2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Nashville Predators

Key Offseason Additions: Niclas Bergfors, Jack Hillen

Key Offseason Losses: Marcel Goc, Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan, Shane O’Brien

Last Season Ranking: 5th in the West

Offense: Leading the way on offense this season for the Nashville Predators will be Sergei Kostitsyn. His 23 goals and 50 points lead a Predators team that struggled offensively last season. He’ll be joined up front by another talented winger, Patric Hornqvist, who managed 21 goals and 48 points in 79 games last season. These two will see plenty of ice time, and have to make the most of it.

The veteran leadership on offense will come from Martin Erat, who is much more skilled than his career high 57 points would lead on. Spending his entire NHL career thus far with the offensively lackluster Predators, Erat has failed to produce the big numbers associated with other players of his talent. He will continue to be a sound threat any time he’s on the ice, and is looking at another season around the 50 point mark.

Centering some of the aforementioned wingers will be David Legwand, a Detroit native. Legwand, who had a bit of a bounce back year last season despite only playing 64 regular season games, will be expected to keep the steam rolling on his production. If Legwand finds his touch early this season, things could be looking up in Nashville.

Unfortunately, the Predators suffered a huge loss when Joel Ward signed with the Capitals. Ward, who had a modest regular season with 29 points, really turned on his game during the playoffs. Losing that kind of production could come back to haunt this squad if no one else steps up. The losses of Marcel Goc and Steve Sullivan, who combined for an additional 46 points last season, will only hurt the Predators even more. For a team that doesn’t score a lot, those three losses will make for some big shoes to fill.

Defense: This team is lead by its defensive abilities every season, and anchoring that defense once again is Shea Weber. He is a top-notch defenseman who will see continue to see big minutes this season, and be relied on to play against the opponent’s best players every night. Right alongside Weber on the blue line will be Ryan Suter, who finished last season as a plus 20. He’ll be working harder than ever to ensure he puts up similar numbers this season.

Rounding out the defense will be Jack Hillen, Kevin Klein, and Jonathan Blum. Each will be heavily relied on to play shut down defense, because Nashville will continue to win low scoring, one goal games. Hillen will see some additional time on the power-play, however, and have an opportunity to contribute offensively as well.

Goaltending: In net for the Predators will be Pekka Rinne, who is one of the best goaltenders in the game right now. Rinne had another successful campaign last season, leading the Predators into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. His 2.12 goals against average was a career high, all while starting a career high number of games with 64. Rinne will see around 60 games again this season, but load could be increased depending on where they are in the playoff race.

Backing up Rinne will be another solid netminder, Anders Lindback, who was a 7th round Predators draft pick in 2008. Lindback saw significant playing time last December, and made the most of it with a five game winning streak that included back-to-back shutouts.

HWB Playoff Prediction: Not Playoff bound. Despite the tremendous defense and goaltending, the Nashville Predators don’t have quite enough to put them over the edge this season. They’ll fight for it down the stretch, but come up just short, after a solid effort. Keep them in mind as contenders all season long though as coach Barry Trotz is one of the best in the league, and absolutely knows how to make his players work for him.

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