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Scouting The Enemy: Nashville Predators

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We take a closer look inside Sunday's opponent, the Nashville Predators.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Florida has faced off against the Nashville Predators 21 times so far, and have earned a .548 points percentage, their fourth best against any team. They're 8-6-4, with three ties overall. They last played on November 22nd, when the Preds handed the Panthers a 3-2 shootout loss. Florida had been losing, 2-0 with just 43 seconds left before scoring twice (Rocco Grimaldi with his first and Nick Bjugstad with his seventh) to send the game to overtime. * Box Score

The last Florida win in the series was last season, on January 4th. The Panthers took a 5-4 decision, also in the shootout. Tomas Kopecky was the hero of the day, with his fourth marker of the season in the first period and the game winner in the sixth round of the skills competition. * Box Score

Now, a little bit more about the present version of these Nashville Predators. Statistics courtesy of www.hockey-reference.com, scouting reports courtesy of www.sportsforecaster.com.

Forwards

First Line

Filip Forsberg

Forsberg is a 6'1", 194 lb. rookie from Ostervala, Sweden. He's one of three favorites (amongst Johnny Gaudreau and Panther Aaron Ekblad) for this season's Rookie of the Year Award. He was originally drafted in the first round of the 2012 Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

69

18

34

52

This Season

51

17

29

46

Last 10 played

10

3

5

8

vs. Florida

2

0

1

1

Assets: Has a very projectable 6-2 frame, plenty of offensive acumen, a good release and quick shot. Also displays plenty of two-way upside, sound defensive instincts and the ability to line up on either side of center.
Flaws: Needs to fill out, add a lot of strength to his upper body and prove capable of withstanding the rigors of the National Hockey League schedule in order to maximize his scoring output at the highest level.
Career Potential: Talented scoring winger with good upside.

Mike Ribeiro

Ribiero is a 6', 180 lb. left-handed shooting center from Montreal. The 34-year-old (35 later this week) was originally selected in the second round of the 1998 draft by the Montreal Canadiens. His next point will give him 700 for his career.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

916

212

487

699

This Season

51

10

33

43

Last 10 played

10

1

6

7

vs. Florida

25

10

13

23

Assets: Has exceptional vision and creativity on the ice. His offensive instincts are off the charts. Owns great patience with the puck, as well as soft hands. Plays with attitude and doesn't mind getting under his opponents' skin.
Flaws: Still needs work in the defensive zone. Lacks bulk and is undersized by NHL standards. Good in shootouts, he isn't much of a goal-scorer during game action; he prefers to pass instead of shooting a bit too often.
Career Potential: Elite playmaker, but average goal-scorer.

Craig Smith

Smith was selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by the Predators. Now in his fourth season, the 6'1", 199 lb. winger from Madison, WI finished 12th in the Rookie of the Year voting back in 2012.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

246

56

71

127

This Season

51

14

13

27

Last 10 played

10

2

3

5

vs. Florida

4

2

2

4

Assets: Has excellent offensive instincts and awareness on the ice. Also owns a good-sized frame (6-1) and the versatility to play both center and wing. Skates very well, too.
Flaws: Needs to continuously display game-to-game consistency in order to maximize his National Hockey League potential. Also needs more work in defensive-zone coverage.
Career Potential: Talented scoring forward with upside.

Second Line

Colin Wilson

Wilson, a 6'1", 212 lb. product of Greenwich, CT, was chosen by Nashville in the first round of the 2008 draft. He currently ranks seventh in the NHL with a plus-23 rating.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

340

74

98

172

This Season

49

17

19

36

Last 10 played

10

5

5

10

vs. Florida

7

2

3

5

Assets: Has good size, speed and solid offensive ability. Plays well in clutch situations and displays a very mature attitude. Is a strong north-south skater. Can also the center position if needed.
Flaws: Must work on his consistency. Must also continue to adjust to the rigors of the National Hockey League game, and with the urgency that comes with it. Isn't overly physical, despite his solid frame.
Career Potential: Versatile scoring forward with some upside.

