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2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Nashville Predators

2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Nashville Predators

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Nashville Predators

How they did last season: 41-27-17 (96 points), 4th in the Central, 7th in the Western Conference. Made the playoffs as the first wild card team, lost in the second round to the San Jose Sharks in seven games.

Notable acquisitions: D P.K. Subban, D Yannick Weber

Notable departures: D Shea Weber, G Carter Hutton

When they will play the Caps: Feb. 25 in Nashville; March 16 in Washington

RELATED: JUSTIN WILLIAMS SHARES OFFSEASON VACATION PHOTOS

Analysis: First, let’s all take a moment and give general manager David Poile a round of applause for pulling off the heist of the century. Getting P.K. Subban for Shea Weber was a brilliant move.

But wait, isn’t Weber one of the top defensemen in the league? Yes he is, but Weber is 30 and under contract for ten (!!!) more years. Somehow Poile convinced Montreal to trade away their best skater for a player who is older and has a longer contract.

There are some of you who are not fans of Subban and feel that Weber is the better player, but tell me which is the better deal: eight years of Subban in his prime or 10 years of Weber who is already 30? There’s no debate.

Plus, when you can bring in a contract with a $9 million cap hit to a playoff team and still have over $5 million left in cap space, you’ve done something right.

Subban will join a strong stable of defensemen in Nashville including Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm. If there’s one thing the Predators do well, it’s stockpile defensemen.

The main pieces of the offense are relatively young. Filip Forsberg was the team’s leading scorer last season and continues to get better at only 21 years old. He has a bright career in front of him. The Ryan Johansen trade quickly proved beneficial and at 24, he continues to improve as well.

The real question for the Predators this season is at the one position they have found the most stability over the past several years: goaltending. Pekka Rinne did not have a good 2015-16 season with only a .908 save percentage and did not look good in the postseason. And please, don’t tell me he was an All-Star. If the All-Star game was played in anywhere but Nashville, Rinne would not have been close to making the team.

Carter Hutton played well as backup, but he has moved on to St. Louis. That means the Predators will turn to the 25-year-old Marek Mazanec who has appeared in only 27 NHL games in his career. This isn’t a case of the Predators wanting the goalie of the future to learn from the seasoned vet either. By all accounts, Juuse Saros is the more highly regarded prospect. Mazanec seems to just be a placeholder at the backup position.

A year ago this would not have been a cause for concern as Rinne has been a very consistent netminder, but considering the season Rinne just had it seems curious that the Predators would not look for more insurance in net.

Season prediction: The Subban trade made this team better. Despite losing Weber, the defense will not take any steps back and Subban's puck-moving abilities will help facilitate more offense. With another year for Forsberg to develop and a full season with Johansen at center this team should be better offensively, but I’m wary over how Rinne will perform. Was last season a blip on the radar or has the 33-year-old netminder regressed?

Rinne’s performance for the upcoming season is a major question mark, but even with his bad season last year, the Predators still came within one win of reaching the conference finals. I think this team is a year or two (and perhaps a goalie) away from becoming Cup contenders, but I could see them taking a spot in the top three of the Central and competing for the conference in the playoffs.

MORE HOCKEY: JUSTIN WILLIAMS SHARES OFFSEASON VACATION PHOTOS

2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
— St. Louis Blues (coming Aug. 13)
— Winnipeg Jets (coming Aug. 14)

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins (coming Aug. 15)
— Buffalo Sabres (coming Aug. 16)
— Detroit Red Wings (coming Aug. 17)
— Florida Panthers (coming Aug. 18)
— Montreal Canadiens (coming Aug. 19)
— Ottawa Senators (coming Aug. 20)
— Tampa Bay Lightning (coming Aug. 21)
— Toronto Maple Leafs (coming Aug. 22)

Metropolitan Division
— Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
— Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
— New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)

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3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

The Capitals play their last home game of October on Friday as they host the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Here’s what you need to watch.

Dmitrij Jaskin is back in

Todd Reirden has made one adjustment to the lineup for Friday’s game, putting Dmitrij Jaskin back in on the fourth line in place of Nathan Walker. Jaskin has yet to record a point since joining the Capitals, but that has a lot to do with where he was coming from.

“This team is based on being creative and it's probably something that I missed in the last few years,” Jaskin said following Friday’s morning skate.

In St. Louis, Jaskin was coached by Mike Yeo and, before him, Ken Hitchcock. Both coaches preach a hard-nosed offensive style based more on effort and being defensively responsible than skill. Coming to a team like Washington then, a team that encourages skill and creativity on offense, is a pretty dramatic change.

Jaskin has played a very safe style since coming into the lineup. It’s good to be defensively responsible, but not if it completely chokes the life out of the offense. Jaskin is hardly generating any offense at all thus far since coming to Washington.

After a few more practices, can it finally spark some skill and creativity from Jaskin?

Can the Caps get the bottom six back on track?

The Caps have gotten only two goals in six games from their bottom six and both came in the team’s blowout opening win against Boston. The third and fourth lines generated some chances on Wednesday, but afterward, Reirden stressed that the team needed to see more production from its depth forwards.

“We've got to continue to get scoring depth wise if we want to have success in this league,” he said. “That's where everything's headed is you can't rely on your top guys to come through for you every night and we'll continue to focus on finding the right chemistry with that third and fourth line to be able to give us some added offense there as well.”

Florida could provide a good opportunity for those players to get some points on the board.

Starting goalie Roberto Luongo is out with an injury and James Reimer will get the start on Friday. In three games, Reimer has a GAA of 3.62 and save percentage of .885.

As a team, the Panthers currently rank 24th in goals against per game with 3.50.

Two teams in need of a win

Florida is still searching for its first win of the season with a 0-2-2 record. It is still early, but this is a Panthers team with playoff aspirations and you don’t want to dig yourself in too deep a hole to start or it becomes very difficult to dig out.

The Caps, meanwhile, will be playing in their final home game of October. They leave Saturday for Vancouver to kick-off a three-game Western Canada trip. They then will face the Canadiens in Montreal on Nov. 1 before finally returning home.

Washington’s next home game will not come until Nov. 3. That makes Friday’s game a big one for the Caps as they try to secure two points before hitting the road.

“It's definitely a big game,” Reirden said. “We want to build on some of the things we were able to accomplish last game. It's difficult anytime you go out west with time changes and different stuff. We know that [Florida is] going to be a desperate team that hasn't had the start that they want and they're talented so it's an important game for us to go on the road on a winning note.”

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The Ovechkin's posts family photo with newborn son Sergei

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The Ovechkin's posts family photo with newborn son Sergei

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin had arguably the best summer of anyone.

In June, the Capitals won their first ever Stanley Cup, and in August, Ovechkin and his wife Nastya Ovechkina welcomed their first kid.

Although Ovechkin's son Sergei is only a couple months old, the public has not seen much of him. Both Nastya and Alex posted pictures on Instagram of Sergei's foot when he was born, but neither had posted anything of him since.

In honor of Sergei's two month birthday, Nastya posted a picture of the three of them, with Alex holding Sergei in his hands. 

While it is hard to see much of Sergei, this is one of the first pictures of the couple with their newborn present. 

What a happy family! 

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