Reinforcements are coming for the stumbling Nashville Predators as they look to remain relevant in the Western Conference race.
After an impressive 4-3 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, the Predators are looking to carry that momentum into a matchup with the NHL’s worst team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Ryan McDonagh is expected to return to action against the Blackhawks, giving the Predators their full complement of defensemen after at one point missing four starters:
This is a significant boost to the Predators lineup. They’re not going to be confused for a high-scoring team (30th in NHL in goals/game). They need rock solid defense in front of their goaltenders to be successful, and McDonagh will provide that like he was before the injury he suffered on December 2.
McDonagh’s value really shows itself the most on the penalty kill and protecting the goaltender with blocked shots. He is 28th among defensemen in Shots Blocked Per 60 Minutes, per MoneyPuck.com.
You can also count on McDonagh to usually make the right veteran decision whether it’s the correct pass out of the zone or avoiding the dumb penalty.
Additionally, the Predators got Alexandre Carrier back on Monday, and he ended up scoring the overtime game-winner to end their recent nightmares against the Oilers. It was a pretty goal as he decided to shoot rather than passing the puck off.
Then you can’t overlook Tommy Novak resurfacing. He had been out of the NHL for a calendar year before getting the call-up earlier this week. He generated the first goal on Monday with a shot that left a rebound for Mattias Ekholm.
It appears the Predators are getting the lineup solidified that Head Coach John Hynes should stick with. He has relegated once top line center Mikael Granlund to the bottom-six while elevating Cody Glass and Novak to top-six center roles, rightfully.
There are no excuses for this team now. They’re relatively healthy, compared to many other teams, and the roster that was assembled over the offseason is largely intact with the exception of Eeli Tolvanen lost on waivers.
On paper, this shouldn’t be a .500 team at 13-13-4. They have a slim amount of time to right the ship, otherwise it will be time to be sellers at March’s deadline and finally commit to tearing it all down. Quite frankly, many fans are already at that point regardless of what happens from here on out.