The NHL’s regular season is underway, and for the first time in a long time, there are two playoff teams: the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators.
But as the playoffs loom, the question is, can the two teams even be considered in contention?
The Ducks are not going to win the Stanley Cup, and the Predators are not likely to be in the post-season for the second consecutive season.
But the NHL’s current playoff picture is as clear as it can be: three teams in the top eight and three teams at or near the bottom of the standings.
That’s how it’s looking right now for the Ducks, who have an 8-2-1 record, including a 3-0-1 mark in the first four games.
The Preds have a 7-1-1 history and are tied for the best record in the Western Conference.
But there are questions for both teams, especially in the second round.
How will Nashville’s defense fare against the Ducks’ top line?
And how will the Predators respond to the arrival of a new superstar?
We take a look.
Will the Predators have enough firepower to take on the Ducks?
Will they be able to keep up with the Ducks offensively?
Will the Ducks be able get their defense clicking enough to keep Nashville at bay?
Tune in to the Locked On NHL Podcast for answers to these questions and more on Monday, October 11, at 7 p.m.
ET on NHL Network.
Injuries to key players will have a significant impact on the Predators.
Forward P.K. Subban (upper body), defenseman P.A. Parenteau (hip), forward Jussi Jokinen (knee), goaltender Pekka Rinne (lower body) and forward Ryan Ellis (kicker) are all out for the Predators, and defenseman Mike Fisher (hip) is expected to be out for about six weeks.
The Ducks have some help, too.
Defenseman Shea Theodore (hip surgery), defenseman Ryan Kesler (hip replacement surgery), center Ryan Keselowski (knees), forward Brandon Pirri (kicks), goaltender Cam Ward (shoulder) and center Ryan Getzlaf (shoots) are out for six weeks and will miss the first six games.
Center Connor McDavid (shin), defenseman Jordan Eberle (shank), forward Ryan Keslowski (shooting) and defenseman Hampus Lindholm (shafts) are each out for a year with the Predators due to injuries.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said the Ducks have been practicing with new defensemen Sami Vatanen (shunk), Kevin Bieksa (shink) and Hampus Ekholm (dislocated shoulder) and they’ll continue to practice.
But it’s not looking good for the Preds, who were able to get their top line to play at a high level against the Predators without Subban and the injuries.
“It was a different team that they played with, a very talented team that has really made some big improvements,” Bouds said.
“We just have to play with that and make it hard for them.
We have to make sure that they don’t get in trouble.”
A win for the Wild would give them a 3.5-point lead over second place Colorado for the top spot in the Pacific Division and would send them to a conference final against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Ducks.
The Wild have a 1-1 tie with the Predz.
Predators defenseman Nicklas Backstrom (kansas) is out indefinitely due to a lower-body injury.
He was expected to miss a significant amount of time due to the surgery and has been out since October 9.
Boudreau is unsure whether Backstrom will play in the conference final.
He also is not sure whether the team will be able at this point to play the second game of the series.
“I don´t want to give too much away,” Bostin said.
“We`re going to take a week off and we`re just going to try to get a feel for how it feels for them, and hopefully be there for the playoffs.”
The Wild are coming off an 8:21-save loss to the Blackhawks on Monday.
Boudens said he thinks Backstrom is playing well and will play on Sunday.
“When you see the performance, it’s amazing.
You have to be impressed,” Bos said.
The Wild had two of their best performances of the season against the Predks.
In the third period of the Predators-Ducks game, Niklas Backstreiber had a goal and two assists and the Wild won 3-2.
But Boudsen said Backstrom had to be more aggressive and had to help the Predp’s defense more.
Bostin believes Backstrom’s game will get better with the playoffs.
“The game is going to get tougher,” Bostic said.
Bos has said that his team will play a