NASHVILLE -- Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin, the fifth pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut against the Nashville Predators on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.
"For me, I'm just going to try to just go out and play," Hanifin said. "Obviously it'll be pretty surreal going out there for the first time, but I think after a few shifts it'll sink in and it'll just be hockey."
Hanifin is still going through an adjustment period in adapting to the NHL level, but feels he will become more comfortable as time goes on this season.
"I think it's just the speed and the strength of the game," Hanifin said. "Coming from college, it was just another level. The decisions need to be much quicker and everyone is a lot stronger on the puck and stuff. I think it's just an adjustment for everyone. Every guy who comes into the League feels that same difference. Hopefully after a few months maybe I can get used to it."
The Predators finished second in the Central Division last season and is hoping to build on that success and make another run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They feel they have unfinished business to attend to after losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round.
"It's a new season, but yeah for sure, I think guys who played here last year remember those things and remember those losses and it's disappointing," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "At the same time, you just focus on this season."
The Predators got off to a fast start last season, which benefited them during the stretch run. They're hoping to get off to a similar start to keep pace in what should be a competitive race in the Western Conference.
"It's definitely important," defenseman Roman Josi said. "You don't want to fall back early so the start is huge. We had a great start last year and that definitely helped us throughout the year. That’s one of our goals for this season."
Here are the projected lineups:
Kris Versteeg – Eric Staal – Elias Lindholm
Nathan Gerbe – Jordan Staal – Riley Nash
Jeff Skinner – Victor Rask – Chris Terry
Andrej Nestrasil– Jay McClement – Joakim Nordstrom
Ron Hainsey – Justin Faulk
John-Michael Liles – James Wisniewski
Noah Hanifin – Ryan Murphy
Scratched: Brad Malone, Michal Jordan
Filip Forsberg – Mike Ribeiro – James Neal
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Craig Smith
Viktor Arvidsson – Cody Hodgson – Calle Jarnkrok
Eric Nystrom – Paul Gaustad – Gabriel Bourque
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
Barret Jackman – Seth Jones
Scratched: Austin Watson, Victor Bartley, Anthony Bitetto
Status report: Ward was the first goaltender off the ice for the Hurricanes and will start… Rinne was first off and is expected to start for the Predators.
Who's hot: Eric Staal led the Hurricanes with 54 points last season in 77 games. … Forsberg led the Predators with 63 points in 82 games.