Nashville makes the trip to Ottawa today and since these two teams don't play each other very often, we talked to Jonathan (@JGarcia36) at On the Forecheck to better familiarize Silver Seven readers with Ottawa's opponent.
Amelia: Just how good has Seth Jones been?
Jonathan: You know, as the season gets closer to ending it's getting more evident that he is still just 19 years old. Playing upwards of 25 minutes a night at the beginning of the season seems to have taken a toll, and the fatigue is showing a little.
That said, it has still been remarkable to watch him skate and play ever night. Sure, he's a rookie and makes mistakes, but there have been games that you forget he's just a kid. His late game-winning goal against Montreal instantly springs to mind. For a team that struggles to score, Jones has amassed 21 points so far, sixth among rookie defenders.
Let's also not forget that he has one of the best defenseman in the NHL to learn from in Shea Weber. Right now, Weber and Roman Josi are the go-to pairing, leaving Jones to take easier assignments and play his game. He's still very much developing, but is in the perfect franchise to do that.
Now, about those mythical scoring forwards...
Amelia: One of the most reliable franchises in the league, this season has been difficult for Predators fans who find themselves outside the playoff race. At the trade deadline the original Nashville Predator, David Legwand was dealt. How do Preds fans feel about the decision to deal the long-time resident? What do you think of the return?
Jonathan: There's no question that Preds fans are sad to see him go. Though I think most of them realized he wasn't going to be around much longer and appreciate not losing him for nothing. The Ryan Suter situation immediately comes to mind, and even GM David Poile he didn't want that to happen again.
However, in 2012 Nashville was gearing up at a chance to make a deep playoff run and needed Suter. This year is a whole different story, since it's going to be the second season in a row the club misses the playoffs. Swapping Legwand was the only acceptable option, and I think it was a pretty fair deal.
I don't see Patrick Eaves being much of a factor on the team, but Calle Jarnkrok is a different story. Forgetting all the rumors swirling around him, he's already scored three goals in two games for Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. He's also on a line with the highly touted Filip Forsberg, which is no doubt making Predators fans salivate. The organization is starting to build a crop of really promising forwards, who hopefully can produce some offense down the road. Ideally, I'd like to see some of them (especially Jarnkrok) called up before the season ends, just to get them some experience.
Amelia: Ottawa was in a similar position three years ago, when GM Bryan Murray dealt long-time Senator Mike Fisher to Nashville to help kick off a rebuild. How has Fisher faired in Nashville? How do fans feel about him?
Jonathan: It's hard to compete with the amount of affection you all showed for him, but rest easy: he's loved by the Nashville faithful. Fisher's style of play meshes perfectly with the system that Trotz utilizes, which has led him to be extremely successful wearing gold. Every season with the team (not counting the year he was traded) he has finished third on the team in scoring. That's where he sits this season, as well.
Amelia: Nashville has trouble generating offense, ranking 24th in the league with 2.4 goals/game. Before he left, Legwand was the team's leading scorer among forwards. Which forward(s) is Nashville coach Barry Trotz turning to now?
Jonathan: Whether he's ready or not: Colin Wilson. He's been slotted as the first line center, essentially being sent a message that it's time for him to step up his game and be the dynamic forward they need him to be. Wilson has showed flashes of his talent, but has never put it together consistently. This is his fifth season with the squad, so there may not be much more upside to him than what we see.
Maybe being given the extra responsibility will put him in a better position to succeed. He's looked fairly invisible in the few games he's played there already, but it's not fair to judge so soon. He does get the benefit of playing with Craig Smith, who has emerged this season as being one of, if not the best forward on the team. Smith has set a career-high in points this year, and has rebounded from an awful 2012 season. He'll no doubt be getting a big boost in responsibility as well.
Amelia: Pekke Rinne's injury derailed Nashville's season. How did the Predators cope without the star netminder? What can reasonably be expected from him during the last month of the season?
Jonathan: The Predators struggled mightily to fill Rinne's gigantic shoes. Cater Hutton only had three games of NHL experience before he was thrust into the starter's gig, and it was clear he was in over his head. Same with Marek Mazanec, who hadn't even played in North America until this season, let alone the NHL
Both of them had stretches where they played lights out hockey and, given the situation, it's more the organization's fault that their backup situation was questionable at best. Still, it seemed like more goals the Predators scored the more goals the goalie would let in. Like the game against Calgary where Eric Nystrom scored four (!) goals, yet they lost. :waves to Devan Dubnyk:
As far as Rinne is concerned, I'd expect him to get the bulk of the playing time the rest of the season. He's gotten better in each of the three games he's played since coming off injury. That includes Saturday's spectacular performance against Columbus, where he stopped all but one of the 36 shots he faced. Of course, the Predators couldn't find the back of the net, so that effort was wasted by being shutout... again. Just like old times, Pekks!