The Nashville Predators are in South Florida tonight to face an Eastern Conference team they don’t see very much—the Florida Panthers. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be unfamiliar with the squad.
Some names in the Panthers lineup will ring a few bells for Predators players and fans when the puck drops tonight at 6:30 p.m. CT at BankAtlantic Center. Marcel Goc, Mike Santorelli, and Jerred Smithson all spent time in the Predators organization before being summoned south. Smithson, who was traded by Nashville to Florida eight days ago, has played four games in a Panthers uniform—a strange sight for Preds head coach Barry Trotz.
“I saw him [Thursday night on TV] a little bit in the game in Winnipeg,” Trotz said Friday after his team’s practice. “It was a little weird. Him and [Goc]—every time I see Goc, 57, scooting around there it seems a little weird. It’ll be good. They’re good guys that had a big impact in our franchise for a long time. It’s good that they’re having an impact there.”
Seeing Smithson in Panther apparel on television prompted a similar reaction from Preds captain Shea Weber
, Smithson’s longtime roommate on team road trips.
“It’s different,” Weber said Friday. “I didn’t even see him in an L.A. uniform. (Smithson played 30 games for the L.A. Kings before being signed by Nashville in July 2004.) I’ve only ever seen him in Nashville. ... I’ve talked to him and he said things are going pretty well, so it’s good for him.”
Much credit for the Florida-Nashville ties goes to Mike Santos, the former director of hockey operations for the Nashville Predators who now serves as assistant general manager in Florida. Scottie Upshall (currently on injured reserve) is another former member of the Preds organization, as are Panther prospects Bracken Kearns and Nolan Yonkman.
Aside from the Predators connections, the Florida lineup has other names that most Nashville fans will recognize from Western Conference stints, like former Red Wing/Canuck Mikael Samuelsson and former Dallas Star tough guy Krystofer Barch.
The Panthers are 3-1-1 in their last five games, but should come into tonight’s contest a little prickly after a 7-0 drubbing by the Winnipeg Jets in their previous match. If the Predators can draw some penalties, look for Nashville’s second-ranked power play to match up favorably against Florida’s 24th-ranked penalty kill; the Panthers have given up power-play goals in five consecutive games.