In their final two games of the season and a potential playoff preview, the Carolina Hurricanes (36-10-8) will head to the Music City to face the Nashville Predators (29-23-2) starting on Saturday night. The Hurricanes clinched the Central Division Friday night, while the Predators have a two-point lead over the Stars for the fourth spot in the division and can clinch a spot with a win.
Although Nashville clearly has much at stake in this game, and Carolina may take it easy, the Hurricanes are still -126 favorites on the road. It may be due to the fact that the Canes have won all six meetings against the Predators this season.
By the Numbers
Through 54 out of 56 games, the Hurricanes have easily been the superior offensive team. Carolina is 10th in the league with 3.22 goals per game on over 32 shots while also having the second-best power play at 26.4 percent. Compare that to Nashville, who is 21st in the league with 2.65 goals per game on exactly 30 shots, while also sitting just 25th with a 17.8 power-play percentage.
Defensively, there’s a wide gap as well. The Canes are third with both 2.33 goals allowed per game and an 85.2 percent penalty kill rate, allowing just 28.2 total shots as well. As for the home team, the once-elite defensive Predators are just 15th with 2.83 goals allowed on 31.5 shots and offer the league’s third-worst penalty kill at 74.7 percent.
Players to Watch
Starting with the Hurricanes, right wing Sebastian Aho leads the pack with 57 points, leading the team with 24 goals and 33 assists. Aho recently had a nine-game point streak come to a close on Thursday, registering six goals and 11 assists in that stretch.
Along with Aho, center Martin Necas has been on fire in the last few games. Necas has scored in three straight games, two of those goals being shorthanded, giving him 14 goals to go along with 27 assists total.
Sitting at 43 points, center Vincent Trocheck had two assists in back-to-back games to up his total to 26 helpers. Right wing and former second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov had two goals and seven assists in his recent five-game point streak, giving him 15 goals and 27 assists total. One wild card is left wing Teuvo Teravainen, who has been limited to just 19 games this year due to a concussion but already has three goals and three assists in his six games since returning to the ice.
For the Predators, defenseman Roman Josi is the team leader with 33 points, the bulk of which comes from his 25 helpers. However, Josi scored two of his eight goals last Monday, as the reigning Norris Trophy winner now has nine points over his last 11 games.
Left wing Filip Forsberg has been unable to stay on the ice consistently, appearing in just 37 games for Nashville. However, he has been productive when he does play, racking up 12 goals and 19 assists.
Among the rest of the team, center Calle Jarnkrok tied Mikael Granlund for the team-lead in goals with 13 after scoring on Wednesday against the Jackets, his fourth point in five games. The only other player with 25 or more points is right wing Viktor Arvidsson, a key contributor but someone who has missed the last three games and is questionable for Saturday night’s game.
For Carolina, the veteran Petr Mrazek is in line to draw the start in net. Mrazek has returned to action after missing some time with injury and started the last two games, entering with a 6-1-3 record, a 1.77 GAA, and a .934 save percentage.
As for Nashville, Juuse Saros has taken command in the crease over the ageless Pekka Rinne, starting the last 12 games. The 26-year old has also been great, going 20-11-1 with a 2.32 GAA and .927 save percentage.
With Carolina’s first-place spot clinched, it’s hard to gauge what their team will look like on Saturday, especially when you compare it to Nashville, who can clinch their spot with a win.
Based on the motivation factor, I’m taking the Predators. With Saros playing as well as he has, I could see a lower-scoring affair that is ultimately pulled out by the home team.
Pick: Predators +108
100% up to $3,000 Bonus
Bovada is our most recommended ONLINE CASINO and POKER ROOM for US players with excellent deposit options. Get your 100% signup bonus today.