The Nashville Predators are a vastly different hockey club than the one that just beat the Florida Panthers 13 days ago.
The visiting Predators bring their new look to South Florida against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Since Feb. 20, the Predators have made three trades, sending away forwards Tanner Jeannot and Nino Niederreiter and defenseman Mattias Ekholm. All three played when the Predators beat the Panthers 7-3 on Feb. 18.
“These situations are always difficult,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “We’re losing great guys, and we’re losing good players.”
The Predators, though, acquired two defensemen — Tyson Barrie, 31 and Cal Foote, 24.
Barrie, who is expected to make his Predators’ debut on Thursday, ranks 12th in the NHL in points by a defenseman this season, posting 10 goals and 33 assists for the Edmonton Oilers. Also, since his first full NHL season in 2013-14, Barrie ranks seventh in points by a defenseman.
Foote, a former first-round pick who won a Stanley Cup title with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021, made his debut Tuesday as host Nashville blew a third-period lead in a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Foote had one hit and two blocked shots in 12:14 of ice time.
In addition, Nashville got forward prospect Reid Schaefer and several draft picks.
Nashville will host the 2023 NHL Draft and the Predators own 12 selections, including two first-rounders. They also own nine picks in 2024, including one in the first and three in the second.
And while it may seem like the Predators are tanking for the rest of this season, they will enter Thursday having won three of their past games.
Their defensemen include Roman Josi, who leads the team in assists (37) and points (54), two-time Cup champ Ryan McDonagh, Barrie and Foote.
Offensively, Filip Forsberg leads Nashville with 19 goals. But he has missed eight straight games due to an upper-body injury.
The goalie matchup for Thursday’s game — if both teams go with their starters — will pit Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky against Nashville’s Juuse Saros.
Bobrovsky beat the Lightning 4-1 on Tuesday for career win No. 354. It’s the most wins ever by a Russian goalie, passing Evgeni Nabokov.
“It’s definitely big,” said Bobrovsky, who is 18-16-2 with a 3.07 goals-against average this season. “It’s something you dream of, but it takes a lot of work from my teammates.”
Saros, who is from Finland, is 23-17-5 with a 2.79 GAA.
If he starts, Saros is set to face Panthers forwards Matthew Tkachuk, who leads the team in assists (51) and points (79), and Carter Verhaeghe, who tops the team in goals (31).
Thursday should also mark the third game back from injury for standout Panthers winger Anthony Duclair, who scored a career-high 31 goals in 2021-22. In two games this season, he has one goal and one assist.
However, the Panthers still have two injured forwards listed as day-to-day: Aleksander Barkov, who scored a career-high 39 goals last season and is one of the NHL’s top two-way centers, and Sam Bennett, who scored a career-high 28 goals in 2021-22.
This season, Barkov and Bennett have a combined 30 goals.
–Field Level Media