In what I view as the Game of the Night in the NHL, the Nashville Predators head to New Jersey for a Thursday night meeting with the Devils. I’m interested in seeing how the Devils handle this game against a serious threat. The Devils have played well, but this would be a marquee win that might garner some attention. Their 6-0 win over the Capitals was solid enough, but Washington have seemed to look hungover other than opening night when they raised their Stanley Cup banner into the rafters.
A team that hasn’t looked hungover and playing confident hockey is the Nashville Predators. The Preds have nothing to be hungover about after losing to the Jets in the second-round. All things considered, that’s a failure of a season following a 53-18-11 regular season. That got the Preds the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record in the NHL. They finished 1st in the Western Conference and 1st in the league.
Needless to say, losing to the Jets in the second-round was a failure for this team. A lot of people had the Preds winning it all, which wasn’t the boldest pick ever, but they were an easy selection after steam rolling their competition in the regular season. Offensively and defensively the Predators have a top-flight unit. However, the Preds are coming off their worst defensive performance of the season.
They dropped a 5-4 decision to the Sharks at home, which was the first time the Preds gave up more than 3 goals this season. The defence were on a hot run, but they didn’t play well against San Jose. New Jersey have had a couple of lapses in a row, as they got throttled by the Avalanche and Flyers in back-to-back games. I’m high on the Devils this season and this is going to be a nice measuring stick for them. Head below for our free Predators vs. Devils pick.
Nashville Predators vs. N.J. Devils Pick
The Devils were on a four-game winning streak before the Avalanche brought them down to earth. They gave up 5 goals in a 5-3 loss, and then they allowed an additional 5 goals to the Flyers. This was on Saturday, so they’ve been off nearly a week. Some of the scheduling in the NHL has been a bit weird, with teams getting huge breaks between games. I don’t know if that’s a positive or negative for some teams.
But after losing two games in a row, a break wasn’t the worst thing. We’ve been waiting for Keith Kinkaid to hit a wall and we sure did, though. As Cory Schneider continues to get some rehab starts in the AHL, the job is still Kinkaid’s in the crease. Kinkaid had been on fire, until he allowed 7 goals in his last two starts.
Kinkaid has been a career backup, so this is all new to him. With a 1.85 GAA heading into tonight, it’s a matter of time before his numbers regress to the mean. He’s had a 2.81, 2.64, and 2.77 GAA in each of the last three years. So, it’s unrealistic to believe Kinkaid is going to maintain his numbers.
Despite the loss against the Sharks, the Preds have been an impressive with a record of 7-2-0. They look ready to repeat as Presidents’ Trophy winners. They look motivated after falling to the Jets in the playoffs. Before they allowed 5 goals, the Preds gave up 1.4 goals per game in five straight games. Juuse Saros is expected to get the nod in net for the Preds tonight. With Rinne on the IR, they don’t have many other choices but to give Saros the keys to the net. Saros is one of the better backups in the NHL, so the Predators should be in good company.
He’s been solid with a 2.37 GAA and 0.919 save percentage. This should be a good one and the Devils aren’t a bad team, but I don’t think they’re ready to compete with the NHL’s elite. The Preds go into that category as an elite team. They are coming off a loss and will likely put a better effort together in New Jersey. The Devils should be fresh, but they could also look rusty against a team like the Preds. You won’t find the Preds at a reasonable price too often this season, so they are worth a look on Thursday evening.