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3 Questions with On The Forecheck

Tonight's brings the return of the Coyotes Western Conference Semi-Final foe from last season. The Nashville Predators skate into Arena tonight for the first time since losing game 5 and the series to Phoenix last Spring. Dirk Hoag from SB Nation's Predators blog, On The Forecheck, answers our questions about the Preds ahead of tonight's contest.

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

How is the team, especially his former blueline partner Shea Weber, dealing with the loss of Ryan Suter in free agency?

The guy Phoenix fans should watch tonight is #59, Roman Josi. He plays with Weber at even strength and on the power play, and has perhaps a higher upside offensively than Suter ever did. He's a very confident puck handler and an excellent skater, but the issue so far is generating that familiarity with Weber, to the point where instinctively they know what their partner is doing. They're not there yet, and that can lead to shifts where they get hemmed in their own zone and have a tough time breaking out.

With an already somewhat undermanned offense how do you expect the Preds to try and generate goals with top scorer Patric Hornqvist out injured?

This is a real sore point for Preds fans these days. It was hoped that 2nd-year forward Craig Smith would step into a leading role as his performance last year showed the potential of a 30-goal, 60-point type of player. Instead, however, Smith has lost the confidence of the coaching staff and is getting minimal ice time. Expect the Preds to hunker down defensively and pick their spots to counterattack, with the goals coming few and far between.

Martin Erat is a player whose name seems to rarely come up, even when people outside of Music City actually talk about the Preds. Is he as under appreciated in the Volunteer State as he seems to be outside of it?

For a few years there his high salary really burned up some Preds fans, but given his reliable production over the years, and persistence in battling through some tough injuries (he had teeth knocked out, and got knocked out himself, against Anaheim in the 2011 playoffs but hung in there) he's endeared himself to the Smashville faithful. We know he's not going to be a point-per-game player, but he's about as close as we've had in quite a while. There ain't no party like a Marty Party...

Thanks to Dirk for answering our questions. You can check out my answers to his questions and more on the Predators over at On The Forecheck.