Friday, the NHL finally released the 2013-14 season schedule that re-ignited the nostalgia for Nashville Predators hockey at Bridgestone Arena. With 41 games being played at home this year rather than just 24, it makes it difficult to rank the top five games in July. By the time the season rolls around and we are in March, every game will be more important than the next. Below are the top five games Predators fans should want to attend. You can buy tickets in the tab bar above.
5. December 12 – Dallas Stars
This season, the Stars and Predators will become new divisional foes. In past years, games have become quite physical. For example in 2007 when Jordin Tootoo hit Mike Modano hard into the boards and turned around to know Stephane Robidas out with his glove on. Then, there was the time Mark Fistric hit Shea Weber high that kept the Preds' captain out a few games with a concussion.
It is safe to say there is bad blood between these two teams and with Rich Clune chirping Tyler Seguin on Twitter, it can only get more entertaining for the fans.
The Stars will not only have a new look in their uniforms, but in the locker room as well. Adding the aforementioned Seguin, Shawn Horcoff, Erik Cole, Rich Peverley, Valeri Nichushkin and Sergei Gonchar, they are looking at a very well-balanced team. They are definitely a playoff caliber team heading into training camp.
4. January 30 – New Jersey Devils
Normally, this wouldn't be an important game for the Predators, but with Martin Brodeur's career winding down to an end, it could be the final time hockey fans in Nashville can see him play. At 41 years of age, it is about time to hang up the skates, especially with starter-worthy Corey Schneider as his "backup". Going on his 21st season in the NHL, Brodeur is arguably the best goaltender to have ever played the game. Hopefully if he does get the start that night, the Predators honor him in some fashion.
3. March 4 – Pittsburgh Penguins
Whenever the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town, tickets become hard to get. As the most talked about team in the league because of their superstar talent, many have jumped on the Pens' bandwagon. However, that is not the reason it is the third best home game.
Around March two years ago, it was the debut of Alexander Radulov in a Preds' uniform since 2008. His return was the completion of the team. Even though we were unsure of what his production would be like and how others would work well with him, we thought that Nashville could bring something to the rolling Penguins team they have never seen before.
We couldn't have been more wrong. Pittsburgh won the game 5-1. It was a huge test of how good the Preds really were and it showed how far away we were from becoming legitimate Cup contendors.
That is what this game in March is going to do. It is going show how well the Preds can match up against the league's most elite teams before heading into the postseason.
2. April 12 – Chicago Blackhawks
April 12 against the Chicago Blackhawks will be Fan Appreciation Night, meaning this would be the final game at home before the playoffs. Of course, this game will be no easy task. Nashville have to face the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. This will be an excellent tune up game for the Preds, if they are playoff eligible, or they have the chance to play spoiler against their rivals. There will be no question that over 25% of those attending the match will be wearing Blackhawks apparel.
1. December 30 – Detroit Red Wings
This will be the one and only time the Detroit Red Wings come to the Music City this season. There are an abundant amount of Red Wings fans in Middle Tennessee who will pay top dollar to see their team in person without having to travel.
The hatred has risen the past few seasons between these two clubs and it is a definite loss for the fans to not see them play each other regularly.
Like everyone else, I love the HBO 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic series and it appears that the Predators will be featured on the second to last or final episode when the HBO crew follows the Red Wings. With Jordin Tootoo still on the team in Mo-Town, it is likely he will have a few moments filmed with his former teammates and, quite possibly Barry Trotz.
Like the list? Don't like the list? Let us know. Hit is up on Twitter, @Fang_Faction. Ray Harris will have the list for his top five road games.