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Pre-season Preview: Predators and Capitals Pre-season Action in Baltimore


After splitting their historic double header with the Florida Panthers yesterday, the Nashville Predators fly north to Baltimore where they meet up with another southeastern division foe in the Washington Capitals for game 3 of this NHL Pre-season for the Predators.

The Predators are going to be taking a closer look at some of the pre-season battles tonight as the line-up for tonight’s game has been released (thanks to @SLakePreds):

LINE 1: Craig Smith / Cal O’Reilly / Martin Erat

LINE 2: Colin Wilson / Chris Mueller / Niclas Bergfors

LINE 3: Gabriel Bourque / Kyle Wilson / Ryan Thang

LINE 4: Zack Stortini / Jani Lajunen / Taylor Beck

Also, the defensive pairings will be as follows:

D PAIR 1: Suter / Weber

D PAIR 2: Laakso / Ekholm

D PAIR 3: Ellis / Sloan

Your goalies are:

GOALIE 1: Pekka Rinne

GOALIE 2: Jeremy Smith

What seems to be most interesting about these lines is the first and second line offensive pairings and the final defensive pairings.

LINE 1 – The Predators coaching staff is going to be doing whatever they can to see if Smith can find the back of the net while working with the top lines. With Smith being pretty quiet last night and the only stat he put on the board was 2 minutes in penalties, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do being paired with O’Reilly and Erat

LINE 2 – A little shocked to see Wilson being paired with Mueller and Bergfors, but that’s the beauty of training camp, you get to see many different looks from many different players. Yesterday’s 3 point effort from Colin Wilson definitely shows that he appears to have his head pointed in the right direction to show the coaches that he means business this year. Being paired with Mueller, who will probably see time in Nashville this year if/when anyone gets injured, and Bergfors, who could become a key component in the Predators offense, it’s definitely going to be fun to watch (well, listen) this line out on the ice this evening.

LINE 3 – Bourque was about as effective as Smith was yesterday, however his new linemates both tallied in their games yesterday. After being paired with Beck and Smith throughout rookie camp, you have to think that not all three will make the starting line up (if any of the three do) and the coaching staff will want to see those three produce the same offensive numbers on other lines if they can. Combining 2 players that were effective yesterday with an extremely talented offensive player such as Bourque could produce interesting results.

LINE 4 – This is a pretty interesting combo. Most likely, Stortini will play on the opening weekend of the 2011/2012 season, especially going against Columbus and St. Louis. With his ability to muscle his way up and down the ice, you wonder if it will produce some opportunities with the puck for Lajunen and Beck, who can be pretty dangerous if given the proper opportunity.

D PAIR 1 – Are you surprised? (I mean, seriously?) While some would expect the top duo to be split up to see how they work with others (for chemistry reasons, especially if one of the two were to get injured this season), they have to get some time to work with each other as well. That being the case, it’s no surprise to me that they are paired together for their first preseason action of the 2011/2012 campaign.

D PAIR 2 – Another non-surprise in my opinion. Laakso and Ekholm are tightly battling for the final defensive positions for the opening night roster for the Predators. Laakso went on the record Saturday saying that his expectations out of camp were to make the opening night roster, nothing less. While spending the past three seasons in Milwaukee waiting for his opportunity, he’s had a chance to work with Ekholm who is trying just as much to grab one of those roster spots. THIS could be the primo defensive pair to watch tonight.

D PAIR 3 – Another doozy to watch. Ryan Ellis is doing everything he can humanely do to grab himself a roster spot for opening night, as most feel that he’s pretty much conquered the minor league circuits out there. However, one player that some are forgetting about is his linemate this evening, Tyler Sloan. Sloan has 99 games of NHL experience under his belt already, including 4 playoff games with the Capitals. He’s already used to playing with the upper-echelon of elite players, so why are some writing him off so soon? Hard to say why, however Sloan/Ellis could definitely be a pair you may see later in the season if they gel right

GOALIE 1 – I’m curious to see how Rinne will play tonight. He struggled a bit during some of the canp practices and was letting a few pucks him; he was obviously frustrated by it. It’s most likely just the summer rust he’s shaking off, as he is still Pekka Rinne. Yet, even so, it’ll be extremely difficult for him to best last year’s performance he had with the Predators, even match it. Yet, even with that being said, Rinne is still an all-world ELITE goaltender.

GOALIE 2 – Ahhh Jeremy Smith. Smith was one of the two main starting goaltenders last year in Milwaukee (along with now-departed Mark Dekanich) and his numbers were fairly impressive. He only gave up one goal in yesterday’s early tilt with Florida, yet the battle for the starting jobs in Milwaukee is becoming a heavy battle between Smith/Pickard/Engren. While I believe Smith has the upper hand right now, Pickard has had an amazing camp so far and Engren has been right behind both. Smith needs to have a stellar performance tonight against some of the elite players from the Capitals to keep that bar raised high for Pickard and Engren

WELL! That’s about all I have for you! The game starts at 6:30pm CST ON 102.5 The Game, no TV/video will be available live for this game, so tune in and listen to Tom Callahan with the call of tonight’s action