The Nashville Predators will open the 2022-22 NHL season in Prague on Friday as part of the NHL’s Global Challenge Series. Because they’re starting the season overseas, they’re currently allowed to carry a 27-man roster. The addition of 4 extra players (1 goalie, 2 forwards, 1 defender) has led to some intrigue in the goalie and forward departments. However, there isn’t much mystery when it comes to the defense. The 8th defender traveling with the team is Jordan Gross. I would be quite surprised to see Gross on the 23-man roster when the team returns from Europe.

Third Defensive Pair

Based on careful observation, historical performance, and comments from Mark Borowiecki, it seemed like the plan was to move Borowiecki to the role of 7th defender–the guy who’s ready to hit the ice whenever one of his fellow members of the defense corps is unable. The third pairing of Jeremy Lauzon and Dante Fabbro has been together since the exhibition game against SC Bern. They also practiced together in Prague prior to Friday’s game against San Jose. So far in the preseason, Lauzon has looked solid. While it may seem like a big downgrade for Fabbro to move to the third pairing, it’s a huge upgrade for the Preds.

Fabbro has been quite positive about the move and seems to be bought-in to the mentality of every role being important and doing what’s best for the team. After a recent practice, Fabbro commented, “everyone brings what they can and everyone’s here for a reason. They’ve kind of specialized and got really good at their strengths and everyone tries to work on the weaknesses. That’s what I try to do every day and take it day by day. I know it’s tough, it should be tough and you’re supposed to push through things and it’s just part of it. So as long as I continue to get better every day and put my best foot forward, I think I’ll be good.”

Second Defensive Pair

Of course, Fabbro on the third pairing is a luxury. That luxury is possible for the Predators due to David Poile signing Ryan McDonagh during the offseason. McDonagh will play on a pair with Mattias Ekholm, who has made the switch over to the right side of the ice. McDonagh, thus far, has looked outstanding. Being paired with Ekholm gives the Predators true shutdown defense on the second pair. When you consider how much ice time this pairing will see each night, you can expect to see them make it difficult for the opposition to have an easy path through the neutral zone any time they’re on the ice together.

First Defensive Pair

It should come as no surprise that the Preds first defensive pairing will feature team captain (and perennial Norris Trophy candidate) Roman Josi. While there was some question earlier in the preseason about who his partner would be, Alex Carrier has distinguished himself as the frontrunner for that spot. Roman Josi, quite frankly, is going to do what Roman Josi does. And, what Roman Josi does is make things happen on the ice. Carrier’s role in all of this is to lock down the defensive responsibilities while Roman Josi works his magic.

Based on personnel alone, Nashville’s defense is much stronger than before. Once this group gels and settles in with their new partners, look for this defense to become very stingy in front of the net.

–Featured image via Chris Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports–