Monday, October 31, 2011

Injury bug strikes Preds as they take on Chicago



The Nashville Predators will take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Halloween night at the United Center in Chicago. The Predators will be without Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn and Nick Spaling due to injury. That puts the Predators in a tough spot against the Blackhawks, who have started the year with a 6-2-2 record.

Ryan Thang has been called up to the Predators from the Milwaukee Admirals in response to the injured players for Nashville in the past few games. Thang has five goals and one assist in seven games with the Admirals this season. He's a native of Chicago so this game will be a special one for him.

Nashville has won two games in a row for the first time since the opening weekend of the year. They are coming off on a shutout performance against Anaheim, and have a little bit of confidence built up.

Chicago has had a great start to their season, and are currently on top of the Central Division standings. Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane are tied for the team lead in points with eight. Jonathon Toews is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. Nashville will have to be very conscience of where he is on both sides of the ice.

My player to watch for the Blackhawks is Dave Bolland. Bolland has two shorthanded goals on the year so far, and has a shooting percentage of 27.8%. Bolland is a gritty player who can get the job done on both ends of the ice.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Craig Smith. Smith will be moving to the center position for this game. He's very comfortable in that position, and it will be interesting to see how he handles it at the NHL level.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Preds fluster Ducks to earn second straight win


(Photo credit: Sarah Fuqua of crowncube.com)

The Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 3-0 on Saturday night in front of 16,395 at Bridgestone Arena. Pekka Rinne earned his second shutout of the season, and Nashville out shot the opposition for the first time all season by a margin of 29-20.

Nashville struck almost immediately when Patric Hornqvist slammed one past Jonas Hiller from the crease. The goal was scored 14 seconds into the game, and it gave the Predators the momentum.

"It's always huge to start on a good note. We played well on the first shift, and we kept having the momentum. We battled to the end," said Predators defenseman Francis Bouillon.

Brian McGrattan and George Parros squared off at 6:46 of the first period. It was a good fight between two heavyweights, but McGrattan got the better of Parros in the fight. That would only be the beginning of the physicality in this game.

Later in the period, Mike Fisher was hit in the head by Francois Beauchemin while skating into the offensive zone. Fisher did not have the puck. After the hit, Kevin Klein immediately went after Beauchemin to stick up for his teammate. Beauchemin was given a two minute minor for roughing and a two minute minor for an illegal check to the head. Klein was given a double minor on the play for roughing. Fisher skated off with an upper body injury and did not return to the game for the remainder of the evening.

"I was on the ice, but I was kind of far away so I had to see it on the screen. I saw the review, and that was pretty bad. That's what we battle for is to avoid those kinds of hits. I was surprised that (Beleskey) just got four minutes, but the league is going to review that hit," Bouillon said.

The Predators seemed to use that play as motivation because they turned the intensity up a notch in the series that followed. At 18:59 of the first period, Martin Erat put the Predators up 2-0 in his first game back since injury. He made a great play entering the zone and fed the puck to Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo was able to maneuver his way around the defenseman and thread a perfect pass to Erat for the goal.

Anaheim got their best chances in the second period. They put up 10 shots, but were unable to put one past Rinne. At one point, Rinne made a series of saves without his stick. Nashville would still have the 2-0 lead after two periods of play.

"He's the man. It's always great for your team to know that your goalie is solid game after game. It's a must. If you want to go to the Stanley Cup, that's what you need. We've got two great big-guy goaltenders, and we're pretty lucky to have Peks," Bouillon said.

In the third, things got a little hairy again. Brandon McMillan took a double minor for high-sticking, which put the Predators on the power play. Nashville captain Shea Weber got his first goal of the year when he unleashed a missile from the point. It snuck under the crossbar, and put the Predators up by three.

Corey Perry speared Jordin Tootoo at 12:23 of the third period, which subsequently resulted in a fight between Blake Geoffrion and Matt Beleskey. Sheldon Brookbank added another double minor for high-sticking less than two minutes later, and the Predators were able to hold on for the victory.

It was very apparent that the Ducks wanted to lure the Predators into taking bad penalties. Nashville responded well, and Anaheim's plan backfired on them. Perry handed out several questionable hits and jabs, which only added to his bad standing with the Nashville faithful. The Ducks still had a bad taste in their mouths from last year's playoff series, and it showed.

"Maybe we started something last year in the playoffs. It's never fun for a team to be put out of the playoffs, and we did well last year. They've got a lot of talent and a lot of character on the other side too, but we just played a good 60 minute Predator game," Bouillon said.

After starting the season with an 0-2-1 record at home, the Predators have won two home games in a row. The quality of competition in those two teams is an encouraging sign for the Preds.

"We've got a good group. We won against two great teams. Probably the best team in the East in Tampa Bay, and a great team for the West in the Ducks. That's our game. Every time we play that kind of game we have a good chance to win," Bouillon said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Shea Weber(NSH)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Shea Weber(NSH)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)

Anaheim and Nashville renew rivalry on Saturday night


(Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators play host to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena for the first time since these two teams met in the first round of the playoffs last year.

Last April's playoff series between these two teams was very physical and hard fought. Huge hits, cheap shots, and trash talking were very much a part of the playoff series between the Preds and Ducks last year. Rivalries are created when two teams go through a hard-fought playoff series with each other, but a new season has its way of easing the tension.

"It's a new season. They're a good team. We're a team with a lot of work ahead of us. We're getting better and that's what we have to continue to do," said Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter.

Anaheim is coming into the game with a 5-3-1 record on the year. Teemu Selanne is leading the team in points with nine, which is particularly impressive considering that Selanne is 41 years old.

Nashville won it's first home game of the season on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the win, the Predators improved to 4-4-1 on the year. Rookie Craig Smith is off to a great start in his young NHL career. Smith has collected eight points in his first nine games.

My player to watch for Anaheim is Nashville fan favorite Corey Perry. Perry is one of the best pure goal scorers in the game today. Perry, along with Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, form arguably the most formidable line in hockey.

"He's big and strong. He's physical. He's got great hands and good hockey sense. He's a good player," Suter said.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Mike Fisher. Fisher has four points in his first two games of the season after returning from a shoulder injury. His line has been playing very well since he returned to the lineup. The Predators will need his offensive contributions to continue.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nashville contains Tampa Bay's high-powered offense in 5-3 win



The Nashville Predators defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night by a 5-3 score in front of 16,619 at Bridgestone Arena. Mike Fisher had two goals for the Predators to lead them to the win. Pekka Rinne made several great saves on the night, and really played a strong game.

"They've got a good goalie and their back end is pretty mobile. And they've got some hard-working forwards. It's a pretty good recipe," said Tampa Bay foward Martin St Louis.

Nashville got on the board first when Sergei Kostitsyn converted on a beautiful feed from Craig Smith at 6:25 of the first period. The Predators would strike again in the first period when Kostitsyn threaded a pass to Fisher who was waiting at the net. He converted and made it 2-0 Predators.

Tampa Bay got on the board at 16:36 of the first period when Steven Stamkos roofed a beautiful backhand past Rinne to bring the Lightning within one. The Lightning would tie the game after Jordin Tootoo took a charging penalty near the end of the first period. Teddy Purcell hammered one and beat Rinne on the stick side.

Patric Hornqvist put the Predators ahead 3-2 when he put one past Mathieu Garon from the right in front of the net. He took a pass from Halischuk and converted for his first goal of the year.

Nick Spaling scored his first goal of the year when he put one past Garon from the slot. Kostisyn went down hard into the boards with an apparent leg injury seconds after Spaling's goal. He didn't return to action, but is expected to play in Saturday night's game against Anaheim.

Fisher scored on the sequence following the Kostitsyn injury to put the Preds up 5-2. The Predators really controlled the flow of play during the second period. Their shots were from great places on the ice.

