The 2022-23 NHL season is set to get underway on the other side of the world when the San Jose Sharks play the Nashville Predators as part of the 2022 NHL Global Series on Friday in Prague.
The teams will also play on Saturday at the same venue, O2 Arena.
The Predators upgraded their roster in the offseason by trading for veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh and signing skilled forward Nino Niederreiter.
McDonagh, 33, spent the past 4 1/2 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning following 7 1/2 seasons with the New York Rangers.
“We were looking for a potential top-four defenseman going into the offseason, but to get a guy like Ryan was really special and something we jumped at the chance to really do,” Nashville coach John Hynes said.
As a shutdown defenseman, McDonagh doesn’t have stats that jump off the page. However, he has appeared in 185 playoff games, including the past three Stanley Cup Finals, winning two championships with Tampa Bay.
It’s an experience he hopes to bring to Nashville, which is still looking for its first Stanley Cup title after several close calls.
“There’s no greater feeling. It’s hard to describe,” McDonagh said of winning the Cup in 2020 and ’21. “As soon as you do get a taste of it, you definitely want to repeat that again and go through the process and through that journey with the group of guys and feel that reward at the end of all that hard work.”
Like the Predators, the Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup title, but they didn’t work nearly as hard as Nashville in the offseason to end that drought.
Brent Burns won’t be in the San Jose lineup for the first time in 12 seasons after the Sharks traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes over the summer.
The Sharks will continue to lean on the veterans who are left, however. Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture are still comfortably in their prime and coming off solid seasons.
Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic provide irreplaceable experience on the defensive end, though both have come up short of recent expectations.
Karlsson, 32, put up at least 62 points in five straight seasons with the Ottawa Senators before he was traded to the Sharks in a multi-player deal in September 2018.
In San Jose, he hasn’t logged more than 45 points in any of his four seasons.
Vlasic, 35, saw his plus-minus tumble to minus-22 last season, and his average ice time fell to a career-low 15:13.
David Quinn was hired as San Jose’s head coach on July 26 after Bob Boughner was fired earlier in the month.
Quinn is intent on turning things around but said the first game has come up fast.
“There’s a lot that we haven’t touched on, but at the end of the day, if we play at the pace and the tempo we’ve been playing at, with the mentality, that can cover a lot of mistakes,” Quinn said. “That’s all we’ve really focused on. We’ve been implementing structure and systems that we’re going to need to be good at.”
The NHL’s first game in Europe since 2019 nearly ran into a snag when the Czech Foreign Ministry informed the NHL that Russian players were not welcome in Prague due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the Czech government reversed their stance on Sept. 29.
The Sharks have two Russian-born players, left wingers Alexander Barabanov and Evgeny Svechnikov, and the Predators have Russian center Yakov Trenin on their roster.
–Field Level Media