The regular season hasn't arrived quite yet, but it's still a Saturday night in Smashville.
The Predators are set to hit the Bridgestone Arena ice for the first time in 2016-17, as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in a preseason matchup, the first of two exhibition contests in home ice.
Nashville will ice an experienced roster, highlighted by the likes of Captain Mike Fisher, defenseman P.K. Subban and forwards James Neal, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg. The veteran lineup could give Head Coach Peter Laviolette a first look at some potential line combinations and defensive pairings as the season inches closer.
"You're trying to put in your system and put in your identity, how your team is going to play, what are you going to be known for, what type of game are you going to have, and training camp is a good way to do that," Laviolette said. "Practices are a good way to do that, and then try to take those practices and implement them to games. [Tonight], the work is the game, and we have to focus on that so we can get better as a team."
Mattias Ekholm, who was paired with Subban on the blue line during Friday's practice, is also in tonight's lineup and could get a chance to play alongside No. 76. Laviolette said Friday he does expect the pair to "play some exhibition games together."
Tonight's game is also expected to be sold out, a testament to the level of excitement surrounding the Predators leading into the season.
"I heard there's an awful lot of our fans showing up for the game, so that's a really good thing," Laviolette said. "You can feel that there is some good energy here, but now our team has to go back to work and make sure we keep things moving in the right direction on the ice. But certainly, the support we've gotten from our fans is unbelievable. The fact that we're talking big numbers for our first exhibition game is awesome."
Fans are encouraged to arrive early for the annual Skate of the Union Address on the Bridgestone Arena Plaza, complete with appearances from players, coaches and team executives, including Subban, Fisher, Neal, Laviolette and General Manager David Poile.
The festivities also include a special unveiling you will not want to miss, followed by the SOTU and a plaza party. The Preds are also hosting a PENCIL Foundation and Nashville Predators Foundation School Supply Drive and encourage fans to bring new notebooks, notecards and glue sticks to donate prior to the game.
The afternoon begins at 1 p.m. on the Bridgestone Arena plaza. For a full schedule, click here.