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Predators season preview: Duchene addition should boost power play

Health of Forsberg, Arvidsson, play of rookie defenseman Fabbro also key

by Robby Stanley / Independent Correspondent

The 2019-20 NHL season begins Oct. 2. With training camps open, is taking a look at the five keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lines for each of the 31 teams. Today, the Nashville Predators.

Coach: Peter Laviolette (sixth season)

Last season: 47-29-6; first place Central Division, lost to Dallas Stars in Western Conference First Round




1. Duchene's impact

Matt Duchene was signed as a free agent July 1, and the Predators are hoping he can boost their scoring, which finished 19th in the NHL last season (236 goals). He had 70 points (31 goals, 39 assists) in 73 games with the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets last season and likely will center the second line.

Duchene also gives Nashville options on the power play, where he has experience on the half wall and in front of the net.

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Duchene


2. Improving the power play

The Predators ranked last in the NHL on the power play last season with a 12.9 percent scoring rate. They're hoping the addition of Duchene and the hiring of assistant Dan Lambert will improve that number.

Nashville's top power-play unit could be forwards Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson and defenseman Roman Josi, talented players who need to create better chemistry than last season.


3. Fabbro's comfort level

Rookie defenseman Dante Fabbro is expected to play in the top four, paired with either Josi or Mattias Ekholm. Nashville traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils on June 22, and Fabbro will be expected to shoulder some of the responsibility Subban had.

Fabbro made his NHL debut March 30 after completing his junior season with Boston University and scored one goal in four regular season games. The 21-year-old played in each of the six Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Predators against the Stars and had one assist. 


4. Keeping Forsberg, Arvidsson healthy

Arvidsson had 48 points (34 goals, 14 assists) in 58 games last season, and Forsberg, who has missed 33 games the past two seasons after not missing a game in three straight seasons, had 50 points (28 goals, 22 assists) in 64 games. If the wings can stay healthy, it would be a major boost to Nashville's offense.

Arvidsson and Forsberg have largely played on a line with Johansen the past three seasons but could be separated at times with the addition of Duchene, spreading out the scoring options.

Video: NSH@PIT: Arvidsson nets 100th NHL goal on power play


5. Utilizing goaltending tandem

The Predators have excellent goaltending with Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Rinne, who was 30-19-4 with a 2.42 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and four shutouts in 56 games (55 starts) last season, turns 37 on Nov. 3 and has played fewer regular-season games each of the past three seasons with the emergence of Saros, who last season was 17-10-2 with a 2.62 GAA, .915 save percentage and three shutouts in 31 games.

Look for that trend to continue with Rinne potentially playing fewer than 55 games for the first time since 2013-14, when was limited to 24 games by a hip injury. Saros started 27 games last season, and the 24-year-old could start at least 30 games for the first time in his NHL career.




Making the cut

There is a battle for spots in the bottom-six forwards among Frederick Gaudreau, Miikka Salomaki and Daniel Carr. Gaudreau played 55 games with the Predators last season, and Salomaki played 37 games before he was injured. Nashville signed Carr to a one-way contract July 1.

Nashville acquired defenseman Steven Santini from the Devils in the Subban trade. If Santini makes the team as a sixth or seventh defenseman, Matt Irwin may be placed on waivers depending on whether Nashville decides to keep seven defensemen or eight.

Video: OTT@NJD: Santini rips home slap shot to double lead


Most intriguing addition

Carr won the Les Cunningham Award as the most valuable player of the American Hockey League last season with 71 points (30 goals, 41 assists) in 52 games with Chicago. The 27-year-old is expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp and could see some time on the power play.


Biggest potential surprise

Pitlick played one game for the Predators last season after finishing his third season with the University of Minnesota. The 22-year-old, who was assigned to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Sunday, can play center or wing and could add scoring to Nashville's bottom-six forwards if recalled during the season.


Ready to break through

Tolvanen, the No. 30 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, has the potential to be a top-six forward. He had 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in 58 AHL games for Milwaukee last season. 

The 20-year-old lost approximately 15 pounds this offseason and is hoping added quickness will help him be a regular contributor in the NHL. Tolvanen was sent to Milwaukee on Sunday because of Nashville's depth at forward, but he could be an important call-up during the season.


Fantasy sleeper

Saros (average draft position: 175.8) has a .920 save percentage and seven shutouts in 79 NHL games and has gotten more playing time in each of the past three seasons, indicating he could eventually split starts with Rinne. -- Pete Jensen

Video: CBJ@NSH: Saros denies Atkinson on penalty shot



Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Mikael Granlund -- Matt Duchene -- Kyle Turris

Rocco Grimaldi -- Colton Sissons -- Craig Smith

Calle Jarnkrok -- Nick Bonino -- Austin Watson

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm -- Dante Fabbro

Dan Hamhuis -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Lead photo courtesy of John Russell/Nashville Predators

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