Mike Fisher

Fisher is a 15-year veteran from Peterborough, ONT. The 6'1", 208 lb. center was initially chosen by his hometown Senators in the second round of the 1998 draft. He currently ranks fifth in the NHL with a 19.7% shooting success rate.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

917

239

267

506

This Season

30

13

12

25

Last 10 played

10

6

5

11

vs. Florida

35

15

13

28

Assets: Is great on the forecheck and can kill penalties with aplomb. Owns good speed and is extremely tenacious. Has excellent two-way ability. Also possesses a great shot.
Flaws: While capable of scoring, he's not a go-to guy on offense because he lacks consistency in that department. His rambunctious style can also lead to injuries. Isn't a great playmaker.
Career Potential: Quality two-way center, when healthy.

James Neal

Neal, a seven-year veteran on his third NHL team, is a 6'2", 208 lb. winger from Whidby, ON. He was initially chosen in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Dallas Stars. He led the NHL in 2011-12 with 18 power play goals.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

458

178

167

345

This Season

45

17

13

30

Last 10 played

10

4

3

7

vs. Florida

15

6

6

12

Assets: Knows where to go to score goals. Has a very good shot, and he loves to use it. Also boasts very good size, which he uses effectively in the corners and in front of the net. Scores goals often because of a quick trigger.
Flaws: His physical game lacks consistency, which could be all that is preventing him from becoming an elite NHLer. Won't do all the things usually associated with a power forward. Can at times take bad penalties, though.
Career Potential: Big scoring winger with a great release.

Third Line

Matt Cullen

Cullen is a 6’, 200 lb. native of Virginia, MN. He’s a 17-year NHL veteran on his seventh team. The 38-year-old natural center was originally chosen by the Anaheim Ducks back in 1996.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

1186

216

394

610

This Season

36

4

5

9

Last 10 played

10

0

0

0

vs. Florida

44

12

16

28

Assets: Is a very creative player that is usually aware of his surroundings. Makes smart decisions with the puck. Can play the point on power plays. Skates very well. Can also play wing, as well as center.
Flaws: Lacks consistency on offense, especially in the goal-scoring department. Can struggle against bigger, more dominant opponents. Injuries have been a concern at times throughout his career.
Career Potential: Speedy, savvy veteran forward.

Calle Jarnkrok

Jarnkrok is a 5’11", 156 lb. center from Gavle, Sweden. The 23-year-old is on his "official" rookie season, and was initially chosen in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

59

7

15

22

This Season

47

5

8

13

Last 10 played

10

0

2

2

vs. Florida

10

0

1

1

Assets: Has great playmaking skills and plenty of hockey sense. Sees the ice very well and is quite adept whenever he has the puck on his ice.
Flaws: Doesn't have ideal NHL size (5-11, 165 pounds), and he is generally lacking in strength. Therefore, he faces an uphill battle in the pros.
Career Potential: Talented but diminutive playmaker with upside.

Gabriel Bourque

Bourque, now in his fourth NHL season (all with the Preds) was chosen in the fifth round of the 2009 draft by Nashville. The 5’10", 192 lb. winger hails from Rimouski, PQ.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

189

30

38

68

This Season

38

3

4

7

Last 10 played

10

1

0

1

vs. Florida

3

0

1

1

Assets: Forechecking is his best asset, thanks to his speed and tenacity on the puck. Has sound instincts and hockey sense. Is skilled with the puck and boasts good scoring upside. Works extremely hard, on and off the ice.
Flaws: Lacks ideal size for the National Hockey League, which could hurt his overall upside as a top-six winger going forward. Needs to prove he can withstand the rigors of the NHL over time.
Career Potential: Tenacious winger with some upside.

Fourth Line

Eric Nystrom

Nystrom is a 6’1", 193 lb. winger from Syosset, NY. He was initially selected in the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames. The nine year veteran is with his fourth NHL team.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

553

67

47

114

This Season

46

6

4

10

Last 10 played

10

1

1

2

vs. Florida

8

0

0

0

Assets: Plays a sound up-and-down game and possesses two-way capability. Works as hard as anybody on the ice. Can line up on either wing (and even play center, if need be).
Flaws: Does not have enough finishing skills to put up good numbers in the NHL. Could still use a little more strength in order to get the upper hand on big, physical defensemen.
Career Potential: Industrious energy forward.

