Preds rookie grinders no match for Carolina’s veterans

In a decidedly uneven match-up, the Predators lost the first of 2 back-to-back games against Carolina, falling by a score of 3-1 Thursday evening. The first of 6 preseason games that will take place, the Predators dressed mostly only contenders, dressing only 4 forwards (Jordin Tootoo, Patric Hornqvist, Marcel Goc and Quentin Tarantino J.P. Dumont) who I would consider to have their roster spots solidified, and only one of which that is a top-six forward (Hornqvist). The Hurricanes countered with 13 veteran players, including star forwards Erik Cole, Eric Staal and Sergei Samsonov. In spite of the Hurricanes dressing a much more experienced squad, the Predators drew first blood, with Dumont intercepting a Carolina pass in the face-off circle about 10′ off goal and ripped the puck over the blocker of goalie Justin Peters. Taking the 1-0 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes of play, the game looked promising for the baby-faced Preds. As the second period began however, the Hurricanes took over and controlled the play throughout the period. Riding their strong play, Patrick O’Sullivan got a clear breakaway after Cody Franson’s stick snapped and was able to wrist it past Rinne, tying the score at 1 at 4:46 of the 2nd. Just over halfway through the period, Mark Dekanich came off the bench to relieve Rinne, but the assault continued and Samsonov was able to bat a fluttering puck past Dekanich after a hard snap shot had bounced up off his pads. The Preds came out for the third period with a much improved effort but were not able to net a tying goal, and with Dekanich pulled in favor of an extra attacker, the Canes were able to seal the game when Cole scored an empty netter with less than a minute remaining.

Quick hits:

With both Jonathan Blum and Ryan Ellis playing tonight, I tried to give special consideration to their play, considering both players are thought to be strong contenders for the 7th defenseman spot for the opening night roster. And if I’m honest, I was unimpressed. Neither player in my opinion gave a strong case for why either of them should be considered. Ellis particularly didn’t seem up to the task of playing against the veteran players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him cut and sent back to his junior team in the next round of cuts. His skill with the puck is evident, but he doesn’t seem ready for the NHL yet.

Rinne kept his pimp glove-hand strong tonight. Rinne is a notoriously slow starter, but he came out strong tonight, including a point-blank lunging save that would be on every highlight reel tonight, had the game been televised. If tonight is an indicator, he’s going to turn heads this season.

Tootoo, Hornqvist and Goc all appeared to be in mid-season form. Hornqvist twice drew the ire of the Hurricanes in the offensive zone,once in front of the crease and once behind it after a solid check. Tootoo was bouncing around and rattled a Carolina forward just over their blue-line, and later drew a slashing penalty from Harrison, who had grown frustrated with Tootoo’s agitation. Goc was a beast on the forecheck, and though he wasn’t awarded an assist, he was directly responsible for Carolina’s failed clearing attempt that Dumont converted on.

Sergei Kostitsyn was a lot better than I expected tonight. Not great mind you, but his skill was obvious and was much more involved defensively than I expected. Definitely utilized his speed some tonight, though it didn’t seem like he was giving 100% of hustle on every shift. Made his case well I thought.

Franson seems to have bulked up his upper body quite a bit and played quite a solid game. I’ll be interested to see how the increased size affects his underestimated slap-shot.

I have to think that Cal O’Reilly’s cause was helped by tonight’s game. I haven’t read much praise about his training camp this season, but tonight he had an effective forecheck, was solid on the penalty kill and won 9 of 15 faceoffs (60%).

I want to credit Raleigh’s THE FAN 990 AM. We listened to their post-game on the way home from the game. They called special attention to the recovery efforts from the disastrous flood the destroyed parts of Nashville earlier this year, bringing a human element to the broadcast that in the end, this is just a game.

Special teams seemed to have improved. The penalty kill went 5-for-6 and while the man-advantage was 0-for-4, they were much more creative and active than we saw last season.

The Predators and Hurricanes play again tomorrow, this time at the RBC Center in Carolina at 6pm CST. Joshua Cooper has tomorrow’s roster available here. The next home game is Saturday against the Washington Capitals at 7pm.  What were your thoughts on tonight’s game. Were there any other players that stood out to you? Hit the comments section below.

Hope to see you on Saturday! – Big Kev

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