In an odd way, my first thought on an early-season match up between the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators is one of sadness. Very quickly in an oddball 2020-21 what could be a fun, natural geographic rivalry blossomed and was capped off by a good playoff round tilt. But if any of that carries over to Saturday, it will show what could have been but never will be with return to regular NHL scheduling that sees the teams meet only twice over the course of a long 6-month NHL schedule.
But ‘could have beens’ aside, the game represents a chance for the Hurricanes to take a second step toward a strong start after a quality home win against the New York Islanders on Thursday.
My quick watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators
1) Mostly more of the same
Thursday’s win was not perfect, but it easily leaned positive. Three of the four lines had at least bursts, special teams were good and the newly-minted defense scored well in its first test. A significant part of Saturday will just be watching to see if the Hurricanes can build off a mostly good start.
2) The first line
Hidden beneath the positives was a ‘meh’ or worse game for the first line centered by Sebastian Aho. Martin Necas had a medium-quality scoring chance early but otherwise was very quiet. Newcomer Jesperi Kotkaniemi had one decent shooting attempt late but was generally even quieter. And in total the line was a non-factor. With more potential scoring depth, my preference would be to go top-heavy with a top line of Teravainen/Aho/Svechnikov, but Brind’Amour’s historical leaning for balance is getting the first look. After a ‘meh’ first game, I will be watching to see if Aho’s line can find a higher gear in game two.
3) In net
After a generally solid preseason, Frederik Andersen was ‘meh’ in the season-opener. He seemed to struggle tracking the puck as the game wore on to the point where his glove became a blocker that left rebounds laying around a bit too much. But he was good enough to win which should be something to build on. Whether Andersen gets a second chance or Brind’Amour instead gets Antti Raanta into the mix, netminding will be a watch point early in the season as the team works to transition to two new goalies.
4) For old time’s sake
Though it will be bittersweet, I will also be watching to see if there is some carry over from the COVID year Central Division to make for a spirited game so early in the season.
The puck drops at 8pm on Bally Sports with Tripp, Mike, Shane and Abby.