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Examining the Nashville Predators forwards

by Evan Grossman / NHL.com

 
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Lining Up


Steve Sullivan will miss three months following off-season back surgery, leaving the top left wing spot vacant to start the season. It stands to reason that newly named captain Jason Arnott will center the top line with J.P. Dumont on the right side. David Legwand, 26, the Preds’ first-ever draft pick in 1998, continues to develop and will likely center the second line, potentially between Martin Erat and sophomore scoring machine Alexander Radulov. The 21-year-old set franchise records last year for goals (18) and points (37) by a rookie and delighted fans with his youthful exuberance and flashy goal celebrations.

A third-line checking unit could feature summer imports Radek Bonk and Martin Gelinas with hard-hitting 24-year-old Jordin Tootoo, while head coach Barry Trotz has hinted that 27-year-old Vern Fiddler could play anywhere, including the top line. Hard-working Jed Ortmeyer is another summer addition who excelled at killing penalties with the Rangers and should fill the same role with the Preds.

Feeling Special

Arnott led the Predators with 12 power-play goals last year and should continue to be a mainstay on the extra-man unit. A replacement for Hartnell in front of the net will be a primary concern during training camp, and with plenty of man-up ice time to go around, Radulov could be a regular with the man advantage, as could Fiddler. With Sullivan out for the start of the season and without Kariya shooting the puck, the Preds figure to have a lot of new faces on the power play.

Up and Coming

Rich Peverley  -- The 25-year-old was signed to a two-year contract by Nashville after a 30-goal season with AHL Milwaukee. He’s been described as a late bloomer. Peverley played in 13 games with the Preds last season and had an assist.

Antti Pihlstrom  -- Signed as a free agent in June out of the Finish League, where he scored 39 points in 56 games last year and was a plus-11. The 22-year-old also had eight points in nine playoff games in the playoffs across the pond and should make his North American debut soon enough.

Patric Hornqvist  -- The 20-year-old was taken by the Preds in the seventh round in 2005 and was signed this summer to a three-year entry-level contract. He scored 34 points in 49 games last season in Sweden.

X Factor

Alexander Radulov --  The Predators were among the deepest scoring attacks in the NHL last season, with eight players topping 50 points, but they lost a lot of their big guns during the summer. That opens the door for a guy like the 21-year old Radulov, who was impressive while scoring 18 goals as a rookie. He’ll likely get more minutes as a sophomore, but that’s no guarantee that his production will go up. If he comes through, he can certainly ease the loss of guys like Kariya and Hartnell, and would therefore help the Preds to maintain their standing among the elite teams in the Western Conference. If he turns in a dud second season, it could have a crippling effect on Nashville’s success. By no means is Radulov going to make or break the Preds’ season, but if he can blossom into the player he showed flashes of as a rookie, Nashville could have a monster season.

Barry Trotz
Nashville coach Barry Trotz on his line combinations:

"You look at some of the great lines and it isn’t necessarily three guys meshing together as much as maybe just two guys. You look at Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier with Clark Gilles or some other guys with the Islanders (dynasties of the 1980s) or Wayne Gretzky with Jari Kurri — they kept moving that one guy. I think if you can find chemistry between two players you can find another guy to complement them. That third guy can be an enhancer to it."
FAST FACTS

1. The Preds scored 272 goals last season, tying Colorado for the most in the Western Conference.

Erat
2. Martin Erat established career highs in assists (41) and points (57) last season.

3. Alexander Radulov was ninth in scoring in an impressive rookie class last year with 37 points, and his plus-19 rating was tops among all first-year players.


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