Nashville Predators (18-18-5) at Florida Panthers (15-20-6)
|Date & Time||Saturday January 4, 2014, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Florida Panthers -116 / Nashville Predators +105 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
Two divisional basement dwellers meet up in Florida on Saturday as the Panthers host the Nashville Predators.
The Predators have taken a huge fall from grace over the last couple years as the once feared have quickly become a league doormat and will need a full overhaul if they want to get back to relevance. Nashville was once considered a perennial Western Conference powerhouse as they found ways to defeat some of the game’s best with their ferocious defense and balanced scoring attack and while that is still the same philosophy in the Music City they haven’t been able to find the same success. The Preds were dealt a huge blow after former defenseman Ryan Suter fled to Minnesota via free agency two years ago and while a team isn’t built around one guy he was certainly a huge piece of the Predators’ game plan and I don’t think they have recovered yet. Nashville is also without Pekka Rinne who is one of the game’s bets goaltenders and will turn to Carter Hutton tonight against the Cats.
The Panthers are in a very similar spot to their opponents on Saturday as they are two years removed from a division title and playoff berth but are currently in the midst of a massive overhaul and will be a couple years from getting back to the postseason. Florida has some talented youngsters including Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau but the supporting cast isn’t anything to write home about and until they can bring in some pieces it’ll be a tough stretch in Florida. Tim Thomas will likely hang his skates up for good in the next couple years if not after this one and while he has played well at times this season he will likely be on the bench tonight in favour of Scott Clemmensen. The career journeyman backup will get a chance to give the Panthers their seventh win in their last 10 contests and while this isn’t a game I like on the board I do think the Panthers get it done at home.