It has been 157 days since meaningful hockey was played at the Bridgestone Arena. On Monday, May 9, 2011, the Nashville Predators took the Vancouver Canucks down to the final horn before losing 2-1 and ending the most successful post-season in franchise history.
Tonight, the home season starts anew with the youngest team in the NHL against a Phoenix Coyote team that may have slipped a few notches since last year's playoff team. Puck drop will be soon after 7 p.m. once all the opening night color and pageantry is completed.
The Predators could not have looked better in their opening two game road trip but the team has had four days with no games and new injuries to deal with. According to reports, Marty Erat will be out tonight for the second game in a row with an upper body injury and Patric Hornqvist will be a game time decision after being seen wearing a boot at Wednesday's practice.
Since the last game, the Preds added tough guy, Brian McGrattan and sent Zack Stortini to Milwaukee. Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon are progressing in their comebacks but will not play tonight. Based on the available players, there is a good chance that Niclas Bergfors and McGrattan could make their Predator debuts as could rookie Mattias Ekholm, who has never played an NHL game.
Through two games, David Legwand (2 g, 3 a) and rookie Craig Smith (2 g, 2 a) have been outstanding. Pekka Rinne (2-0-0, 2.00, .940) picked up where he left off last season and never gave the opponents a chance during the opening weekend.
Phoenix is 0-1-1 to this point and have not been impressive. After losing 6-3 at San Jose on Saturday, they lost in a shootout at Dallas on Monday. Mike Smith (0-1-1, 3.43, .909) played both games. Shane Doan has been the offensive leader with two goals and an assist.
The two teams split last season's series 2-2 with both teams winning one at home and one on the road. Since 2003-04 the Preds have been 10-2-(1)-1 at home and 16-9-(1)-2 overall against the Coyotes.
The Predators will play again at the Bridgestone Arena on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass