NHL on NBCSN: Subban era kicks off in Nashville, as Preds battle ‘Hawks

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Nashville Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

This summer, the Nashville Predators traded away captain Shea Weber so that they could land P.K. Subban from the Canadiens. Nearly three and a half months after the trade went down, we get to watch Subban make his debut with his new team.

“Coming in, I feel right at home, and I haven’t really thought too much about anything else other than just getting ready for the season, which is good,” Subban said, per NHL.com. “Still talk to all of my friends every day in Montreal. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that people aren’t like, ‘Aw, I miss you,’ or whatever. But that’s expected. But I’m happy.”

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the Preds this year. Many have them penciled in as the Western Conference champions and several others have them winning the Stanley Cup.

There’s no doubt that the strength of this team is on defense. Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis make up one of the best blue lines in the NHL. All four are smart players that are fully capable of pushing the puck up ice.

If the Preds do make it to the cup final this year, Subban and the defense will be one of the key reasons, but it won’t be the only reason.

Some of the question marks on the roster have to step up too.

For Nashville to have that kind of success, they’ll need starting goaltender Pekka Rinne to be more consistent than he was a year ago. He had a solid 34-21-9 record, but a mediocre 2.48 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage.

Also, getting first line production from Ryan Johansen is a must. The Predators gave up talented defenseman Seth Jones to land Johansen from Columbus last year and they’ll need that trade to pay off if they hope to make a run.

Unlike the Predators, the ‘Hawks have already played their 2016-17 regular season opener and it didn’t go well.

One area they’ll need to improve immediately is on the penalty kill, where they allowed the St. Louis Blues to score three power play goals on Wednesday night.

At Thursday’s practice, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville decided to mix up his lines already, as he had Jonathan Toews playing with Richard Panik and Artemi Panarin on the first line and Artem Anisimov with Tyler Motte and Patrick Kane on the second line (Marian Hossa didn’t practice, but is expected to play).

Because of cap constraints, Chicago has had to use a number of young forwards like Motte, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Vincent Hinostroza, which means there will be growing pains.

How soon can the coaching staff get these young players up to speed? That remains to be seen.

These two teams will meet again on Saturday night in Chicago.