A youthful group of Nashville Predators played fairly well in a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville’s first preseason action.
Carolina brought a veteran lineup that included Eric Staal, Sergei Samsonov, Eric Cole, Brandon Sutter, and others with plenty of NHL experience. The Predators countered with young prospects mixed in with veterans J.P. Dumont, Patric Hornqvist, and Pekka Rinne.
The Predators were especially young on defense with Ryan Parent and Cody Franson being the only D-men with more than a few games experience.
“They probably had three of their lines in and four of their top D,” said Preds coach Barry Trotz on the mismatch in experience. “Our top four defensemen weren’t in the game.”
The Predators got on the board first on an unassisted shot through the middle by Dumont at 9:18 of the first period. Samsonov and Patrick O’Sullivan scored for the Canes in the second period. An empty netter by Cole in the waning minutes of the game was the final nail in the coffin for the Preds as they missed a couple of opportunities to tie as the clock wound down.
“I thought in the second that we stopped skating,” Trotz lamented. “They played a real pressure game as we did. In the third, I thought we turned it on them a bit. We could have tied it up and didn’t.”
What We Learned…
Dumont is in the best shape that he has been in in a couple of years and hustles like we have not seen in recent times. His goal was indicative of his work over the summer.
Sergei Kostitsyn plays much better than he practices. I had questions as to whether he would make the squad after watching him over the weekend, but those were erased in last night’s game. Trotz commented, “I thought Kostitsen had his best night. He does a really good job o the penalty kill. He skated well offensively.”
Hornqvist picked up where he left off last year with six shots and plenty of pushing and shoving around the net, fighting for space in the hard areas.
Blake Geoffrion made his first start in a Preds’ sweater in front of the home crowd. He said his biggest thrill was “taking my first face-off against Staal and getting the win was pretty special.” He also claimed he had no jitters in front of his friends and family once the game started.
“I thought Blake had a really good game,” Trotz praised about Geoffrion’s game. “He was one of our best face off guys. He was real solid on the penalty kill and showed really good poise.”
Rinne looked better than he has in past year’s preseason games. Playing just over half the game, he stopped 17 of 18 Canes’ shots that included one highlight film save at the end of the first period that brought the crowd to their feet.
“For the most part I was pleased with Pekka. He looked sharp and made some really good saves,” explained Trotz, post-game.
Mark Dekanich stopped six of seven shots in relief as Carolina’s offensive push slowed. While he kept from making any big mistakes, Dekanich did not look completely comfortable in net.
Ryan Ellis was paired with Franson and was a -2 for the game.
“Offensively he was pretty good. I thought a couple of times he didn’t support his partner coming out of our end,” said Trotz.
Ellis either has to make the team out of camp or return to Windsor for another year in Juniors. Milwaukee is not an option.
The Predators special teams picked up where they left off last year going 0-4 on the power-play and 5-6 on the penalty kill. The movement on the man advantage was much improved is spite of not finding the net.
“Last year we were one of the most disciplined teams and we’ve got to get back to that,” Trotz said about his teams lack of discipline.
There was plenty of confusion on the lower level of the arena as the Predator locker room renovation remains unfinished from the flood. Trotz said that he hoped the contractors were listening and could get the team back in the room by October 5. The crowd was lively for a preseason crowd, with over 10,000 actual bodies in seats which is not bad for a Thursday in September in Tennessee.
The Predators leave this afternoon to fly to Raleigh for a return engagement with the Hurricanes. Puck drop is at 6 p.m. tonight.