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Nashville Predators at Carolina Hurricanes - Game One Preview

JL Matthews

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Raleigh, NC -- The Carolina Hurricanes and the Nashville Predators meet tonight for Game One of their best-of-seven series.

Tonight's game will be the first playoff matchup between the two teams that call the state capitals of Tennessee and North Carolina their home.

Despite their relative proximity--Raleigh and Nashville are separated by about 550 miles of Interstate-40 and the Blue Ridge Mountains--the Predators and the Hurricanes had never been in the same NHL division until this season.

Differing time zones (Central for Nashville and Eastern for Carolina) meant that the two teams were in opposite conferences (Western and Eastern, respectively).

This year, the pandemic forced the NHL to mix up the traditional divisions. Carolina and Nashville played eight regular-season games, with Carolina winning the first six. Nashville, needing at least two points to secure a playoff birth, won the final two games of the regular season against Carolina by a combined score of 8-1.

Now, the two teams turn their attention to the postseason. Carolina finished the year with the third-best record in the NHL. Their ultimate goal is clear.

"We want to win a championship," Canes winger Brock McGinn said. "We just have to continue on with the same mindset that we had at the start of the year."

Indeed, the Canes lineup looks like a championship-caliber squad.

Star forwards like Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Martin Necas form a young, dynamic scoring threat. Veterans like Vincent Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter, and Jordan Martinook are hungry to win it all for the first time. Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, and Cedric Paquette have each lifted the cup for other teams but never the Hurricanes.

On the back end, the Canes have perhaps the deepest group of defencemen in the league. Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, and Brady Skjei are all in their peak playing years. Jake Bean brings youth to the table; Jani Hakanpaa brings hits. The Canes also boast three capable goaltenders: veterans Petr Mrazek and James Reimer and rookie Alex Nedeljkovic.

Behind the bench is none other than the only Canes captain to lift the Stanley Cup: Rod Brind'Amour.

It's been almost fifteen years since Brind'Amour lifted the Stanley Cup on June 19, 2006, following a two-month grind that ended in a 3-1 Game 7 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Going into this postseason, he knows how hard it is to win it all and how the intensity picks up from the regular season.

"The first round especially, it's the most physical round," Brind'Amour said. "Everybody's finishing checks hard; the energy is high. Then, it starts to get a little less as things go on because guys start to get worn out."

Lineup News

A week's worth of rest came at a great time for the Canes, who hope to have a full lineup available for Game One.

However, the big question mark remains Jaccob Slavin. The Canes' stalwart on the blue line missed the last five periods of play against Nashville in the regular season with a lower-body injury.

Slavin practiced on Sunday, with Brind'Amour noting that he's "hopeful" that Slavin will be able to play.

The Canes are keeping a lid on who the netminder will be for Game One. It's likely either Petr Mrazek or Alex Nedeljkovic. It would be the first NHL playoff start for Nedeljkovic, who did win a Calder Cup in net with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

For Nashville, expect Juuse Saros to start. Saros appeared in four games against Carolina during the regular season, with a 1-2-0 record, a .917 save percentage, and a 2.73 goals-against average.

The Canes' expected lines:

Forwards

Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen

Nino Niederreiter — Vincent Trocheck — Martin Necas

Warren Foegele — Jordan Staal — Jesper Fast

Jordan Martinook — Steven Lorentz — Brock McGinn

Defense

Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton

Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce

Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa

Goalies

Alex Nedeljkovic

Petr Mrazek

Injuries: none

Scratches: Jake Gardiner, James Reimer, Max McCormick, Drew Shore, Morgan Geekie, Cedric Paquette, Joakim Ryan, Ronald McKeown, Maxim Lajoie

Nashville's expected lines:

Forwards

Filip Forsberg — Ryan Johansen — Viktor Arvidsson

Calle Jarnkrok — Mikael Granlund — Luke Kunin

Tanner Jeannot — Erik Haula — Matt Duchene

Yakov Trenin — Colton Sissons — Mathieu Olivier

Defense

Roman Josi — Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm — Alexandre Carrier

Ben Harpur — Matt Benning

Goalies

Juuse Saros

Pekka Rinne

Injuries: none

Scratches: Eeli Tolvanen, Brad Richardson, Dante Fabbro

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JL Matthews is a writer with interests spanning history, humor, tv/film, parenting, and more. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he is a 6x Top Writer on Medium. Follow him on News Break, Medium, and Twitter for updates and latest work.

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