Stamkos would add another goal for Tampa Bay in the third period for his second of the night. His line played a strong game for the Lightning.

"He was just hungry in front of the net. Two nice goals," St Louis said.

The Lightning would make a final push near the end of the third period, but were unable to capitalize. Nashville got their first win of the season on home ice, and Tampa Bay's three game winning streak was snapped.

"We had a lot of scoring chances. We just didn't capitalize on a lot of them. When you give up five goals it's tough to win in this league. We didn't play smart enough defensively," St Louis said.

Since Nashville and Tampa Bay don't play each other very often, preparing for games can be a little more difficult than it normally would be. That aspect makes interconference games special to watch.

"You're not as familiar as you are with the teams you play in your division and in your conference," St Louis said.

With the win, Nashville improves to 4-4-1 on the year. They will face the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena in a rematch of last year's 1st round playoff matchup.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Craig Smith(NSH)
3. Nick Spaling(NSH)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Nick Spaling(NSH)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Preds to battle Tampa; NHL to battle cancer



Tampa Bay invades Smashville on Thursday night, and will take on the Nashville Predators at 7:00 at Bridgestone Arena. It is also Hockey Fights Cancer night at Bridgestone Arena.

Almost everybody has been affected by cancer in some way. The NHL founded Hockey Fights Cancer in 1998 to raise money and awareness for cancer.

"I think it's just great for awareness. As a pro athlete, or someone in the public eye, you're in a forum where you can bring some awareness to some critical needs," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "We've got to get that disease out of here and off our planet."

Raising awareness for the fight against cancer is very important to the players as well. They know how important the fight against cancer is, and Hockey Fights Cancer is an effective way of fighting the disease. Over $12 million has been raised through the program so far.

"I think it's a great cause. I think the NHL and the Player's Association does a great job in trying to support cancer victims and fight against cancer," said Predators defenseman Jack Hillen.

While the battle against cancer off of the ice is much more important, there is still a game to be played. The Predators really need there first home victory of the season. Nashville is coming into the game with a 3-4-1 record, and will be facing a team with a lot of offensive firepower in the Lightning.

Tampa Bay is a bit of an unconventional team. They do certain things differently than most of the teams in the NHL. Combined with that is that fact that Nashville usually only sees the Lightning one time per year.

"They're very nontraditional in terms of they go with a 1-3-1 format. They have one guy that's basically standing at the red line, three guys at the blue line, and we were looking at the film against Buffalo where there were a couple of times that their defenseman was standing right next to their goalie," Trotz said.

The style of play that Tampa Bay has frustrates a lot of teams around the league. Nashville will have to exercise patience if they want to exploit the style of the Lightning.

"You've got to be really patient with them. You've got to have a little bit of a plan. You just can't get frustrated. The frustration is going to be the enemy," Trotz said. "The whole deal is as soon as you get off your game plan it becomes frustrating. That becomes your enemy against a team like Tampa."

Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vinny Lecavalier are all tremendous offensive weapons for the Lightning. Tampa Bay is 4-3-2 on the year, and have won three consecutive games coming into the game against the Predators.

My player to watch for the Lightning is Stamkos. He's a world-class player, and makes scoring goals look easy. The Predators will certainly have to respect his game, but they also can't stand by and watch him play.

"You know who they are, but the game is too quick to say 'Oh my God what am I going to do?' You just make sure you do your fundamentals. Play the body and try to look at his chest, not stare at the puck," Hillen said.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn has six points on the year so far, and has a point in every game this season except two. He'll be on a line with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith, which will provide him with an opportunity to make plays.

"He's unique. He's skilled, he's fast, and he's got a lot of assets that a lot of guys don't have. He's extremely smart with the puck. In my words, he's lethal," Smith said. "He can thread passes to anybody. At times, I don't think teams really know exactly where he's going with the puck."

Suter family hockey legacy continues to grow


(Photo: Garrett Suter-cycloneshockey.com)

Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter comes from good stock when it comes to hockey. His father Bob was a member of the "Miracle on Ice" United States Olympic Hockey Team in 1980 that won the gold medal. His uncle Gary played 1,185 NHL games and had 845 career points with the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks.

The history of hockey in Suter's family was a unique part of his childhood. Hockey was always a part of his life, and he enjoyed that process.

"It was definitely special. My dad was always coaching so we were always at the rink. I grew up around it and it was a lot of fun," Suter said.

Suter grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, which is also known as "The City of Four Lakes." One of Suter's favorite memories from childhood is skating outside on the lake.

"You'd get home from school, shovel off the rink, and start skating," Suter said.

Nashville drafted Suter in 2003 as the 7th overall pick. Since then, he's had an illustrious career for the Predators. He's collected 195 points in 471 games played so far in his NHL career. Suter was also a member of the 2010 United States Olympic Hockey Team that won the Silver Medal.

The legacy of the Suter family in the world of hockey doesn't stop with Ryan, however. There is another member of the Suter family who has had his own success in the hockey world.

Garrett Suter, Ryan's brother, played for the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point in college. While there, he gathered 76 points in 108 games played. Now, Garrett is a member of the Cincinnati Cyclones, which is in the East Coast Hockey League. The Cyclones are the ECHL affiliate for the Predators and the Florida Panthers.

Both of the Suter brothers are playing hockey for the majority of the year, but they still try and keep up with each other.

"We stay in touch," Suter said. "He's excited. He doesn't want to be (in Cincinnati). He wants to be in Milwaukee, but if he works hard, he's good enough where he'll be there."

The Suter family has left their mark on the world of hockey in the United States. It's become a legacy that few other families can rival. That legacy will only grow as Ryan and Garrett progress in their respective careers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Smith's goal wasn't enough as San Jose defeats Nashville



The San Jose Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators by a 3-1 score in front of 15,121 at Bridgestone Arena. The Sharks got two goals from Joe Pavelski and one from Logan Couture in the victory.

In the first period, the Predators were on the power play after Justin Braun took a penalty for holding. Martin Havlat took the puck down the ice shorthanded and fired a shot on Pekka Rinne. Couture was there for the rebound, and flipped the puck past Rinne to take the 1-0 lead.

San Jose controlled the play during the second period as well. Rinne made some key saves in the period to keep the Predators in the game. After two periods of play, the Sharks held a 27-12 shot advantage.

Nashville finally tied the game at 13:12 of the third period when Craig Smith drove to the net and backhanded one past Antii Niemi. It was Smith's third goal of the young season.

"One of the biggest things that I had to learn in this league is that pucks and bodies go to the net. I'm kind of learning quick and getting rewarded for it," Smith said.

Less than a minute later, San Jose regained the lead when Pavelski pounded one in from behind the net. Pavelski would add an empty net goal to ice the game away for the Sharks.

Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon made their way back into the lineup tonight, and played solid minutes for the Predators. Fisher tallied an assist on Smith's goal, and Bouillon's veteran presence on the blueline was very noticeable.

Everybody in the building could tell that Bouillon was very excited to get back on the ice. He was smiling throughout the pregame warmups, and his play was almost as if he hadn't missed any time at all.

"He was excited tonight. I could see it in his eyes before the game, and just talking to him, he was really excited to get back out there. He played great. He's moving well. He drew that penalty with another check into the head, but he played well. He stepped up and you could definitely feel his presence out there," Smith said.

With the loss, the Predators drop to 3-4-1 on the year, and have lost five out of the last six contests. Tampa Bay comes into Nashville on Thursday night, and the Predators will be looking to get back in the win column.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Joe Pavelski(SJS)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Logan Couture(SJS)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Joe Pavelski(SJS)
2. Craig Smith(NSH)
3. Logan Couture(SJS)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Help may be on the way as Nashville takes on San Jose



The Nashville Predators will host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Last season, the Predators went 2-0-2 against the Sharks. Each game in the series was close contest, with the victor winning by one goal in all four games.

