The struggling Nashville Predators are making some changes. The team announced today that young forward Kevin Fiala and backup goaltender Marek Mazanec have been sent down to the AHL. In return, they have recalled forward Pontus Aberg and goalie Juuse Saros from the Milwaukee Admirals.
Fiala, the first-round pick of the Predators in 2014, had only played in a handful of games with Nashville over the past two seasons, but was expected to stick in 2016-17 and be an important piece on offense. However, through ten games this season, Fiala has just two points, both of which came in one two-goal game. The Predators hope that he can rediscover his scoring touch in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Predators felt comfortable enough in the potential of Mazanec to make him their primary backup for this season and let Carter Hutton walk in free agency. So far, the gamble has not paid off. Mazanec has saved only 29 of the 36 shots that he’s faced in two appearances, for an .806 save percentage and 5.06 goals against average. The 25-year-old Mazanec is not guaranteed to see NHL time again this season if the 21-year-old Saros outplays him.
Saros, who made his NHL debut last season with just one game, was called up a few weeks ago to make a start against the defending-champion Pittsburgh Penguins and allowed only one goal on 35 shots in the win. Meanwhile, he has six wins with a 1.99 goals against average and .929 save percentage for the Admirals this season. Saros actually outplayed Mazanec last season in Milwaukee, where the pair shared starting duties in net, and now appears to be the preferred backup to Pekka Rinne. Fiala’s replacement, Aberg, will be making his regular season debut for the Predators after being called up in the playoffs last season. A 2012 second-round pick, the 23-year-old forward leads the Admirals in points and goals thus far this season after posting 40 points last season in the AHL. If Aberg can continue to produce in his NHL tryout, he has a good chance to remain on the roster for the rest of the season.
The Predators are performing shockingly poorly so far this season, with the league’s second-to-worst point total of just nine in eleven games. Their scoring has been abysmal and their middling defense has been a disappointment as well. Nashville will do just about anything to right the ship, and they hope that Aberg can jump-start the offense and that Saros can provide some reliable relief for an overworked Rinne.