Shea Weber, and probably hasn't even started to scrape the ceiling of his development, you've done a pretty good job for yourself.
Matchups to watch for tonight: Mike Fisher has been matched up against the other team's top lines for Nashville, so I'd expect Jumbo to be nomming on some fish tonight (ha. That's a funny pun I just made. Puns are still funny, right?).
David Legwand and Couture will likely be sharing much of the same ice tonight, and similarly, Matt Cullen will likely be doing the same with Joe Pavelski. Andrew Desjardins will be tasked with shutting down Nashville's fourth line, that has suddenly caught on fire the last two games, the line of Clune-Gaustad-Hendricks combining for 8 points the last two games. I don't expect he and his linemates will have much of a problem with it, though.
PREDICTION: As far as I remember, Pekka Rinne's pretty much been the one thing separating the Sharks from victory against Nashville quite a few times the last few years, so with him out, and without either Nashville goaltender standing on their heads, I'd expect this one to go in the Sharks' favor. Pavelski and Havlat have seemed to have success against the Preds lately, so... 6-1 final. Havlat and Pavelski with hat tricks, and Bradley Stuart with another puck deflecting in off of him past Niemi for the one Nashville goal tonight.
|20-6-6, 46 points
||15-14-3, 33 points|
|2nd in Pacific
||6th in Central
Projected Sharks Lineup
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy
Matt Nieto - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Marty Havlat
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart - Jason Demers
Projected Predators Lineup
Colin Wilson - Matt Cullen - Gabriel Bourque
Nick Spaling - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Eric Nystrom - Mike Fisher - Viktor Stalberg
Richard Clune - Paul Gaustad - Matt Hendricks
Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Seth Jones - Ryan Ellis
Viktor Bartley - Kevin Klein