San Jose looks a little different than they did last year. They traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to Minnesota in exchange for Martin Havlat and Brent Burns. The Sharks are 3-3-0 on the year, and have won two straight games.

Nashville is 3-3-1 and are coming off of a 2-0 win over Calgary. In that game against the Flames, the Predators were outshot 33-14. The Predators have been outshot in every game so far this season.

Help may be on the way for the Predators. Mike Fisher announced on Twitter that he has been cleared to play, and Ryan Porth of smashville247.net reported that Francis Bouillon may also be ready to go against the Sharks.

Both Bouillon and Fisher would be a tremendous help for the Preds. Nashville's defensive pairings have been struggling so far this season, and the forwards aren't getting anywhere near as many shots as they need to be. Bouillon and Fisher could help the Predators improve on those areas of the game.

My player to watch for the Sharks is Martin Havlat. He's a special player when the puck is on his stick, and he loves playing the Predators. Havlat has 35 points in 28 career games against the Predators.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Mike Fisher. If he plays against the Sharks, it will be interesting to see what kind of an impact he has on the game. The Predators really need a healthy Fisher, and it seems like he's finally reached that point.

Exciting week upcoming for Preds' fans



The Nashville Predators will begin a three game home stand on Tuesday when they take on the San Jose Sharks. Tuesday marks the beginning of what should be an exciting week in Smashville.

Tampa Bay and Anaheim will be in town later in the week to take on the Predators. Fans will get the chance to see players like Joe Thornton, Steven Stamkos, and Corey Perry square off against the Predators.

San Jose and Nashville always seem to play an exhilarating game when they hook up. For the past few years, a rivalry has been born due to the two consecutive years that the Sharks and Preds played each other in the playoffs. San Jose is a perennial Stanley Cup favorite, and will be a tough test for the young Predators squad.

Tampa Bay will make a rare trip to Nashville on Thursday night to take on the Predators. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos have loads of offensive skill, and will be exciting for the fans to watch. Nashville fans don't get to see the Lightning play a lot because they're in the Eastern Conference. Thursday night is also College Night.

On Saturday, the Anaheim Ducks come into Bridgestone Arena for the first time since Game 6 of the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals. The Preds will hope to continue the duck hunt by containing the top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Preds' fans will be anxiously awaiting that game.

This week is a big opportunity for the Predators to collect wins and points. They've had their struggles out of the gate, and will hopefully start getting players back who are currently injured. Nashville fans are in for a treat this week, so hurry and buy your tickets to this week's marquee matchups before it's too late.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Preds escape Calgary with fortunate win

The Nashville Predators somehow defeated the Calgary Flames by a 2-0 score on Saturday afternoon despite being outshot 33-14. With the win, the Predators improved to 3-3-1 on the year.

Once again, Nashville had no business winning this game, but Pekka Rinne played his best game of year to steal the game from the Flames. He made several great saves to keep the Preds in the game.

Niclas Bergfors scored his first goal as a Pred in the second period. Jack Hillen fired a shot that deflected off of Bergfors and into the net. The Preds would add another goal in the third period when Craig Smith delivered a beautiful pass to Sergei Kostitsyn for a goal. Smith looked like he was shot out of a rocket on the play, and made a great play to Kostitsyn on the 2-on-1.

While the Predators did end up winning the game, getting heavily outshot isn't going to bode well for the Preds if the trend continues. They have to find ways to generate more offense.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Niclas Bergfors(NSH)
3. Craig Smith(NSH)

3 Stars by Calgary Media:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Jarome Iginla(CGY)
3. Ryan Suter(NSH)

Preds take on Calgary this afternoon

The Nashville Predators will face the Calgary Flames on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. in Calgary. Both teams have a 2-3-1 record on the young season, and both will be looking to collect two points.

Nashville dodged a bullet when the announcement came that Shea Weber would not be suspended for his illegal hit against Vancouver on Thursday night. Weber was fined $2,500 for the hit.

Jarome Iginla and the Flames suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Alex Tanguay leads the Flames in points so far this season with seven.

For Calgary, my player to watch is Iginla. He always plays well against the Predators, and usually seems to score at least one goal. He's still a great player in this league, and the Flames will go as far as he takes them.

My player to watch for Nashville is Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo was one of the only players for Nashville that had any fire on Thursday night against the Canucks. He really tried to energize the team. Expect Tootoo to bring that same sort of intensity against Calgary.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nashville continues regression, fall to Canucks

The Nashville Predators continued their sub-par play on Thursday night against Vancouver, losing 5-1. The Canucks scored four of the five goals in the first period, and dominated the Preds for the entire game.

Anders Lindback saw his first action of the season after the first period. Pekka Rinne was pulled, and it probably had more to do with the team's play in front of him than it did his play.

Matt Halischuk got the lone goal for Nashville in the first period on a bit of an odd play. He passed on off of the back board, and scored when the puck bounced back on to his stick.

There's really not much else to say about this game. Nashville controlled the play for the first minute. After that, it was all Vancouver.

Five Observations from the first six games:

1. Brian McGrattan is not playing his role. He was brought in to be a physical force for the Preds. Colin Wilson and Jordin Tootoo both fought for Nashville against the Canucks. McGrattan was nowhere to be found. If that continues, he doesn't have value for the Preds.

2. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have not played well so far this season. Weber has 12 penalty minutes in six games, and has taken penalties that never should be taken. Suter was beaten on the rush several times in the last couple of games. That shouldn't happen. There has been a severe lack of discipline on this team so far. Weber and Suter are the leaders of this team. Time to act like it.

3. Goaltending has not been the problem. Rinne and Lindback have played well for the Preds, but the defense has left them out to dry. Without the good goaltending, Nashville would have lost the last two games by 10 goals each.

4. The Preds cannot create good shots, and won't take the shot when they have the opportunity to do so. There's really no explanation for it. If you're not open, get open. When have a good shot, take it.

5. It's early. While the play of the Predators has truly been disastrous the past four games, they still have plenty of time to turn it around. However, there is definitely a huge cause for concern over the way the Predators have been playing.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Henrik Sedin(VAN)
2. Daniel Sedin(VAN)
3. Ryan Kesler(VAN)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Preds eye payback as they take on Vancouver



It may only be October, but the Nashville Predators will be looking to get a little taste of revenge on Thursday night when they take on the Vancouver Canucks. While a win would hardly erase last season's second round loss to the Canucks, the Predators definitely want to beat the team that ended their run last year.

Nashville has dropped three straight games since winning the opening two games of the year against Columbus and St. Louis. Monday night saw one of the worst performances in franchise history against the Edmonton Oilers. The Predators had a grand total of 12 shots in the game. They will be looking to dramatically increase that total against Vancouver.

Vancouver has struggled out of the gate so far this year. They have gone 2-3-1 in their first six games this year, and were just shutout 4-0 by the New York Rangers on Tuesday night in Vancouver despite having 40 shots on goal.

Roberto Luongo is already under fire from the Vancouver "faithful." In four games, Luongo has a save percentage of .856 and a goals against average of 3.70. His play will have to improve if the Canucks hope to come anywhere near last season's success.

My player to watch for the Canucks is Ryan Kesler. Kesler played for the first time this year against the Rangers on Tuesday night. Preds fans will remember what kind of an impact Kesler can have in a game after last year's playoff series he had against Nashville. He almost single-handedly beat the Predators.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Shea Weber. Weber has yet to score a goal this season. Teams are trying to take his shot away, and it has been working so far. Weber has two assists so far this season. He always shows up to play in Vancouver because he grew up in Sicamous, which is close to Vancouver. Look for Weber to be firing from the point.

