Preds/Stars Match-Up to Watch
Friday, 10.2.2009 / 12:11 PM CT / Preview
By Jay Levin - Nashville Predators
Match-Up of Young Defensive Corps
The Preds and Stars feature two of the youngest defensive corps in the NHL this season. For Nashville, 33-year old Francis Bouillon is the vet of the group, followed by 26-year old Dan Hamhuis. The other four defensemen on the Preds Opening Night Roster are all under 25-years old.
For Dallas, gone are vets Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor, leaving Karlis Skrastins (35) and Stephane Robidas (32) to provide leadership to a youth movement which includes Jeff Woywitka (26), Trevor Daley (25), Nicklas Grossman (24), Mark Fistric (23), and Matt Niskanen (22). Robidas, Skrastins, and Daley – the only three Stars d-men with more than 200 career NHL games – were the only members of the blueline group to average more than 20:00 a night last season. For a team that surrendered 251 goals last season (sixth most in the league), the Stars will be relying on the young guys to mature in a hurry.
While the Preds group is young, Shea Weber (24 years old) blossomed into an All-Star and Norris Trophy candidate last season. Ryan Suter (24), matched with Weber on the Preds top pairing last season, led the team in average ice time, and Kevin Klein (24), long considered by league scouts to be an elite prospect, settled in as an NHL regular last season with 63 games played in ’08-09. The sixth blueline, Teemu Laakso (22) will be making his NHL debut on Opening Night, but with Hamhuis, Suter, and Weber all proven to handle 23-plus minutes a night, the Preds can monitor Laakso's responsibilities while he settles in to an NHL role.
Opening Night will feature impressive talent along the blueline for both sides; Suter and Weber are leading Olympic Candidates for Team USA and Team Canada, respectively, and Hamhuis and Robidas were paired together at Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation camp in August. Which team’s young group is able to settle in quickest will play a major role in the outcome.