Paul Gaustad

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

634

84

136

220

This Season

43

1

8

9

Last 10 played

10

0

0

0

vs. Florida

29

2

3

5

Assets: Has a massive frame and an aggressive nature. Is solid at both ends of the ice and a notable complementary forward. Can play both center and wing. He's brilliant in the dot.
Flaws: Is limited in the goal-scoring department at the highest level. Needs to play with more consistency in the offensive zone in general. Can wear down if used too much.
Career Potential: Aggressive defensive forward and team-first player.

Taylor Beck

Beck is a 6’2", 208 lb. winger from St. Catharines, ON. He joined the Predators organization after getting drafted in the third round, back in 2009. He’s in his third season with the team.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

59

7

9

16

This Season

36

4

5

9

Last 10 played

10

0

1

1

vs. Florida

1

0

0

0

Assets: Has excellent offensive makeup, as well as very good size. Can play on either side of center, which adds to his overall value.
Flaws: Needs plenty of work without the puck and in defensive situations. Also needs to make more of his 6-2, 203-pound frame.
Career Potential: Talented winger with some upside.

Defensive Corps

First Pairing

Roman Josi

Josi is a 6’1", 198 lb. defenseman from Bern, Switzerland. The Predators chose him in the second round back in 2008. He’s in his fourth full NHL season.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

223

32

77

109

This Season

51

9

26

35

Last 10 played

10

2

6

8

vs. Florida

3

0

1

1

Assets: Can produce big numbers at lower levels. Has good puck-moving skills and a very low panic threshold. Also boasts decent size for the NHL game.
Flaws: Needs to play with a little more physical edge to his game to keep opposing forwards honest in the big league. Injuries could be a problem, too.
Career Potential: Puck-moving defenseman with upside.

Shea Weber

Weber, a three-time all-star, is a 6’4", 234 lb. defender from Sicamous, BC. He was selected in the second round of the 2003 draft by Nashville, with whom he is with for the 10th season.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

658

142

240

382

This Season

51

11

24

35

Last 10 played

10

1

5

6

vs. Florida

10

3

5

8

Assets: Has both the size and mean streak to keep skilled players honest. Excels in one-on-one situations, as he literally overpowers opponents. Can unleash a big-time point shot to score a fair amount of goals and log a lot of ice time. Has the ability to drop the gloves and is a born leader.
Flaws: Must curb his propensity to run around the defensive zone in search of the big hit from time to time. Also, he can go overboard in terms of his physicality from time to time and take a bad penalty for a questionable hit. Is still a little inconsistent in terms of playing the shutdown role.
Career Potential: Elite all-round defenseman with a big point shot and leadership skills.

Second Pairing

Matthias Ekholm

Ekholm is a 6’4", 202 lb. left-handed defenseman from Borlange, Sweden. A fourth round pick by the Preds back in 2009, he’s playing in his fourth NHL season, but only his second with the team full-time.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

116

6

16

22

This Season

51

5

8

13

Last 10 played

10

2

0

0

vs. Florida

3

0

0

0

Assets: Has a huge frame (6-4, 204 pounds), all-around ability and a big shot from the point. Is capable of playing a physical brand of hockey when it's required.
Flaws: Needs to become more consistent in all areas of the game, especially in terms of grit and toughness, in order to maximize his NHL potential.
Career Potential: Big defenseman with upside.