Both of these teams need this game. Neither of them have started the season the way they had hoped, so they will both be looking to collect two points on Thursday night. Monday night really should have been an eye-opener for the Preds. We'll find out tonight at 9:00 p.m. central time at Rogers Arena.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Effort and execution virtually non-existent for Preds

The Nashville Predators have the youngest team in the National Hockey League. However, that doesn't excuse the effort that has been on display for the first five games of the season.

Through the first five games, the Predators have just four players with a positive plus-minus rating. Those four are David Legwand(+1), Ryan Suter(+1), Shea Weber(+1) and Jordin Tootoo(+1).

Nashville has 115 shots in five games, which is an average of 23 shots per game. The Predators have given up 164 shots in five games, which is an average of 32.8 shots per game. That's almost a 10 shot per game differential.

Pekka Rinne has been the one bright spot for the Predators so far this season. He's faced 162 shots in five games, and has only allowed 12 goals. Furthermore, a lot of those goals haven't been his fault.

The Predator style of hockey is supposed to be defensively sound and hard-working. So far this season, the Predators have not been defensively sound and they have not been a hard-working team.

While it's only five games into an 82 game season, there is still a cause for concern if you're a Nashville fan. It's not just because the Predators are on a bit of a losing skid. It's the way that they are losing games.

Nashville hasn't deserved to win a single game they've played so far this season, including the two wins to open the year. The players and coaches will be the first ones to tell you that. The qualities that have always been associated with a team coach by Barry Trotz are not there so far this year.

We know that the Predators are capable of playing "Predator hockey." They played that way for the majority of last year, and the majority of the current team was a part of that. It's all about the effort. If the Predators go back to their style of play, and go back to the hard-working style that has made them successful in the past, then they will return to a winning style of hockey.

The Predators return to Vancouver on Thursday night to take on the Canucks. This game may be the perfect remedy to Nashville's season-opening struggles. Vancouver eliminated the Predators in the second round of last year's playoffs. The Preds should be up for this game because they'll want to bring everything they have at the Canucks.

Monday night's game in Edmonton should really be a wake up call for the Predators. There is still plenty of time for the Predators to turn this disappointing style of play around, but it's a habit that needs to be broken quickly. It's time for the players to sit down, look in the mirror and hold themselves accountable. If that happens, the Predators will be a very tough team to play.

Preds leave Rinne out to dry in loss to Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Nashville Predators by a 3-1 score on Monday night in a game that was truly dominated by the Oilers.

Nashville had 12 shots in the entire game. Edmonton controlled the flow of play for the entirety of the game, and could have scored 15 goals if it weren't for the play of Pekka Rinne.

The Predators actually got on the board first in this game. Sergei Kostitsyn brought the puck in the zone on the rush and wristed one that squeezed through Nikolai Khabibulin and into the net.

In the third period, Edmonton would tie the game when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins delivered a great pass to Taylor Hall who put it past Rinne. The Oilers would take the lead 2:02 later when Ryan Smyth was left all alone and scored to put Edmonton up 2-1.

Former Pred Ryan Jones would add an empty-netter to ice the game, and the Oilers walked away with a 3-1 victory.

After the game, Jerred Smithson lashed out to Josh Cooper of the Tennessean. Smithson called out his team, and said the effort wasn't there. He also said that, if it weren't for Rinne, the Preds wouldn't have a point yet.

These are strong words from the Predators veteran forward, but they have a lot of merit to them. Nashville hasn't played well in any game so far this year. They got two wins to open the season, but were not the better team in either game. There is a lot to work on going forward.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Shawn Horcoff(EDM)
2. Ryan Smyth(EDM)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

3 Stars by Edmonton Media:
1. Shawn Horcoff(EDM)
2. Taylor Hall(EDM)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Preds to face young talent in Edmonton

The Nashville Predators(2-1-1) face off against the Edmonton Oilers(1-1-1) on Monday night at 8:30 p.m. central time in Edmonton. Compared to the majority of the NHL, Edmonton had moderate success against the Predators last year. The Oilers won two out of the four games.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils in a game that they led 2-0 after two periods of play. The Predators have gathered five out of a possible eight points to open the season.

Edmonton lost to the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night by a score of 4-3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, first pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, recorded his first career hat trick on Saturday night against the Canucks. Edmonton has gathered three out of a possible six points to open the season.

Both teams really need this win to get back on the right track. Nashville opened the season with two road wins, but then lost both of their next two home games. The Oilers won their opening game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but have not won either game since. Both teams will be coming hard out of the gate.

My player to watch for the Predators is Colin Wilson. Wilson was all around the net against New Jersey, and played arguably the best overall game of his young NHL career. Look for him to get on the score sheet again tonight.

For Edmonton, my player to watch is Jordan Eberle. Just like a lot of players on this young Oilers team, Eberle has a lot of skill. He's a skilled passer and has great hands. Look for Eberle to be a force tonight against the Predators.

What do players do on game days?

Most of the start times for the Nashville Predators' games are in the evening. So, what do the players do all day leading up to the game? We caught up with a few of the players to find out.

JONATHON BLUM
Hockey Night in Nashville: What's a typical game day like for you leading up to the game?

Blum: "Get up and come to the rink. I have something to eat here like a bagel or cereal. Warm up on the bike, do some exercises and then have a morning skate. We get out of skate and shower, and then we'll have our meetings at 11:00. PK, PP and systems meeting, and then there is about six of us that go to Maggiano's to eat pregame on a home day. We eat pregame, and then I go home and probably nap for two or two and a half hours. Then I get up at around 3:45 and get to the rink at 4:30. I tape up my sticks and play soccer with the guys. We'll have another meeting at 5:30 and then go play soccer again. Then I'll usually warm up on the treadmill to get going, and then it's warm up time."

HNN: How much does your routine change when you're on the road?

Blum: "It's definitely a little different. Obviously, you don't have the equipment that's at your home arena and stuff like that. It's still the same kind of pregame. Take a nap, get to the rink, tape your sticks up, play soccer and hang out with the guys. It's pretty much the same, just a little different."

HNN: What's your favorite pregame meal?

Blum: "I don't even know if I've mixed it up since juniors. It's just pasta. I have salad to start, some pasta, and then chicken. I just drink water and stuff like that, and I don't think it's really changed much."

NICK SPALING
HNN: What's a typical game day like for you leading up to the game?

Spaling: "We come in for the morning skate. After the morning skate, we have our meetings preparing us for the game, and getting our systems and special teams ready. Then I go for a lunch with pretty much half of the guys. After that, I just go home for a nap. I nap around 2:00 and when I get up from that I pretty much get ready and come to the rink about two and a half hours early. I get prepared, tape some sticks and play some soccer until it's time to go out for warm up."

HNN: How much does your routine change when you're on the road?

Spaling: "It's pretty similar. It just changes the times a little bit. Our pregame skate is pushed back, and then we have a full-team lunch together at the hotels. I still have a nap and then still take the bus to the game about two hours early."

HNN: What is your favorite pregame meal?

Spaling: "Probably the one here at Maggiano's."

KEVIN KLEIN
HNN: What is a typical game day like for you leading up to the game?

Klein: "I wake up, have breakfast, and come to the rink for pregame. Maybe get a couple of sticks together and go through pregame skate. Then there is about six or seven of us that head to lunch at a Maggiano's. We eat there, and then I go home and play with my son for a bit. He's two and a half. We both nap, so I nap for about an hour. Then I get up, have a snack and a coffee, and head to the rink."

HNN: How much does your routine change on the road?

Klein: "It changes big time. Meals are later, pregame skate is later, and you wake up a little later for breakfast. You're in your hotel room just kind of lounging around and watching some tube before you take an hour nap. Then we head to the rink at about the same time around 4:00."

