Good morning from Nashville, Tennessee. Tonight the Pens are in the Music City to battle the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville is off to a hot start to the season with a 6-1 record and are riding a 3-game winning streak. The Pens had their 3-game winning streak snapped Thursday against Dallas.
BONINO GOOD TO GO Pens center Nick Bonino was injured late in the third period of their Thursday night contest against Dallas when he took an elbow to the head from Jason Demers. He practiced Friday and took part in today’s morning skate.
It looks like Bonino will be good to go for tonight’s contest.
“I feel good, I should be good,” Bonino told me after the morning skate. “There were no setbacks.”
Head coach Mike Johnston also expects Bonino to be in the lineup against the Preds.
“It looks like he’s going to be fine,” Johnston said. “The results were pretty good after the skate yesterday. He felt good. Doctors cleared him prior to practice to practice. I would expect him in the lineup tonight.”
NEW LINES The Pens are expected to unveil some new line combinations tonight against the Predators in an attempt to spark more offense. Pittsburgh has scored 11 goals in the first seven games this season.
“You have to score to win,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We’ve had some low scoring games and defensively we’ve done a fairly good job. But we definitely need to find a way to put more pucks to the net. If that means creating more chances or burying the ones we get we’ve got to score more.”
The Pens didn’t skate in lines during the morning skate, but they used the following combinations at Friday’s practice…
Dupuis-Crosby-Hornqvist Plotnikov-Malkin-Kessel Kunitz-Bonino-Sprong The fourth line had several different players
MATCHUP The Predators have always been a strong team defensively, thanks to goaltender Pekka Rinne. They have the NHL’s second-fewest goals against. But now they are also lighting the lamp offensively, ranking 8th in the NHL with 22 goals. They are led by former Penguin James Neal, who paces the team in both goals (5) and points (8).
Nashville is employing the same system that head coach Peter Laviolette installed upon his arrival last season. They want to push the puck up the walls and either cut it to the middle or look to pass to a guy skating down the center. Once in the offensive zone the Predators use two players deep on the forecheck. And as always they want to take shots, shots, shots and more shots. The Predators also love to activate their D and get them involved in the rush.
A key for the Pens will be keeping the Predators to the outside on their rushes. The Pens will have to take away that lane to the middle or eliminate that centering pass and keep the Predators on the boards. In the offensive zone the Pens should be able to establish a strong forecheck, but they’ll need to win puck battles. The Pens have talked about getting more traffic at the net, and that will be crucial against Rinne. If he sees a shot, he will stop it.
GAME INFO Where: Bridgestone Arena When: Saturday, 8 p.m. TV: ROOT Sports Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins Radio Network Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop