Photo credit to Troy Hudspeth Jr
by Jackson Walsh
Two red hot teams, the Nashville Predators (2-0-0, 4 pts) and The Calgary Flames (1-1-0, 2 pts), square off in Nashville for what is sure to be an early Fall treat as the Predators open up their 2018-19 home schedule. The big story going into this game is former Predator winger James Neal returning to Bridgestone Arena, this time in Calgary Flame red after this July signing a five-year, $28.75-million dollar contract with the Flames after being apart of the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ historic inaugural season this past year.
Neal said of Nashville that it is still ‘home for me’, meaning the 31-year old’s fond memories of his time with us hasn’t been forgotten or been waned by being a part of other hockey clubs.
Neal was a steady, yet aging, offensive acquisition following a big fire sale up in Calgary after the once promising Stanley Cup contender failed to even make last year’s postseason by 11 points. All of former head coach Glen Gulutzan’s staff were fired, and replaced with Bill Peters, Geoff Ward and Ryan Huska, and the player acquisitions were Neal, Noah Hanifin, Derek Ryan, Austin Czarnik, and Elias Lindholm.
The biggest problem for the Flames is between the pipes with goal tender Mike Smith suffering injury last season and second in command, 26 year-old David Rittich only having played 22 games last season. Smith has started the season with the 1-1 Flames at only a .810 save percentage and a 4.05 GAA, nearly as much as Rinne and Saros combined for the Preds at 5 goals allowed.
Though Calgary had a burst of power in their 7-4 victory over the Canucks on Saturday, scoring 9 goals over the opening two games, the Predators come in as favorites to win their first home game. Everything went right for the boys in gold up in New York (except, arguably, the penalty minutes), and have no big injuries or big obstacles to overcome as of yet.
It’s worth mentioning that this is yet another banner raising home opener for the Music City Jungle Cats, commemorating their first President’s Trophy and Central Division Championship. It is both exciting and refreshing to see our gorgeous arena start to fill with banners celebrating successes after the franchise failed to hoist one banner for their first 18 years of existence.
Get ready for the gold lights, the house band, “Glorious” over the P.A. system, and some bone crushing puck. Hockey in Smashville returns for chapter 21, and we’re all ready for it.