HNN: What's your favorite pregame meal?

Klein: "I eat angel hair meat sauce and chicken parmesan."

PEKKA RINNE
HNN: What's a typical game day like for you leading up to the game?

Rinne: "I usually wake up around 8:00 and eat some breakfast. I come to the rink and get ready for pregame skate. Warm up and go on the ice. At home, we usually skate at 10:15. We skate for probably like 20 minutes, and then I go off the ice and stretch again. We have a couple of meetings, and then I go eat a pregame meal. After that, I usually take a little nap and try to get some rest. Then I wake up and go to the rink around 4:30. From then on, I kind of slowly get ready for the game and do all of the things I need to do. I tape my sticks, make sure my gear is ready and stuff like that."

HNN: How much does your routine change when you're on the road?

Rinne: "You kind of create your own routine, especially at home. It's always the same building and everything is the same, but on the road it's a little different. But I think for the most part it's still the same routine. You wake up, have a little breakfast and go to the rink. You do the same kind of things. The timing is maybe a little bit different, but mostly it's just the same thing."

HNN: What is your favorite pregame meal?

Rinne: "It's usually the same. It's always like chicken and pasta and a little salad."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wilson's maturation shows in Preds shootout loss to Devils

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2 by way of a shootout on Saturday night in front of the ninth consecutive sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

New Jersey controlled the flow of play at the start of the game. They came out and drew a penalty very early in the first period, but were unable to capitalize. The momentum seemed to flip over in Nashville's favor when David Clarkson took a major penalty for boarding after hitting Ryan Suter from behind.

After that hit, the Predators seemed to play with fire and anger. They scored on the ensuing power play when Colin Wilson redirected a pass from Sergei Kostitsyn and beat Johan Hedberg.

"Leggy and Sergei were working on the half wall and I'm a lefty so I had to just go for the tip in front. Sergei made a great play and I just tipped it," Wilson said.

A little over a minute later, the Predators struck again when Jerred Smithson scored on a great pass from Jordin Tootoo. Nashville had completely turned the tide after the hit on Suter, and took all of the momentum.

"That penalty was a huge penalty and that's what we capitalized on. I think it really made our team mad," Wilson said.

The Devils and the Predators battled back in forth in the second period, but the Predators took too many penalties at the end of the period. In the beginning of the third period, Ilya Kovalchuk took advantage of a 5-on-3 advantage and fired a missile past Pekka Rinne to pull the Devils within one.

At 7:57 of the third period, Clarkson tied the game on a great pass from Mattias Tedenby. The game would remain tied through the third period and in the overtime frame. The Devils would get two beautiful goals from Kovalchuk and Zach Parise in the shootout, and Hedberg stopped both of Nashville's attempts. New Jersey escaped with the victory, and the Preds were left with just the one point.

For two teams that don't play each other often, this game was a chippy one. Brian McGrattan and Cam Janssen squared off in what seemed like one of the longest fights in the history of the Predators. There were several skirmishes throughout the game, and it had a bit of a playoff feel to it.

"I think any time somebody goes up 2-0 it's going to get a little bit chippy. I think we're both two gritty teams so when those two things collide it's going to get chippy out there, and that's exactly what happened.

One of the big bright spots for the Predators in this game was the play of Wilson. He was around the net all night, and played one of the most complete games of his career.

"I want to score goals so I was going around the net. There were rebounds there, and I wish I could have potted those. It would have helped out, but that's just the way I'm trying to play," Wilson said.

Wilson seems to have really grown up over the offseason. He's much more mature, and has more focus so far this year. During the summer, Wilson had a mental coach to help him work on being more focused and prepared. The results are showing on the ice.

"It's helped quite a bit. I'm learning to get a lot more focused. I'm going to be more prepared for games and that's exactly what I want," Wilson said.

Nashville will leave for Edmonton on Sunday, and will take on the Oilers on Monday night to open their first Western Canadian trip of the year.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ)
2. Colin Wilson (NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne (NSH)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Ilya Kovalchuk (NJ)
2. Colin Wilson (NSH)
3. Johan Hedberg (NJ)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nashville to face unfamiliar foe in Devils

The Nashville Predators will be trying to erase the debacle of last Thursday night's game against Phoenix as they take on the New Jersey Devils Saturday night.

"We've just got to be better in all aspects. We've got to work harder and play well within our system. If we can do that, we're going to be ok," said Predators forward Cal O'Reilly.

Nashville has a small case of the injury bug going into the game against the Devils. Mike Fisher, Francis Bouillon and Martin Erat are all out. Patric Hornqvist is a game time decision. The Predators will have to get contributions from everyone if they want to contribute a sufficient amount of offense.

New Jersey defeated the Los Angeles Kings in a shootout on Thursday night. Legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur left Thursday night's game with an upper body injury and will not be starting the game against Nashville. Johan Hedberg will make the start for the Devils. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise are two stars that will have the chance score every time they touch the puck.

Since the Devils play in the Eastern Conference, the Predators aren't as familiar with them as they are with other teams. That can potentially present challenges for them in their preparation.

"When you see a team that you don't play a lot, you obviously don't know them as well. But we know the players that they have, and we've watched highlights and video on them. They're a highly skilled team and they have a lot of speed. It's going to be a good challenge for us," O'Reilly said.

This will be the second home game of the year for the Predators. They are hoping for a much better result against New Jersey than they had against Phoenix. The Predators take pride in playing in front of their home town crowd.

"We want to give them a win. We didn't on opening night so we owe them that tonight. We're want to come in here with a better 60 minute effort and get two points," O'Reilly said.

My player to watch for the New Jersey Devils is Johan Hedberg. He's a backup goalie with a fair bit of experience. He's not a pushover by any means, and I expect him to play a good game in net for the Devils.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. Legwand has 7 points in three games this season, but has lacked the defensive presence that he normally has. Barry Trotz is looking for more of a complete game out of him against the Devils.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Coyotes spoil Preds home opener; Legwand continues stellar play



The Phoenix Coyotes came into Nashville and dominated the Nashville Predators by a score of 5-2 on Thursday night. Phoenix was strong out of the gate and took a 3-0 lead in the first period. They never looked back.

In the first period, the Coyotes got goals from David Schlemko, Ray Whitney and Lauri Korpikoski. The sellout crowd in Nashville was immediately taken out of the game, and the Coyotes controlled the flow of play.

Phoenix struck again at 11:26 of the second period when Mikkel Boedker made a great play in front of the net to beat Pekka Rinne and put the Coyotes up 4-0. Jordin Tootoo took a slashing penalty for Nashville, but Ryan Suter was able to score shorthanded at 14:01 of the period to put the Predators on the scoreboard.

Nashville had plenty of chances to convert in the third period. Colin Wilson scored at 9:08 of the period to bring the game within two, but that would be as close as they would get. Phoenix added an empty-netter and left Nashville with a victory.

David Legwand added two more assists against the Coyotes, giving him seven points in the first three games. That gives him the most points in the entire NHL so far this season. However, Legwand is more concerned about wins rather than personal accomplishments.

"The two points is the main thing, and we've got to be better as a group of 20. We weren't good tonight in the first period and it cost us the game," Legwand said.

This was the first win for the Coyotes so far this season, and it was due to their style of play. Phoenix is a frustrating team to play against because they're not a team that is going to make a lot of mistakes.

"They just wait for you to make a mistake. We've got to play a more patient game. They play an upbeat game and they wait for your turnovers and they kind of goated us into a couple of things tonight," Legwand said.

Prior to this game, the Predators hadn't played since last Saturday night in St. Louis. The long layoff may have had an effect on the play of the Predators coming out of the gate. Luckily for them, they play again on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.

"It's good to get this one out of the way and move forward. That's a big thing for us. Just get it out of the way and forget about it," Legwand said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Lauri Korpikoski(PHX)
2. Jason LaBarbera(PHX)
3. David Legwand(NSH)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. David Schlemko(PHX)
2. Lauri Korpikoski(PHX)
3. David Legwand(NSH)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Preds open home portion of season against Phoenix



The Nashville Predators(2-0-0) will play their first regular season home game of the 2011-2012 season on Thursday night when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes(0-1-1).

Phoenix opened the season with a 6-3 loss in San Jose, and a 2-1 shootout loss in Dallas. They will be looking for their first win of the season, and will play a desperate style of hockey against the Predators.

Ilya Bryzgalov was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers, so Mike Smith was brought in to handle the goaltending responsibilities for the Desert Dogs.

Nashville comes into the game having won both of their first two contests on the road. They will be looking to move to 3-0-0 on the year, and to collect points that could prove to be very valuable at the end of the year.

My player to watch for the Coyotes is Shane Doan. As is usually the case for Phoenix, Doan has been their best player so far this season. He has two goals and one assist in the first two games, and is tied with Keith Yandle for the team lead in shots with 11. Doan is the heart and soul of this Phoenix team, and his play largely dictates the play of the entire team.

For Nashville, my player to watch is rookie phenom Craig Smith. He has two goals and two assists in his first two NHL games. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the atmosphere of opening night in Smashville.

The festivities begin at 4:00 p.m when the players, coaches and broadcasters will walk the gold carpet with select season ticket holders. After that, there will be a plaza party leading up to the game. The puck will drop at approximately 7:08 p.m.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Which major American professional sport has the most parity?




In recent years, the National Hockey League has been extremely competitive. It seems as if the separation between the elite teams and the teams that don't make the playoffs is minuscule.

Let's look at the matchups in the championships for the last 10 years in the four major professional sports in the United States of America. How many different teams have been represented in the championship game or series in each league, and where does the parity of the NHL rank?

Below are the results of each championship of the respective leagues in the past ten years. Let's see how each league faired.





NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

2001-2002- New England Patriots defeated St. Louis Rams
2002-2003- Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated Oakland Raiders
2003-2004- New England Patriots defeated Carolina Panthers
2004-2005- New England Patriots defeated Philadelphia Eagles
2005-2006- Pittsburgh Steelers defeated Seattle Seahawks
2006-2007- Indianapolis Colts defeated Chicago Bears
2007-2008- New York Giants defeated New England Patriots
2008-2009- Pittsburgh Steelers defeated Arizona Cardinals
2009-2010- New Orleans Saints defeated Indianapolis Colts
2010-2011- Green Bay Packers defeated Pittsburgh Steelers

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
2001-2002- Los Angeles Lakers defeated New Jersey Nets
2002-2003- San Antonio Spurs defeated New Jersey Nets
2003-2004- Detroit Pistons defeated Los Angeles Lakers
2004-2005- San Antonio Spurs defeated Detroit Pistons
2005-2006- Miami Heat defeated Dallas Mavericks
2006-2007- San Antonio Spurs defeated Cleveland Cavaliers
2007-2008- Boston Celtics defeated Los Angeles Lakers
2008-2009- Los Angeles Lakers defeated Orlando Magic
2009-2010- Los Angeles Lakers defeated Boston Celtics
2010-2011- Dallas Mavericks defeated Miami Heat

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
2001- Arizona Diamondbacks defeated New York Yankees
2002- Anaheim Angels defeated San Francisco Giants
2003- Florida Marlins defeated New York Yankees
2004- Boston Red Sox defeated St. Louis Cardinals
2005- Chicago White Sox defeated Houston Astros
2006- St. Louis Cardinals defeated Detroit Tigers
2007- Boston Red Sox defeated Colorado Rockies
2008- Philadelphia Phillies defeated Tampa Bay Rays
2009- New York Yankees defeated Philadelphia Phillies
2010- San Francisco Giants defeated Texas Rangers

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
2001-2002- Detroit Red Wings defeated Carolina Hurricanes
2002-2003- New Jersey Devils defeated Anaheim Mighty Ducks
2003-2004- Tampa Bay Lightning defeated Calgary Hurricanes
2004-2005- Lockout
2005-2006- Carolina Hurricanes defeated Edmonton Oilers
2006-2007- Anaheim Ducks defeated Ottawa Senators
2007-2008- Detroit Red Wings defeated Pittsburgh Penguins
2008-2009- Pittsburgh Penguins defeated Detroit Red Wings
2009-2010- Chicago Blackhawks defeated Philadelphia Flyers
2010-2011- Boston Bruins defeated Vancouver Canucks

The NFL has had 14 different teams in the Super Bowl over the last ten years, but only seven different champions. During the past 10 years, 29 of the 32 teams in the NFL have made the playoffs(Buffalo, Detroit and Houston have not).

Basketball has been very predictable, with only nine different teams reaching the NBA Finals in the past 10 years. Only six different teams have won at least one championship in that time. All 30 teams have made the playoffs in the NBA in the past 10 years.

In Major League Baseball, 14 different teams have reached the World Series in the past 10 years. There have been nine different World Series champions in that span of time. Only 25 out of 30 teams have made the playoffs in the past 10 years in the MLB.

The NHL has had 13 different teams represented in the Stanley Cup Finals during the past 10 years(including the lockout year where no season was played), and have had eight different Stanley Cup champions. In the past 10 years, 29 out of 30 NHL teams have made the playoffs. The only franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in the past 10 years is the Florida Panthers.

So which league has the most parity? Which league is it that has the best chance to see different teams win each year?

Taking into account that the NHL had one season that was locked out, I'll say the NHL is by a slim margin. There's no team that can really buy enough talent for a championship. It's all about developing the players, and acquiring the right players at the right time.

What do you think? Do you agree that the NHL has the most parity out of the four major American sports?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Preds send message; Knock off St. Louis



You can have all the hype in the world. The only thing that matters is the result on the ice. That's the message the Nashville Predators sent to St. Louis on Saturday night, winning the game by a 4-2 score.

Rookie Craig Smith kept his stellar play going, adding another goal and two assists to his early season production. David Legwand also had a great game, racking up two goals and two assists on the night.

Pekka Rinne was solid once again in net for the Predators. He stopped 31 out of 33 shots on the night.

St. Louis got on the board first when Patrik Berglund one-timed a shot past Rinne on a play that wasn't defended well at all by the Predators. However, Nashville would respond on the power play when Smith backhanded one past Jaroslav Halak.

The scoring would cease until the 3rd period when Legwand banked the puck off of a body in front of the net and past Halak. Former Nashville captain Jason Arnott would quickly respond for the Blues, however, and tie the game at two.

Kevin Klein took matters into his own hands just 57 seconds later, and wristed one past Halak to give the Predators a lead they would not relinquish. Legwand added another empty net goal, and the Predators left St. Louis with a perfect opening weekend.

Make no mistake, these two wins by Nashville sent a message to Columbus and St. Louis. While they may have made a few moves in the offseason, they will still have to show up and play extremely well if they hope to compete with the Predators.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. David Legwand(NSH)
2. Craig Smith(NSH)
3. Kevin Klein(NSH)

Actual 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. David Legwand(NSH)
3. T.J. Oshie(STL)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nashville must have short memory as they take on Blues

The Nashville Predators travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues in the second divisional matchup in as many days. The Preds defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and won the first half of the opening weekend road trip.

Now, the Preds have another challenge in the Blues. Over the summer, the Blues added former Predators captain Jason Arnott and veteran forward Jamie Langenbrunner. The Blues hope that veteran experience will mix in well with the young talent they have.