Anton Volchenkov

Volchenkov is a 6’1", 225 lb. left-handed defenseman from Moscow. He was selected in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators. He’s with his third NHL team and playing in his 12th NHL season.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

688

19

111

130

This Season

38

0

4

4

Last 10 played

10

0

0

0

vs. Florida

33

0

5

5

Assets: Is one of the best shot-blocking defensemen in NHL history, and thrives in one-on-one battles against top forwards. Plays with tremendous poise. Kills penalties with aplomb and is not shy about hitting the opposition.
Flaws: Won't scare anybody with his offensive ability, since he lacks confidence with the puck. Needs to pick his spots better when lining up opponents. His shot-blocking leads to significant injuries, plus various other aches and pains.
Career Potential: Veteran shutdown defenseman, when healthy.

Third Pairing

Victor Bartley

Bartley is a 6’, 212 lb. defenseman from Maple Ridge, BC. He’s in his third NHL season after working his way up from the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL, through the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL and the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL to the Preds in 2012-13.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

97

1

20

21

This Season

23

0

8

8

Last 10 played

10

0

3

3

vs. Florida

1

0

0

0

Assets: An offensive defenseman, he also is adept at playing a physical brand of hockey. Is experienced at various levels of competition, both in Europe and North America.
Flaws: Isn't built like the ideal National Hockey League defenseman, so he could wear down over time. Also, his reach is a little lacking, so his stick needs to be more active.
Career Potential: Offensive defenseman with a little upside.

Seth Jones

Seth Jones, son of former NBA star Popeye Jones, is a 6’4", 205 lb. defender from Arlington, TX. He was selected by the Predators with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, and finished 11th in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Games

G

A

Pts

Career

128

10

32

42

This Season

51

4

13

17

Last 10 played

10

2

5

7

vs. Florida

3

1

1

2

Assets: The son of former NBA power forward Popeye Jones is a great athlete with impressive all-round upside from the back end. Can put up good point totals, log a ton of ice time and play a shutdown role if need be. Is a difference-maker.
Flaws: While he has impressive size (6-4, 205 pounds), he needs to become a greater physical presence game in and game out. Also, he could stand to work on his shot accuracy from the point so as to score more goals at the highest level.
Career Potential: Talented all-round defenseman with huge upside.

Goaltenders

Probable Starter

Carter Hutton

Hutton is a 6’1", 195 lb. left-handed catching goalie from Thunder Bay, ON. The 29-year-old netminder is in his third NHL season with his second team, after making his debut three years ago with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Games

W

L

OTL

SV%

GAA

SO

Career

54

24

16

8

0.907

2.65

2

This Season

13

4

4

4

0.900

2.72

1

Last 10 played

10

4

2

3

0.896

2.86

1

vs. Florida

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Assets: Proved he could put up great numbers at the collegiate hockey level, and is also a force in the minor-pro ranks. Owns a solid 6-1 frame.
Flaws: Is largely unproven at the highest level, so he must prove he can stop the puck consistently. Could also use a bit more bulk for stamina.
Career Potential: Depth goaltender.

Probable Backup

Pekka Rinne

Rinne is a 6’5", 206 lb. goaltender from Kempele, Finland. He was originally selected in the eighth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Predators. Now in his ninth NHL season, all with the Predators, he is closing on his 200th win. www.hockey-reference.com’s ELO fan ratings have him as the 37th ranked goaltender of all-time. His 2.02 GAA currently leads the NHL.

Games

W

L

OTL

SV%

GAA

SO

Career

355

192

105

39

0.919

2.35

35

This Season

38

29

7

2

0.929

2.02

3

Last 10 played

10

8

1

1

0.916

2.46

0

vs. Florida

6

4

2

0

0.934

2.13

0

Assets: Is extremely big for the goaltending position and covers a lot of net when in the crease, thanks to uncanny flexibility and lightning-fast reflexes. Never quits on a play and can be spectacular when he has to be. Works hard at constantly improving his game.
Flaws: Can wear down a little bit if overworked, and occasionally surrender an uncharacteristically bad goal under those circumstances, so he needs to be rested a little more from time to time at the National Hockey League level to save his best for the playoffs.
Career Potential: Elite workhorse goaltender.

The puck drop is scheduled for soon after 3PM tomorrow. Join us live here for the Gamethread, and check back later for the post game recap. And GO PANTHERS!!!!