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Flames at Predators: Three questions with On the Forecheck

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It's Calgary's first game against Nashville this season, and a lot has changed. We spoke to Jeremy Sargent of our Predators sister blog, On the Forecheck, to find out how things are going early into this season.

Both the Flames and Preds have some young guys in the lineup.
Both the Flames and Preds have some young guys in the lineup.
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

1. You guys were involved in a pretty high profile trade for James Neal. I know it's early yet, but how do you feel about the swap so far?

I like what James Neal brings. Watching him in person on Saturday versus the Stars, Neal plays with a ton of sandpaper in his game. He is always keeping the defense and opposing forwards occupied. That constant attention, I believe, helps our second and third lines have favorable match-ups that materialized into scoring chances and goals over the last two games. Even though he has yet to score a goal, it is only a matter of time as he leads the team in SOG with eleven.

2. Your roster lists 10 players under the age of 25, four of whom are all defencemen; in contrast, there are only five players total under 25 on the Flames' entire roster. Did your kids have veterans to compete with, or were spots left open for them? Is it worth having that much youth in the lineup?

Yes and no. The young players definitely had to play for a spot on the team, but injuries to Fisher, Stalberg and Cullen helped to free up those three spots. There will be a logjam when the veterans begin matriculating back in the lineup, but until then this is a great way for the kids to get playing time and as we’ve seen with Beck, a great opportunity to solidify a place in the lineup over, say, Rich Clune.

As far as "worth having that much youth in the lineup," the verdict is still out. Forsberg is showing he belongs in Nashville. Jarnkrok is an enigma right now as he was on fire at the end of last season and showed immense promise, but his preseason and the two regular season games have been "meh." Beck had a great night against the Stars. He played fast and hard, reminiscent of Bourque from a couple years ago. His assist on Gaustad’s goal was quite nice. Jones is developing by leaps and bounds. Ellis and Ekholm are solid. It is a great feeling to know that the youth movement is providing the depth and aptitude on par with some of the veterans on the team, yet can take away so much experience and positioning from their mentors.

3. What are your expectations for the Predators this season?

The key words to this response are "small sample size." As a fan, the newly implemented system is a breath of fresh air with puck possession and a stifling fore check as the cornerstone of the scheme. The analyzer in me is hoping this trend continues but wonders if the Predators can keep up this pace the entire 82 game season and not sputter out when they will need their greatest push. Conditioning and training will be keys to their success this year. The abundance of youth will be of greatest need to continue this fast-paced offense while rolling four solid lines. It has only been two games, but if the Predators can maintain this style of play, they will be dangerous to play against (and highly underestimated).

Thanks, Kevin! For more on the Predators, be sure to visit On the Forecheck. For more on tonight's game, remember to check our game preview!