St. Louis will be without David Perron and B.J. Crombeen due to injury, while the Predators will still be without Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon.

In a lot of ways, the Predators will be facing the same challenge against St. Louis that they faced on Friday night against the Blue Jackets. It's the season opener for the Blues, and the crowd will be a huge factor in the game. Nashville will have to survive the initial push by the Blues, and then strike first to take the crowd out of the game.

My player to watch for the Blues is Chris Stewart. He has 136 points in his NHL career so far, including a 64 point season in 2009-2010 with the Colorado Avalanche. He's only 23 years old and has the potential to have a monster year for the Blues. The Predators will have to restrict his time and space with the puck. He's got lots of skill so he will probably see a lot of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Kevin Klein. He played a strong game in Columbus on Friday night, and was very defensively sound. Klein will have to continue that strong play this year, and his play will be key in tonight's game against St. Louis.

St. Louis is going to come out strong. The Predators are going to have to match the intensity of the Blues and convert offensively when they have the opportunity to do so. It will be a tightly contested game, but I think the Blues will prevail and come out with a 4-3 overtime victory.

Preds continue dominance against Columbus

The Nashville Predators defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 3-2 score on Friday night, and continued their dominance against them.

Nashville got goals from Ryan Suter, Craig Smith and Matt Halischuk. The Blue Jackets got goals from Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash, but weren't able to get contributions from the other three lines.

Pekka Rinne was brilliant for the Predators, stopping 32 out of 34 shots. He had been having problems with the flu going into the game, but played a strong game and helped keep the Preds on top.

Both teams got plenty of chances during the 1st period, but were unable to capitalize. Nashville survived the initial energy from the crowd, and from the Blue Jackets, in the first period.

Suter put the Preds on the board in the 2nd period when he converted on a pass from Sergei Kostitsyn. Prospal scored for Columbus when he drove to the net and put home the loose puck off of a Jeff Carter shot.

Smith scored his first career NHL goal in the 2nd period for the Predators. The puck got loose in the crease, and Smith came swooping from behind the net and backhanded the puck into the net to put the Preds up 2-1.

The Preds came out in the 3rd period and struck quickly. Cal O'Reilly delivered a beautiful backhand saucer pass in front of the net to Halischuk for the goal. Nash would score later on in the 3rd period, but it wasn't enough for the Blue Jackets.

Nashville now is 1-0-0 on the year, and travels to St. Louis to take on the Blues on Saturday night. It will be a crucial game, and it could end up making a difference in playoff positioning in April.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Ryan Suter(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Craig Smith(NSH)

Actual 3 stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Jeff Carter(CBJ)
3. Rick Nash(CBJ)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Preds start regular season in Columbus

The Nashville Predators will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night at 6 p.m. central time in Columbus. This is the regular season opener for both teams, and it's the first time the two teams have met for the season opener in history.

Last year, the Predators posted a 4-2-0 record against the Blue Jackets. Both of those two losses, however, came on the road.

Columbus added Jeff Carter and James Wisnewski in the off season to improve their team. Wisnewski won't be playing in this game due to a suspension, but Carter will. He's a great player, and will make Rick Nash even more of threat. The Predators will certainly need to keep an eye on that top line.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Martin Erat. Erat had five points in the season series with Columbus last year, and has 42 career points against them. That is more points than he has against any other team in the league.

The Blue Jackets don't like Nashville and will be looking to set the tone for the season on opening night. Expect an ugly, hard fought game. I think Nashville prevails and wins the game 3-2.

The game will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee, as will every road game this season.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011-2012 NHL Award Predictions

Two of the most popular picks to win the Stanley Cup this year are Pittsburgh and Chicago. I don't see this either of these teams hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the season. But, I do have picks of my own. Using the Western Conference predictions made earlier this week at Hockey Night in Nashville, I will break down my playoff predictions, Stanley Cup winner, and who I think will win the individual awards at the end of the year.

Western Conference playoff predictions:

1st round

#1 Vancouver defeats #8 Anaheim
#2 Los Angeles defeats #7 Minnesota
#3 Detroit defeats #6 Chicago
#5 Nashville defeats #4 San Jose

2nd round
#5 Nashville defeats #1 Vancouver
#2 Los Angeles defeats #3 Detroit

3rd round
#2 Los Angeles defeats #5 Nashville

Stanley Cup Final
Washington defeats Los Angeles

NHL Individual Awards
Hart- Alex Ovechkin(WSH)

Vezina- Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Norris- Shea Weber(NSH)

Calder- Adam Larsson(NJ)

Lady Byng- Pavel Datsyuk(DET)

Selke- Pavel Datsyuk(DET)

Jack Adams- Bruce Budreau(WSH)

Masterton- Evgeni Malkin(PIT)

Ted Lindsay- Alex Ovechkin(WSH)

Rocket Richard- Alex Ovechkin(WSH)

Art Ross- Alex Ovechkin(WSH)

Jennings- Roberto Luongo(VAN)

General Manager of the year- Dean Lombardi(LAK)

What do you think? Do the Kings have what it takes to win the Western Conference? Will the addition of Tomas Vokoun help the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup? Can Nashville really make it to the Western Conference Finals? Sound off in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Preds aim to capture first Central Division title



In the 12 seasons of the Nashville Predators existence, there has been one constant in the Central Division. Everybody is chasing the Detroit Red Wings.

The Nashville Predators have never won the Central Division in the history of the franchise. Detroit has won the division 11 times in the past 12 years, and the Chicago Blackhawks won it in the 2009-2010 season.

Winning the division is certainly a nice goal to have, but it doesn't necessarily determine the amount of postseason success that a team will achieve. However, the Predators would certainly love to win their first division title this year.

"You have little goals throughout the year, and that is one of the goals we always have," said Predators defenseman Ryan Suter.

This season, the Central Division is going to be a tough division to win. Detroit and Chicago are still great teams, and both Columbus and St. Louis got better in the off season.

"Everyone in our division got better for sure. There's not a team that took the summer off," Suter said.

Most of the experts have Detroit or Chicago winning the division this year. However, there are people who believe the Predators will be right in the mix. Ryan Lambert believes the Preds will break 100 points and challenge for the division title.

Anything can happen in the log jam that is the Western Conference. The difference between winning the division and missing the playoffs might be determined by a matter of about four points. It will be difficult for the Preds to do, but that's not going to stop them from trying.

"It's going to be tough. It gets tougher every year, and this year it's going to be just as hard," Suter said.

One way to make winning the division easier is by beating the teams in your own division. The Predators open their schedule with two divisional opponents on back to back nights this week. That's where the quest for Central Division supremacy begins.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The road to Nashville goes through.....Madison?



The Nashville Predators seem to be keeping a sharp eye on the Wisconsin Badger hockey program. Ryan Suter, Blake Geoffrion and Craig Smith all played their college hockey at the University of Wisconsin. Now, the three of them are making an impact with the Predators.

"Wisconsin is a school that guys want to go to. They get the top recruits in the country," said Predators defenseman Ryan Suter.

One of the unique things about playing college hockey at Wisconsin is the atmosphere. The Kohl Center is home to one of the loudest crowds in the country. Jack Hillen, the defenseman acquired by the Predators from the New York Islanders in the offseason, played college hockey at Colorado College. He knows all about playing at the Kohl Center. Colorado College and the University of Wisconsin both play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"The Kohl Center was always one of the best trips. They had great crowds, a great student section and a full building. It's one of the biggest buildings in college hockey,' Hillen said. 'You always kind of got up for those games more because you knew it was going to be such a great atmosphere."

Suter and Smith both grew up in Madison, which is where the University of Wisconsin is located. Both enjoyed their time there, and hold Madison close to their hearts.

"It's a special place, and it will be held in our hearts a long time," Smith said.

Having Geoffrion and Suter in Nashville has helped Smith in his development with the Preds. The connection they share with Wisconsin hockey has made him feel more comfortable in Nashville.

"It's nice to come here and just know guys have been through what you've been through, and have gone through the same change,' Smith said. 'It's nice having Blake here. He's a guy that I know pretty well, so he's kind of taken me under his wing and made me feel more comfortable."

The connection with the Badgers has worked out well for the Predators so far. Suter is one of the top defensive players in the world, Geoffrion already has a hat trick in his young NHL career, and Smith has made the NHL club without playing a game for the Milwaukee Admirals.

"It's great for Wisconsin hockey and it says a lot about Coach Eaves," Geoffrion said.

Whatever Nashville's method is in drafting players from the University of Wisconsin, they might want to continue doing so in the future. Suter certainly finds a sense of pride in the results.

"I don't know what it is. The Predators scouts just have a good eye for some good talent, I guess."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011-2012 Western Conference Predictions

The 2011-2012 NHL regular season is finally upon us. Each team has a clean slate to start the season, and last season is now a distant memory. In the chaos of the Western Conference, attempting to predict who will end up in the playoffs and who won't is extremely difficult. It's very competitive every year, and this year won't be an exception. Here are my predictions for the regular season in the Western Conference:

1. Vancouver- The Canucks are still loaded with talent, and also play in the weakest division in the Western Conference. The Sedin twins will have another big year, and Ryan Kesler will continue to be a force on both sides of the ice.

2. Los Angeles- The Kings have had a very eventful off season to say the least. Drew Doughty finally signed last week, and they added a lot of guys like Mike Richards and Simon Gagne that will help them. I expect them to be neck and neck with the Sharks all season, but LA will win the Pacific Division.

3. Detroit- There is going to be a year when the Red Wings fall off and end up near the basement of the Western Conference. This year will not be that year. The Red Wings have lots of veteran talent, and they simply know how to win. They'll win the Central Division once again this year, but it will be a tight race.

4. San Jose- The Sharks got rid of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, and added Martin Havlat and Brent Burns from Minnesota. To me, it's a very smart move. I think San Jose will be more of a complete team this year, but will fall just short of winning the Pacific Division.

5. Nashville- The Predators will once again be better than people think. Why? Because they always are. Nashville will challenge Detroit for the Central Division title, and will make the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.

6. Chicago- The Blackhawks will be a better and more consistent team this year. They added a little bit of grit, and won't have the Stanley Cup hangover that they did last year. They'll be right in the mix with Nashville and Detroit.

7. Minnesota- The Wild made a few additions in the off season, which I think will get them into the playoffs. Niklas Backstrom will have a better year in net, and the Wild will also benefit by playing Edmonton and Colorado six times apiece.

8. Anaheim- The Ducks have the best top line in hockey with Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. When you add Teemu Selanne to the mix, the Ducks have significant offensive ability. However, the team isn't very deep past that. They will squeak into the playoffs.

9. St. Louis- The Blues will be a very tough team to play against this year. They have added veterans like Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott, and still have good young players in T.J. Oshie. The final playoff spot will be determined on the last day, but I think the Blues just miss out.

10. Columbus- The Blue Jackets added Jeff Carter and James Wisnewski to the mix for this year. While those moves will certainly help them, a good hockey team consists of more than three good players. There are still serious questions in goal and on defense.

11. Dallas- The Stars came extremely close to making the playoffs last year. They added Michael Ryder from the Boston Bruins, but also lost Brad Richards to free agency. The Stars will still be in playoff contention, but will not make it.

12. Calgary- The Flames have great leadership with Jarome Iginla. I just don't see how they got dramatically better from last year to this year. The Flames will struggle this year, but still be the 3rd best team in the division.

13. Phoenix- The Coyotes have several questions surrounding the franchise this year. Will they be relocated? Can they continue their success during the regular season? I think it's going to be hard for the Coyotes to make the playoffs this year. Goaltending will be a huge issue all year.

14. Edmonton- Cellar dwellers no more, the Oilers will show moderate improvement this year. They have all kinds of young talent. It just takes time to develop that talent. They will miss the playoffs by a considerable margin, but they won't be in the basement of the league.

15. Colorado- It's going to be a rough year in Denver. They totally collapsed at the end of last season, and goaltending will once again be an issue for the Avalanche. Expect Colorado to be the worst team in the league.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Preds close out preseason with a win

The Nashville Predators defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime by a 2-1 score to finish the preseason with a 7-1-0 record.

For the first two periods, there was very little offensive action by either team. Both Pekka Rinne and Brian Boucher played strong games in net. It was a scoreless game after two periods of play.

Carolina struck first in the 3rd period when Bryan Allen beat Rinne to the stick side. It wasn't an extraordinary scoring chance, but it was enough to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.

Jiri Tlusty took a double minor high-sticking penalty for the Hurricanes at 7:09 of the period, which gave the Predators a lengthy power play. Patric Hornqvist would capitalize when he crashed the net and scored on the rebound of a Ryan Ellis shot. That would be the end of the scoring in the regulation frame of the hockey game.

In overtime, Craig Smith made a play that might have solidified a spot for him on the Predators' roster. He played a gritty shift, and created a turnover and fired a shot that handcuffed Boucher and gave the Preds the victory.

"It was a good effort. He got the turnover and ended up shooting the puck through the screen. It handcuffed the goalie and went in. It was great for his confidence. He's a great player and I'm really happy for him," said Predators forward Blake Geoffrion.

The Wisconsin Badgers' hockey program is making a big impact on the Nashville Predators organization. Geoffrion, Smith and Ryan Suter all played college hockey at Wisconsin, and are now making waves with the Predators.

"It's kind of funny how that works. Obviously, Sutes has been here a while. I got few games here last year and now Smith has played really well in the preseason. It's kind of weird that's happened but it's great for Wisconsin hockey and it speaks a lot about coach Eaves," Geoffrion said.

Nashville collected 14 out of 16 points in the preseason. That doesn't mean much in the long run, but it is a confidence builder for the team going into the season. One thing that the Preds have discovered this preseason is that they have a pretty good amount of depth.

Hockey fans don't have to wait much longer for the beginning of the 2011-12 regular season. The Preds begin regular season play next Friday in Columbus.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Star's of the game(voted with 5:00 remaining in 3rd):
1. Brian Boucher (Carolina)
2. Pekka Rinne (Nashville)
3. Patric Hornqvist (Nashville)

Actual 3 Stars of the game:
1. Craig Smith (Nashville)
2. Pekka Rinne (Nashville)
3. Brian Boucher (Carolina)

Could A-Rad's return be imminent?

If you're a Preds fan, you've most likely heard the rumors - well, the fact - that Alexander Radulov is unhappy with his situation in the KHL.

Apparently, one of the most talented players to ever come through the Nashville organization has demanded a trade from his Salavat Yulaev due to disagreements with his coach. One would assume that a trade deal could be easily worked out, however there is a possibility that his discontent could be a little bigger than simply being dissatisfied with his team.

Radulov knows he is the best player in the work not playing in the NHL. I firmly believe there was, and maybe still is, an overarching reason for his escape back to mother Russia...however, he has to come back at some point. Any professional athlete has the inherent desire to be The Best at what he or she does, and Radulov will never achieve that while playing in the KHL.

However, there is a possibility that maybe Rads doesn't have that desire. Maybe he wants the "comforts" of a socialistic country and a league that has had trouble making payroll. If that is the case, then I hope he stays where he is.

Personally, this blogger hopes he comes home--and sooner, rather than later. The Preds will have a solid team this year, but a player like Radulov, who has increased his size, speed, and ability could escalate us to the next level. He's a offensive threat; one that we've missed since his last game in the blue and gold.