The Nashville Predators are finally getting back in the swing of things as they prepare for their upcoming Qualifying Round matchup with the Arizona Coyotes.

After a full week of practice (yes, practice!) at Bridgestone Arena, the Preds are starting to look like the Preds of old. Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are in a close race for the starting goaltending job, Roman Josi is scoring highlight reel goals (see the GIF section below), and Dante Fabbro is wearing hiliarious masks.

Even the coaching staff seems to be on their game right now. Instead of over thinking this whole training camp thing, John Hynes got right down to business and put together his best possible lineup.

Preds lineup looks familiar

If you’ve taken a look at the practice lines from this week, you’ve probably noticed a familiar favorite pairing at the top.

Yes, the old JOFA line is back!

We don’t know if this is the lineup that Hynes and his staff will roll with on August 2nd against Arizona, but it makes an awful lot of sense. Putting Ryan Johansen back with his favorite wings Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg and generating some of that swag from 2017 and 2018 is a solid decision.

It also leaves Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene together, even if they are missing Forsberg, who rounded out a fearsome trio this past regular season. For now, Kyle Turris will have to do, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Yakov Trenin or Rocco Grimaldi in the top six at some point.

It may seem a bit odd to praise such an obvious coaching decisions. But with all this time off, it’s good to see that John Hynes didn’t lose his coaching insight and instincts. And least we forget that Peter Laviolette was always throwing around ridiculous lineups in training camps. It’s nice to see a coach with a level head, in more ways than one.

Preds Quote of the Week

“Push-ups and sit-ups.”

-Craig Smith on how he will spend his free time in Edmonton during the Qualifying Round.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

Norris Trophy anyone? Roman Josi is ready to go.

Let’s Do That Hockey

Here’s the full upcoming schedule:

  • Thursday, July 30th vs Dallas Stars (Exhibition; 3:00 p.m.)
  • Sunday, August 2nd vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 1; 1:00 p.m.)
  • Tuesday, August 4th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 2; 1:30 p.m.)
  • Wednesday, August 5th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 3; 1:30 p.m.)
  • Friday, August 7th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 4, if necessary)
  • Sunday, August 9th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 5, if necessary)

Final Thought

I’m in the middle of moving from one house in Nashville to another house in Nashville (and in the middle of a pandemic, no less), so I will keep this final thought brief.

Here’s my thoughts on the starting goaltending situation.

If COVID-19 doesn’t happen, the job is Juuse Saros’ to lose. He was clearly the better goalie “down the stretch” in early March, and Pekka Rinne hasn’t surpassed a .900 save percentage all season. Even with Rinne being the best player in franchise history, I doubt John Hynes would have put his best chance at winning in the playoffs on the bench.

But COVID-19 did happen and that reality has changed everything. Now it appears we are back to the status quo for the Nasvhille Predators, where Pekka Rinne is the de facto starter. Barring injury, it certainly seems he will be the Game 1 starter against Arizona.

Keep this in mind, however. The Preds have that exhibition game against Dallas on July 30th. If Pekka Rinne doesn’t show well in that game, even though it’s just an exhibition, we could see Juuse Saros in his place on August 2nd.

— Featured image via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports —