Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preds need more out of veteran forwards

The Nashville Predators have lost four out of the past five games in regulation, and have only scored seven goals during that span. Of those seven goals, four have been scored by defensemen. Jordin Tootoo and Nick Spaling account for the other three goals.

Where are the veteran forwards that are supposed to be Nashville's top offensive threats?

Martin Erat- During the past five games, Erat has two assists. Those assists came in consecutive games against Minnesota and Detroit. Erat has seven shots on goal in the past five games.

David Legwand- After starting the season off on a blistering pace, Legwand has struggled since coming back from injury. He had an assist in his first game back against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he doesn't have any points in the past five games. Legwand has six shots on goal in the past five games.

Mike Fisher- Fisher registered an assist in the 6-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, which is his only point in the past five games. Fisher has 11 shots during that time span, six of which came in that loss to Edmonton.

Patric Hornqvist- Hornqvist hasn't registered a point in the past five games, and only has seven shots on goal during that same time span. Hornqvist is usually near the top of shots on goal for the Predators every night because of his willingness to go to the front of the net.

Sergei Kostitsyn- During the past five games, Kostitsyn doesn't have any points. He only has five shots on goal during that span, and only has 16 shots on goal for the season.

Among these five forwards that Nashville relies heavily upon to score on a nightly basis, they have three points in the past five games. They have 36 shots on goal during that same time span, and Fisher accounts for 11 of those 36 shots.

That simply won't get it done. The Predators don't have the luxury of having five of their top players going through an offensive slump at the same time. So how do they fix this problem? It may be as simple as changing the line combinations.

Craig Smith leads the Predators in scoring with 17 points, yet he's currently playing on the third line. Putting him back into a top six role might be the shake up that the Predators need. Smith can play both on the wing and at center, which gives Barry Trotz flexibility to put him virtually anywhere on the top two lines if he chooses to do so.

If Smith is elevated back into a top six role, who does Trotz replace him with on the third line? Legwand would be the logical choice if Trotz decides to put Smith in the center position. However, Colin Wilson has experience at center as well. Due to Kostitsyn's lack of production as of late, does Trotz decide to demote him as a wake-up call?

Regardless of whether or not Trotz decides to change the current lineup, the Predators are going to have to get more out of their veteran forwards if they want to have success.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Preds shut out for first time this season in Calgary

The Calgary Flames defeated the Nashville Predators by a score of 1-0 on Tuesday night. Derek Smith got the lone goal in this game for the Flames late in the first period.

Nashville passed up quality shots on several occasions in this game, and it ended up costing them. This game was the first time this season that the Predators have been shut out, which is pretty impressive when you consider that they don't have any major goal scorers.

Pekka Rinne and Miikka Kiprusoff both had fantastic games for their respective teams. Rinne stopped 28 out of 29 shots for the Predators, and Kiprusoff stopped all 26 shots that he faced.

Nashville will take on the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night in a rematch of last year's second round playoff matchup. The Canucks got the better of Nashville in their first meeting this year, and got the 5-1 victory at Rogers Arena.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Miikka Kiprusoff(CGY)
2. Derek Smith(CGY)
3. Pekka Rinne(CGY)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Miikka Kiprusoff(CGY)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Derek Smith(CGY)

Preds to face Flames in final trip to Calgary this year



The Nashville Predators will look to build off of last night's victory against the Edmonton Oilers as they travel to Calgary for the second and final time this season.

Nashville was able to escape with a 2-0 win in the first meeting of the year between these two teams on October 22 despite being outshot 33-14. Pekka Rinne picked up his first shutout of the season, and it was his first career victory against the Flames.

Rinne will likely be in net for the Predators tonight after Anders Lindback got his first win of the season against the Oilers last night.

Calgary is coming off of a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. The Flames had 11 players that had one point in that game. Calgary has a 9-12-1 record on the year, but have only won four of their 10 home games.

Kyle Wilson(pictured above) has been recalled from Milwaukee by the Predators for tonight's game in what is likely a response to Blake Geoffrion's injury that he sustained against Edmonton last night. Wilson is tied for the lead in points with 13 for the Admirals.

My player to watch for the Flames is Alex Tanguay. He leads the Flames with 16 points on the season, and has played well offensively for the Flames so far this year.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Jack Hillen. Due to the injury to Francis Bouillon, Hillen has moved up to the second defensive pairing with Kevin Klein. He did a good job against the Oilers, and the Predators will need that to continue. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter eat up a lot of minutes on a nightly basis, and they need the other defensive pairings to relieve some of the pressure.

The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. central time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Should Nashville trade for Bobby Ryan?



Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks is reportedly on the trading block according to Daren Millard of Sportsnet. Anaheim has been really struggling as of late, and it looks like they are trying to shake things up.

Ryan has tremendous offensive upside, and is only 24 years old. He was a member of the 2010 United States Olympic Hockey Team, and has 213 career points in 273 games played.

If Ryan is in fact on the trading block, should the Predators try to trade for him? What would Nashville have to give up in order to acquire a player of Ryan's caliber?

Nashville finally solves Edmonton; Win first half of back-to-back



The Nashville Predators needed a win going into Monday night's game against the Edmonton Oilers. They had lost four games in a row, and had been severely out-played in each of those four games. Nashville wasn't about to let that streak continue, however.

The Predators got the 2-1 victory over the Oilers in the first half of a back-to-back set. Anders Lindback got his second start of the season, and made 17 saves on 18 shots. Nashville had 31 shots in the game.

Edmonton took the early lead when Jordan Eberle was able to fire a wrist shot past Lindback on a great second-effort play. Eberle's original shot was blocked, but he stuck with it and was able to beat Lindback on the glove side. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a phenomenal play to find Eberle with the puck. Edmonton took a 1-0 lead into the second period.

In what turned out to be a wild period, the Predators would tie the game at one when Shea Weber took the puck on the rush from Ryan Suter and fired a quick wrist shot past Nikolai Khabibulin. Blake Geoffrion took a hit from Ryan Jones in the period, and did not come back on the ice for the remainder of the game.

Nashville would get the game-winning goal in the third period when Nick Spaling converted on a great tic-tac-toe play from Jordin Tootoo and Craig Smith. Edmonton would provide late pressure on Lindback, but Nashville was able to hold on for their first victory in five games.

Pekka Rinne will most likely start Tuesday night's game in Calgary. Rinne earned his first shutout of the season against the Flames in the prior trip to Western Canada, and he'll be aiming for a similar result this time around.

With the victory, the Predators improve to 11-8-4 on the season, which is good for 26 points.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Nick Spaling(NSH)
2. Shea Weber(NSH)
3. Anders Lindback(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Ryan Suter(NSH)
2. Nikolai Khabibulin(EDM)
3. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)

Preds hope to reverse recent trend as they head into Edmonton



The Nashville Predators will play the third game of their five game roadtrip tonight against an Edmonton Oilers team that they have already seen twice this season. The previous two meetings between the two teams have been arguable Nashville's worst outings of the season.

Edmonton has nine goals in the two meetings against Nashville this year. The Predators only have three. Edmonton has out-shot the Predators by a 57-44 margin in the two prior meetings. Nashville will have to reverse that trend if they want to get their first victory of the year against the Oilers.

Nashville has not played well in their past four games, and have lost three out of those four games in regulation. This came after the Predators had collected points in 10 out of the previous 11 games prior to this losing streak.

The Oilers have some of the best young talent in the league in players like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nashville will have their hands full with trying to shut down those dynamic offensive forwards. According to Josh Cooper of The Tennessean, the Predators will be without veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon due to a groin injury. Nashville will most likely go with six defensemen, and will have to play much better than they have in recent games.

It will be interesting to see if Barry Trotz goes with Pekka Rinne as the goaltender for this game. While the defense hasn't been very good in front of him, Rinne has struggled in the past few contests. Added to that is the fact that Rinne has started in 21 out of the first 22 games for the Predators. Tonight's game is the first of a back-to-back, so it's likely that Anders Lindback will see action either against Edmonton or tomorrow night against Calgary.

My player to watch for the Oilers is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's a young phenom that hasn't had any trouble adjusting to the NHL. He leads all rookies in points scored, and is the early favorite for the Calder Trophy.

For Nashville, my player to watch is the entire defensive unit. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have been fantastic for the Predators so far this year, but things haven't been as smooth for Nashville when those two aren't on the ice. It will be interesting to see how the Predators respond defensively after losing Bouillon for a little while.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Preds get out-worked by Red Wings; Lose again

The Detroit Red Wings dominated the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, and defeated them by a score of 4-1. Detroit put 37 shots on goal against Pekka Rinne, while Nashville was only able to get 19 shots on Jimmy Howard.

With the loss, the Predators have now dropped three consecutive games in regulation. Nashville also lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets four games ago in overtime. The Predators are now 10-8-4 on the year.

Valterri Filppula scored two goals for the Red Wings in this game, and added an assist on a goal scored by Henrik Zetterberg. Dan Cleary got the final goal for the Red Wings early in the third period. Jack Hillen scored the lone goal for the Predators.

Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon left the game with a lower body injury, and did not return to action. Detroit's Patrick Eaves was hit in the right ear on a one-timer by Nashville rookie defenseman Roman Josi in the third period. Eaves had to be taken off on a stretcher after the incident.

Nashville will have a chance to take revenge on Monday night against an Edmonton Oilers team that ran them out of their own building last Tuesday night. The Predators will have to play much better on Monday night if they hope to have any chance of beating the Oilers.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1.Valterri Filppula(DET)
2. Henrik Zetterberg(DET)
3. Jiri Hudler(DET)

Official 3 Stars of the game:
1. Valterri Filppula(DET)
2. Henrik Zetterberg(DET)
3. Brad Stuart(DET)

Holmstrom and Hornqvist play very similar style



Tomas Holmstrom of the Detroit Red Wings has long been known for planting himself in front of the net and scoring goals. It's what has made him successful in his 15-year NHL career.

Throughout his illustrious NHL career, Holmstrom has scored 235 goals. He also has another 45 goals that he has scored in the postseason throughout his career. Most of those goals have come from right outside of the crease. At 38 years of age, Holmstrom is still successful by planting himself in front of the goaltender for the screen or tip.

Patric Hornqvist of the Nashville Predators also likes to go to the front of the net and make things happen. It's his specialty, and it's the main reason that he had a 30 goal season in his second year in the NHL.

There are a lot of similarities between the two players. Holmstrom is the perfect player for Hornqvist to model his game after, and the Predators' coaching staff puts an emphasis on that.

"We've shown him lots of clips of (Holmstrom). He knows that's what his bread and butter is. That's a unique skill. There are not very many guys who can do it as well as those guys do. Holmstrom is the standard, and he's been the standard for a decade and a half now," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

The similar style of play between the two Swedish forwards is something that Hornqvist sees as well.

"Both of us like to be in front of the net and screen the goalie and tip the puck," Hornqvist said.

Standing in front of the net isn't an easy thing to do. There are pucks flying at your head, you're getting shoved around by what seems like every member of the opposing team, and you have to endure a facewash on a consistent basis. But all of that is just second nature to a guy like Hornqvist.

"Oh that's fine. It's not hard at all. That's the whole point of the game, and you get used to it. The only thing is that you can't hit back. If you hit the guy back, you know the ref is going to see that and call you for two minutes. You just have to stay focused and don't do anything back to the defenseman because that's the thing the ref is going to see," Hornqvist said.

Hornqvist had a slow start to this season due to an injury, but has been an effective player for the Predators since he's returned to full strength. His seven goals on the season is tied for the team lead with Predators' rookie forward Craig Smith.

Both of these specialists in front of the net will go head-to-head with each other Saturday night when the Predators and Red Wings do battle at Joe Louis Arena. And both will likely be where they always are: Right in front of the opposing goaltender.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nashville makes first trip of season to Minnesota

The Nashville Predators will take on the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center after a five game homestand at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville posted a 2-1-2 record on the homestand, and will now be on the road for the next five contests.

Minnesota is a different team from a year ago. Newcomers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi have added depth to this Wild team, and Mikko Koivu leads the team in points with 13. The Wild lead the Western Conference with a 12-5-3 record and 27 points.

Nashville is coming off of an embarrassing 6-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on home ice last night. Pekka Rinne started the game for the Predators but only played the first period. Anders Lindback was brought in for relief for the remaining two periods of last night's game so Rinne will most likely be back in the net tonight.

The Wild are playing good hockey as of late, winning each of their past four games. In their last outing, the Wild got a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues by way of a shootout. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have both provided stellar goaltending for the Wild so far this year.

After last night's drubbing, the Predators will be looking to respond with a much better effort tonight. Blake Geoffrion has been scratched for each of the past two games, and Nashville has lost them both. I would expect him to be in the lineup tonight.

My player to watch for the Wild is Matt Cullen. He has 11 points on the year so far and is third on the team in scoring. Cullen is a smart hockey player, and he's been in the league for a while. He knows what it takes to win.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. Since coming back into the lineup from injury on Saturday night against Columbus, he's split time between the second line and third line. In tonight's game, it will be interesting to see what line Legwand is on and who he's playing with.

Report Card: 20 down, 62 to go

The Nashville Predators have gotten off to a 10-6-4 record in their first 20 games of the 2011-2012 season, and have collected 24 out of a possible 40 points. Through the first 20 games, the Predators sit in 2nd place in the Central Division and 5th place in the Western Conference.

It's been a moderately successful start to the season for the Predators during their first 20 games. There have certainly been ups and downs. But how did each individual player fare in the first 20 games?

FORWARDS

#5 Blake Geoffrion- So far this season, Geoffrion has played in 18 out of 20 games. He was scratched for the last two games against Columbus and Edmonton respectively, and only has two points on the year so far. Geoffrion has yet to score a goal so far this year, but he has done a good job defensively as a forward. Grade: C-

#10 Martin Erat- Erat was hurt during the first part of the year, and has only played in 12 of Nashville's 20 games so far this season. Erat has five goals and four assists on the year so far, and has really been a good two-way player. There are occasional instances where he makes questionable decisions with the puck, however. Grade: B+

#11 David Legwand- Legwand started off the season with a bang. He had eight points in the first three games of the season. Legwand has five goals and 10 assists in 16 games played so far on the season, which is nearly one point per game. Legwand is also a plus-five, which means he's doing a good job defensively as well. Grade: A

#12 Mike Fisher--Fisher has had two separate injury problems so far this year. He missed the first few games of the season due to shoulder surgery that he had during the offseason, and was also out for a little bit after taking a hit to the head by Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin. When Fisher has been in, he has three goals and seven assists in 12 games. Grade: B+

#13 Nick Spaling- So far this season, Spaling has played in 15 of 20 games for the Predators. He was a little knicked up coming into the year, which may explain his slow start. Given the expectations that were placed on him coming into this season, Spaling hasn't quite lived up to par yet. However, his penalty killing and defensive play has still been solid. Grade: C

#15 Craig Smith- Not many people expected Smith to excel out of the gate in the way that he has. Smith is one of the top rookies in the NHL, and has great speed. His 15 points on the season is tied for the team lead. He's a hard-worker and a complete player. His rookie status makes it more impressive. Grade: A+

#18 Niclas Bergfors- Bergfors was put on waivers by the Predators yesterday. He has played in 11 games for the Predators this season and has one goal and one assist. Bergfors just hasn't been a good fit with Trotz's system. He's been one of the major disappointments so far this year. Grade: D-

#22 Jordin Tootoo- With this season being a contract year for Tootoo, offensive expectations were at an all-time high for him going into the season. That has been the disappointing part of Tootoo's game so far. He only has one goal and four assists on the season. However, Tootoo has been an effective forward when it comes to his work ethic and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the team. Grade: C-

#23 Brian McGrattan- One of the most interesting things about McGrattan is that he isn't a liability when he's on the ice. His job is to be the tough enforcer who has an aptitude for fighting. But he has also been a pretty effective forward when he's in the game. He's got one assist and several scoring chances so far on the season. Given the role that he plays on this Predators team, he's played quite well so far. Grade: B+

#24 Matt Halischuk- Halischuk has played in every game for the Predators so far this season, and has five goals and two assists in those 20 games. He's also been a good player in his own end for the Preds. He even picked up his first fight of the season on Tuesday night against the Oilers. Grade: B

#25 Jerred Smithson- Smithson is the hardest working player on the team, and is very valuable as a penalty killer and as a faceoff specialist. Smithson has one goal on the season. He has also taken 18 penalty minutes on the year so far, and a lot of them have been bad penalties. Grade: B

#27 Patric Hornqvist- After a slow start to the season due to injury, Hornqvist seems to have fully recovered. His play on the ice reflects that. He has seven goals and four assists in 19 games played. He is doing what makes him successful, and that is simply planting himself right in front of the net. Grade: A

#33 Colin Wilson- Wilson seems to have new determination and focus so far this season. He has five goals and six assists in 20 games, but has also taken his all-around game to another level. If he continues this trend, his production will increase as the season rolls along. Grade: A-

#74 Sergei Kostitsyn- Kostitsyn is one of the most highly skilled players on Nashville's roster. He has three goals and eight assists on the year so far. The problem that Kostitsyn has is that he doesn't shoot the puck enough. He only has 12 shots in 16 games played this year. Grade: B-

DEFENSEMEN

#2 Teemu Laakso- Laakso has only played in nine games with the Predators this year, and hasn't looked particularly impressive when he's been in the game. He still has a lot of work to do to get his game where it needs to be. Grade: D-

#6 Shea Weber- Nashville's captain has three goals and 12 assists on the season so far, and is tied for the team lead in points with 15. He leads the league in plus-minus, and is one of the best defensemen in the world. The only blemish with Weber is that he only has three goals on the year. Grade: A

#7 Jonathon Blum- Throughout the first 20 games of the season, it appears that Blum has taken a step back from last spring when he played very well with the Predators. Blum is a minus-10 on the season so far, and hasn't been defensively sound. Grade: D+

#8 Kevin Klein- There have been a few games this season where Klein has been the best defenseman on the ice for the Predators. The Kitchener, Ontario native has thrived on the penalty kill, and is great at blocking shots. Klein is extremely valuable for the Predators, and could be a number one defenseman on a few other teams in the NHL. Grade: A-

#20 Ryan Suter- With four goals in the first 20 games of the season, Suter has already tied his goal total from last year. He has four goals and 10 assists, and is third in the league with a plus-minus of plus-14. Grade: A

#38 Jack Hillen- Hillen has been pretty solid for the Predators so far this year. He had a rough couple of games to start the season, but seems to have settled down a bit since then. He is an above average skater, but doesn't do anything offensively that is spectacular. He just rarely does things that will hurt the team. Grade: C+

#51 Francis Bouillon- Since Bouillon returned to the lineup after battling a concussion, he's really stabilized the defense. He's fit in nicely on a pair with Kevin Klein, and looks like he was never out with an injury. Grade: B+

GOALTENDERS

#35 Pekka Rinne- The $49 million man has played great so far this year. His new contract has certainly seemed to make him more comfortable, and he has played as well as any goalie in the NHL through the first 20 games of the season. Grade: A

#39 Anders Lindback- Lindback has seen game action three times so far this year, with only one of those coming as a start. Nashville has lost every game that Lindback has appeared in, and he's looked shaky at times. He'll need to see more playing time down the stretch so that he can stay in game shape. Grade: C

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Edmonton remains a thorn in Nashville's side in blowout win



The Edmonton Oilers came into Bridgestone Arena and ran the Nashville Predators out of their own building. The Oilers defeated the Predators by a score of 6-2 in a game that was never close.

Shawn Horcoff got the scoring started for the Oilers on the power play after Craig Smith took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone to put the Predators a man down. Ales Hemsky would put the Oilers up by two when he converted on a breakaway after a giveaway at the Nashville blueline.

Jordan Eberle gave Edmonton a 3-0 lead with a quick wrist shot from the right circle that beat Pekka Rinne. Jordin Tootoo had just delivered a big hit on Taylor Hall seconds before, but Eberle was able to navigate around the bodies in front and score the goal. The Oilers led 3-0 after the first period.

Nashville head coach Barry Trotz chose to pull Rinne and put in Anders Lindback to start the second period. The Predators had several chances in the second period to get back into the game, including a 5-on-3 power play, but were unable to capitalize. The score was still 3-0 going into the third period.

Edmonton opened the flood gates in the third, and added three more goals. Horcoff and Eberle both had two goals on the night for the Oilers. The Predators got goals from Tootoo and Jonathon Blum, but it was too little too late. With the loss, the Predators finished the homestand with a 2-1-2 record.

Luckily for the Predators, they will have to forget about this game quickly. They travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Wednesday night.

"That's the good thing about playing hockey. You always get a second chance pretty quick, and we're right back at it tomorrow. We're going to be way better tomorrow," said Nashville goaltender Anders Lindback.

Lindback made his third appearance of the season in this game, and made the save on 16 out of 19 Edmonton shots.

"It felt good to get back out there, but when we lose it's never fun," Lindback said.

After collecting six of a possible 10 points on the homestand, the Predators have a critical road trip on the horizon.

"It's a big road trip for us. Every game matters so much, and you never know which game will be the one that takes you into the playoffs. Every game is so important, and we've got to lift our heads up and go after it," Lindback said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Jordan Eberle(EDM)
2. Devan Dubnyk(EDM)
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins(EDM)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Jordan Eberle(EDM)
2. Devan Dubnyk(EDM)
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins(EDM)

Oilers visit Music City in Western Conference showdown



The Nashville Predators will square off against the Edmonton Oilers for the second time this year. It will be the final game of a five game homestand. The last time these teams met, the Oilers got the 3-1 victory in a game that Nashville only had 12 shots on goal.

Nashville will hope to drastically exceed that shot total tonight against an Edmonton team that played last night against the Dallas Stars. The Stars were able to defeat the Oilers by a 4-1 score.

Edmonton rookie sensation Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nashville's rookie star Craig Smith will square off against each other for the second time this season. They have been the top two candidates for the Calder Trophy so far this season, and it will be interesting to see how they play tonight.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Predators have gone 2-0-2 on this homestand so far, and will be looking to end on a positive note before going on the road.

My player to watch for the Edmonton Oilers is Jordan Eberle. Like many of the players on Edmonton's roster, Eberle is a young player who is exceptionally gifted. It was only a matter of time before the Oilers saw drastic improvement. It seems that they are well on their way this year to becoming a much better hockey team than they have been in the past year, and that is due in large part to their young core of Eberle, Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Ryan Suter. Suter has already scored four goals this season, which is tied for as many goals as he had all of last year. Along with his defensive partner Shea Weber, Suter has a tremendous plus-minus rating so far this year at plus-15. If that play continues, it will put the Predators in a great position.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In all alone: Shooter vs. Goalie

There aren't many situations in the sporting world that are more exciting than a breakaway in hockey. It is hard to find a moment in a game that is more suspenseful than the one-on-one battle in hockey between the goaltender and the attacking player with the puck.

Depending on the player, there are several different things that can happen when trying to score on a breakaway. Some players go for the elaborate deke to confuse the goaltender, and to try and make the highlight reel play. For other players, the strategy is about as simple as it gets.

"I just try to see if there is an open spot, and then I try to put the puck in the back of the net," said Nashville Predators rookie forward Craig Smith.

While simple in theory, that strategy can be very effective. Breakaways make life difficult for a goaltender simply because of the unpredictability of the shooter. The shooter doesn't have the luxury of taking the time to plan a move. A decision has to be made, and it has to be made quickly.

"When you're on a breakaway, it's spur of the moment. You've got about half of a second to figure out what you're going to do before you get there," Smith said.

For goalies, being forced to try and make the save on the breakaway is obviously not the ideal situation. It's a lot easier to play effectively when the team is playing good defense in front and preventing the breakaway. However, goalies have to be ready at any time for a breakaway to occur. Once it's happening, all of the focus shifts toward reading the shooter.

"I just try to wait for them and see what they are going to do," said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.

Waiting can be a hard thing for goalies to do on a breakaway. There is no way of knowing what sort of move that the player is going to make beforehand, so letting the shooter make the first move can be a bit challenging.

"Sometimes it's hard to stay patient because guys are so quick on their moves, and they can shoot whenever, so you just have to be ready for that," Rinne said. "But I try not to think about too much. Just read and react."

Breakaways are definitely hectic for both the shooter and the goalie. But what happens when it's a penalty shot or a shootout? Does the mindset change?

"When you're on a breakaway in a game, it's a little different. You have to worry about somebody behind you so you have to keep your speed. In a shootout, you have more time to plan your move and more time to think," Smith said.

Given that players have more time to plan their moves in the shootout, there are a lot of players that use similar moves on almost every attempt. Those developed tendencies are studied by goaltenders, which seems to help them in the shootout.

"There are some patterns a lot of times with what guys are using. They seem to do the same kind of stuff that they've been successful with. A lot of times that helps when you've seen the clips from other games and you know what they've done in the past," Rinne said.

The numbers certainly reflect the overwhelming advantage goalies have in the shootout. During the 2010-2011 season, shooters only scored on 324 out of 1,059 shootout attempts around the league for the entire season, which is a success rate of only 30.59 percent. That means that goaltenders are stopping nearly 70 percent of all shootout attempts.

Regardless of whether it is a breakaway or a shootout, it's an exciting thing to watch. It's as much of a mental competition as it is a physical one. The battle between the crafty skill of the shooter and the incredible hand-eye coordination of a goaltender is something to behold. And that one-on-one struggle is what makes it so exciting, and so unique, in the world of sports.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Preds' streak snapped; Blue Jackets get rare win at Bridgestone Arena



The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Nashville Predators by a score of 4-3 in overtime on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. It was the first time that the Blue Jackets had escaped the city of Nashville with a win since 2006.

The distaste between these two teams was evident from the beginning of the game. Jordin Tootoo and Derek Dorsett dropped the gloves and fought three seconds into the game. Brian McGrattan squared off with Jared Boll 59 seconds later.

"It was two tough teams who wanted to be physical tonight. It wasn't too big of a surpise that guys got in two fights right at the very beginning," said Predators forward Colin Wilson.

Nashville got on the board first in the first period when Colin Wilson scored on the power play at 18:29 of the period. Craig Smith and David Legwand assisted on the play.

"Smith fed Legwand at the point and he let his shot go. He broke his stick but (Hornqvist) battled in front and I just pulled it out and put it in the net," Wilson said.

Columbus would tie the game at 3:29 of the second period when Jeff Carter wristed one past Pekka Rinne from the slot. Rick Nash made a terrific drop pass at the blue line, and provided an opening for Carter to shoot.

The Predators would respond on the power play at 10:27 of the second period when Mike Fisher scored on the rebound of a shot by Shea Weber. He was able to sneak the puck past Curtis Sanford of the Blue Jackets to give the Predators the lead.

The Blue Jackets would get a power play goal of their own less than two minutes later when Vinny Prospal scored a beautiful goal in front of the net. He was able to lift the puck past Rinne while falling to the ice. The second period ended with the score tied at two.

Columbus capitalized on a Ryan Suter penalty when R.J. Umberger scored on the back door. Umberger planted himself in the crease and the puck came to him while Rinne was out of the net. Umberger had a wide open net to shoot for, and put the Blue Jackets up 3-2.

Nashville would tie the game at 14:24 of the third period when Nick Spaling was able to put home the rebound after another booming shot from Weber. The game would remain tied throughout the remainder of the third period.

In the overtime period, Columbus got the game-winning goal when James Wisnewski fired a blistering shot from the point off of the faceoff. It looked like Rinne was screened in front by his own defensemen.

By collecting a point in the overtime loss, the Predators have now gathered at least one point in nine of the past 10 games.

"We're not going to be satisfied with the one point, but I think it's still something we can build on moving forward. I think you're not going to get too down on yourself if you don't get two of them, but at the same time you're not going to be complacent just because you've gotten points in nine of the last 10 games," Wilson said.

With the overtime loss, Nashville is now 2-0-2 in the first four games of a five game homestand. The young and talented Edmonton Oilers visit Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night for the first time this season. The Predators will be looking to end the homestand on a positive note.

"It's going to be big. We always want to win in front of our fans whether it's Edmonton at the end of our homestand or not. We just want to win in front of our fans," Wilson said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. James Wisnewski(CBJ)
2. Rick Nash(CBJ)
3. Shea Weber(NSH)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. James Wisnewski(CBJ)
2. Nick Spaling(NSH)
3. Shea Weber(NSH)

Nashville hosts Columbus in big rivalry game



The Nashville Predators will host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville beaten the Blue Jackets 17 straight times on home ice, which is the longest streak in the NHL.

Columbus has really struggled out of the gate this year. They have a 3-13-2 record on the season so far, which is the worst record in the NHL. But the standings are usually irrelevant in games between Nashville and Columbus. It seems like they are always decided by one goal.

"The score is going to be 3-2. That's what the scores are. Columbus always plays very hard. I've been watching them and they play really hard. We have a good rivalry and we've played a lot of games together. It will continue to be that way," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz.

"They've got a lot of good players. It's going to be a good game. In our first game of the season it was tough to play in their building, and we're going to make it tough for them to come in here and play," said Predators forward Craig Smith.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. The Predators have collected points in eight of their past nine games, and will be looking to continue that trend tonight.

Martin Erat has been very effective for the Predators during this homestand. Erat has two consecutive two-point games against Washington and Toronto, and has really been finding his touch. Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn have complemented Erat well, and that entire line has had good production during the homestand.

My player to watch for the Blue Jackets is Jeff Carter. Carter is an offensively skilled centerman, and had a great game against the Predators in the season-opening game.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Colin Wilson. Wilson's overall game has drastically improved so far this year. David Legwand will most likely be centering his line, so it will be interesting to see how they mesh.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weber, Suter lead league in plus-minus



Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are often mentioned as being the top defensive pairing in the NHL. Their numbers are reflecting that so far this season.

Weber leads the league in plus-minus at plus-18, and Suter is tied for second in the league with Boston's Tyler Seguin at plus-15.

Given that Weber and Suter play against the opposition's top line on a nightly basis, that stat is particularly impressive. Weber's sole concern, however, is the performance of the team.

"I try not to think about it. We're just worried about the team winning and the team's success and personal stuff will come after that," Weber said.

Barry Trotz, however, is very impressed with Weber and Suter's plus-minus record. Leading the league in plus-minus when you play against the opposition's best each night is tough to do, but Weber has been on a roll so far this year.

"He's playing against the top guys every night, and to be leading the league in plus-minus is pretty substantial," Trotz said.

One thing that has allowed Weber and Suter to thrive in the plus-minus area is that Suter already has four goals on the year, which is tied with his goal total for all of last year.

"I think he's shooting the puck great. He's getting chances and he's capitalizing on them," Weber said.

Opposing teams are finding that defending the offensive capability of Weber and Suter can be a double-edged sword. If teams try and take Weber's booming shot away, Suter has more room to shoot. Once teams shift to guard Suter, it opens the lane for Weber's shot.

"If they shade Shea, then (Suter) is going to shoot more. He's going to be a part of it more," Trotz said.

"Suter can score as many as Weber. He'll just probably not score them with a big shot. He'll score by his ability to get closer to the net and put pucks there," Trotz said.

If Weber and Suter's dominance continues, it spells good things for Nashville going forward. They'll face another top line on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Preds win again; Have collected points in eight of last nine



The Nashville Predators defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 4-1 score on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. Pekka Rinne made 38 saves in the win, and Toronto's Phil Kessel was a minus-four on the night.

Nashville took the early lead in the first period when Martin Erat scored off of a rebound. The Predators would maintain the one goal lead throughout the first period despite having only three shots for the entire period.

"Their forecheck in the first period was pretty intense. We didn't respect that in the first period, and we found out pretty quick that was a good team on the other side," said Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon.

Toronto would tie the game at one at 10:36 of the second period when John-Michael Liles fired a wrist shot past Rinne on the power play. That goal seemed to awaken the Predators for the remainder of the game.

The Predators would retake the lead just 2:06 later when Ryan Suter took a wrist shot from the point that beat Maple Leafs goaltender Ben
Scrivens. Suter found himself all alone at the point and fired while Mike Fisher was screening Scrivens in front.

Erat got his second goal of the game on a 2-on-1 rush when he converted on a great backhand pass by Fisher. Erat scored on two of his
four shots on the night, and really provided the Predators with timely goals. The line of Sergei Kostitsyn, Fisher and Erat had a great game tonight.

"They built something last year in the playoffs I guess. At the beginning of the season, it seemed like one of them was always out so it was
tough for them to play together. Now they're playing unbelievably for us," Bouillon said.

Nashville had a chance to ice the game away late in the third with Toronto's net empty. Craig Smith tried to roof the puck in the net from
about three feet away and shot it over the glass. Matt Halischuk, however, was able to convert with 22.4 seconds remaining in regulation to
give the Predators the 4-1 win.

With the win, the Predators have collected points in eight of their past nine games. Productive runs like these can pay dividends at season's end.

"We feel pretty good. We're a good group of guys here. Every time we work, we get a chance to get those two points. That's what we did tonight," Bouillon said.

Nashville has two games remaining against Western Conference foes on the five game homestand. Columbus will come to Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night, and Edmonton visits Music City on Tuesday night.

"It's always a four point game against teams like that, and it's really important for us to play well. Every game for us is important and we need the most points we can get," Bouillon said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Martin Erat(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Mike Fisher(NSH)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Martin Erat(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Mike Fisher(NSH)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unfamiliar foes to square off in Nashville



The Nashville Predators will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night at 7:00 at Bridgestone Arena for the third game of a five game homestand.

Toronto is coming off of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night, which dropped them to a 10-6-2 record. The Leafs are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference coming into the game, and have surprised a lot of people with their fast start this year.

Nashville is coming off of a dramatic 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. With that win, the Predators improved to 9-5-3 on the year. The Predators have been playing great hockey as of late, and have collected points in eight of their last nine games.

This will be just the fourth time that Toronto will have played in Nashville in history, which is the fewest amount of any team in the NHL. When these two teams met last season, the Predators suffered one of the most debilitating losses in regular season franchise history. Nashville had a 3-1 lead, but then allowed six consecutive power play chances for the Maple Leafs. Toronto won the game 5-4.

Phil Kessel(25 points) and Joffrey Lupul(19 points) have led the way for Toronto from an offensive standpoint so far this season. Goaltending has been a bit bizarre so far this year. Three different goaltenders have already played at least four games for the Leafs, and they are only 18 games into the season.

My player to watch for the Maple Leafs is Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi spent last year with the Preds' organization, but was sidelined with a concussion for 80 full regular season games and the playoffs. David Poile dealt him, along with Cody Franson, to Toronto last offseason. He's a very fast player, and is a good two-way forward.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Mike Fisher. Fisher had two assists in Tuesday night's win over the Capitals, and seems to be getting back to full speed after taking that hard hit by Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 29. His two-way game is very effective, and gives the Predators a huge boost when he's healthy and able to contribute.

Public skate on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena

There will be a public skate at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday, Nov. 20 from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. People who wish to attend this event must register before coming. The cost of registration is $25 per skater, and it is also good for one Sideline Balcony ticket to a Nashville Predators home game in December.

If you're interested in learning more about this event, visit this link to find the information you need and to register. Space is limited, so make sure you get your spot!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Backchecking proves to be key in Preds' win over Caps



The Nashville Predators defeated the Washington Capitals in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night by a 3-1 score in front of 14,863 at Bridgestone Arena.

Both Nashville and Washington had tremendous chances all night, and both Pekka Rinne and Tomas Vokoun were spectacular in this game. The game remained scoreless until 15:14 of the third period when Troy Brouwer scored to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.

Nashville would respond just 28 seconds later when Martin Erat converted on an excellent pass from Shea Weber to tie the game at one. Weber came all the way in the zone and made Vokoun believe he was going to shoot. He made a no-look pass through the crease, and Erat was able to put the puck in the net.

"It's always great when you can respond like that. (Weber) made a great play jumping up and (Erat) finished it off," said Predators forward Matt Halischuk.

The Predators would take the lead with just 24.7 seconds remaining in regulation when Colin Wilson made a great all-around play and was rewarded. Wilson chased the puck down in the offensive zone, waited for his teammates to complete the line change, and then made a great pass to Erat. Erat was able to draw Vokoun out of the net and find Wilson right in front of the net for the beautiful game-winner.

Weber would add an empty-net goal for the Preds, and Nashville walked away with a victory over the Capitals for the first time since 2005.

Nashville's backchecking was very impressive. Craig Smith, Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo and Halischuk all broke up odd-man rushes for the Capitals throughout this game. While Pekka Rinne was nothing short of fantastic in this game, the backchecking of the Predators prevented several good scoring chances for Washington.

"They are a good offensive team, and you try to limit their space by creating some back pressure and taking them away from cutting around and using the middle of the ice. We just tried to do that and limit their space," Halischuk said.

After the Predators tied the game, the crowd gave one of their famous T.V. timeout standing ovations. It seemed to have a big effect on Nashville's play during the last few minutes.

"It's great. Anytime we can get that, it's a big boost. It's always great to see," Halischuk said.

With the win, Nashville moves to 9-5-3 on the season. There are still three games remaining on this homestand, which gives the Predators a big opportunity to continue collecting points.

"We want to be solid at home. It was a good start by getting the win tonight, and we're looking forward to the next game," Halischuk said.

Nashville will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. Former Predators Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi will likely be in the lineup on Thursday night.

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

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Colin Wilson(NSH)
3. Martin Erat(NSH)

Washington brings its high-powered offense to Nashville

The Nashville Predators will host the high-powered Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville hasn't had much success against the Capitals as of late, losing each of the last four meetings in either the overtime period or the shootout.

Washington is currently sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference with a 10-4-1 record, and are coming off of a shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils. When the Capitals are mentioned, Alexander Ovechkin is usually the first thing that comes to mind. So far this year, however, Nicklas Backstrom has been the offensive leader for the Caps. Backstrom has 20 points on the year so far, which is six more than Ovechkin's 14 points.

Nevertheless, the Capitals have arguably the most offensive firepower of any team in the NHL. Throughout the past few seasons, the problem with the Capitals has been their defense and their goaltending.

Washington seems to have solved the goaltending issue by bringing in former Predator netminder Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun, along with Joel Ward, will be making a return trip to Nashville to face his former team. Vokoun boasts an 8-2-1 record with a save percentage of .921.

Nashville has been on a good run as of late, and have collected 12 out of 16 points in their last eight games. The Predators are coming off of a 2-1 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, and are looking to kick off the rest of the four game homestand with a win.

The Predators have been led by rookie Craig Smith, who has 10 points in his last 10 gaems. Smith leads all rookies in points with 14, and is tied for the team lead in points with David Legwand.

Both teams possess a good amount of speed, so tonight's game figures to be full of high-paced action. The key for the Predators is to catch Washington in transition and capitalize on odd-man rushes. If they're able to do that, Nashville will have a good chance against the mighty Capitals.

My player to watch for the Capitals is Joel Ward. He is facing his former team so he'll want to have a productive night against a lot of his former teammates. Ward plays the same game in Washington that he did in Nashville. He's a hard worker and has the capability of providing offense now and again.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Pekka Rinne. Washington has a lot of firepower. Rinne will have to be on his A-game to keep the Predators in the game. If Rinne can make four or five of his spectacular saves that he seems to have on a nightly basis, then the Predators will have a great shot.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blocking shots has become Blum's specialty

Jonathon Blum has a plus-minus rating of minus nine on the season so far. But don't let that fool you. Blum has excelled in a stat that is often overlooked. He's leading the Nashville Predators in blocked shots.

Not only is Blum leading the Predators in blocked shots with 43, he's also tied with Niklas Hjalmarsson for fourth in the NHL in the same category.

For most of his tenure in Nashville, Blum has been paired with Kevin Klein, who is near the top of the league in blocked shots every year.

"I learned from the best last year when I was playing with Klein. He's always in the top five in blocked shots, and I just try to keep pace with him. We're guys that like to get in front of shots and help sacrifice for the team," Blum said.

Blocked shots are one of the most important stats in a hockey game, but are rarely mentioned. The Predators have a great goaltender in Pekka Rinne, but blocking pucks before they reach Rinne makes the Predators that much harder to play against.

"If we can eliminate eight to 10 shots a game by blocking shots, it just helps Pekka out even more," Blum said.

Lots of players around the NHL try to be very technical when it comes to blocking shots. You'll see players drop to one knee and line themselves in front of the puck. Blum doesn't worry about all of that. He just wants to make sure that the puck doesn't get to his net.

"I just throw my body. I don't really go down. Some guys go to one knee and stuff like that, and I just kind of react. I try to get my feet in front of the puck. It's pretty much just desperation," Blum said.

Blocking shots is a necessary part of being a player in the NHL. However, that doesn't make it any easier when guys like Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara are unleashing booming shots at over 100 miles per hour. It's enough to make anyone a little hesitant.

"Obviously you don't want to take it in the face or anything like that. Some of the guys on the power play shoot high, and those are the ones that you try not to get in the way of. Sometimes it happens so quick that you can't even react to it," Blum said.

If Blum continues his trend of being an excellent shot-blocker, and Klein does as he normally does and rises near the top of the league in blocking shots, the Predators will have taken away a lot of chances for the opposition to score.

There are times throughout the course of a season when a blocked shot is the difference between winning and losing a game. Luckily for the Predators, plenty of guys like Blum are willing to make the sacrifice for the team.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Habs spoil Preds' celebration



The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Nashville Predators in overtime by a score of 2-1 in front of a sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Max Pacioretty got the game-winning goal for the Canadiens in overtime.

Nashville celebrated regular season game number 1,000 against Montreal on Saturday night. It was a playoff like atmosphere from the very beginning, and the crowd was extremely loud all night.

"They were loud right from the get go. They always are. They always have great support. It seems like every team says it but it's the honest truth here. We do have very passionate fans that come out and support us. We fed off of the fans tonight," said Predators forward Jerred Smithson.

It took the Predators a while to get going in this game. Montreal was controlling the flow of play during the first period, and took a 1-0 lead when David Dasharnais scored on a bit of a broken play. He knocked the loose puck past Rinne from the crease, and gave the Canadiens the early advantage.

In the second period, the Predators found their game. They had several 5-on-5 chances, but weren't able to capitalize. However, the Preds were able to tie the game on the penalty kill. Shea Weber unleashed a killer slapshot from the point that beat Peter Budaj for the equalizer.

The play in the third period was fairly even across the board. Naturally, the score at the end of the third period was also even. The game went into overtime tied at one, and Pacioretty was able to sneak one under the crossbar 2:31 of the extra period to give Montreal the road victory.

With the overtime loss, the Predators drop to 8-5-3 on the season. Nashville has collected at least one point in seven of their last eight games. In that span, they have gone 5-1-2, and have collected 12 out of a possible 16 points.

"You've got to scratch and claw and do whatever it takes to get points. Everything is so tight and there's not a lot of difference in caliber of teams. We've been playing pretty good hockey. We've been playing hard, and really have been getting back to focusing on defense first," Smithson said.

"Tonight, our coverage was ok. It wasn't the greatest, but that's what we really have to really zone in on is taking care of our own zone. The offense will take care of itself. We have a lot of creative guys in here. We don't get a lot of respect when it comes to offense, but guys are buzzing and working hard and we seem to create chances by work ethic," Smithson said.

Nashville still has four games remaining on this homestand, so the opportunity is there to continue their recent success by winning games at home.

"You want to get points every night, but it's huge to take advantage of your home games. We've done a decent job so far this year on the road, but our home ice is where we have to start taking advantage of and dominating. We have to make teams think, before they get out here, that this is going to be a tough building to play in. Our starts have been average at best. Tonight was below average, but we stuck with it and found a way to get a point," Smithson said.

The Predators will take on Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Former Predators Joel Ward and Tomas Vokoun will make a return trip to Smashville, and Nashville will face a tough Eastern Conference test.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Max Pacioretty(MTL)
2. Peter Budaj(MTL)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

3 Stars by Nashville Media:
1. Max Pacioretty(MTL)
2. Peter Budaj(MTL)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Canadiens coming to town for historic night in Nashville



The Nashville Predators will take on the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena in what is sure to be one of the most memorable nights in the history of the franchise.

Tonight's game will be the 1,000th regular season game played in the history of the franchise. There have been peaks and valleys along the way, but hockey is still here and thriving better than ever before.

"Obviously you want to establish yourself after you bring a franchise to a town, and the city has grown a lot. It will be a good celebration," said Preds forward Colin Wilson.

Montreal has a 6-7-2 record on the year so far, and are coming off of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Scott Gomez will likely be back in the lineup for tonight's game so the Canadiens will have a bit of an extra boost. Montreal has a lot of offensive firepower, and will be a tough test for the Preds.

"They've got a dynamic team offensively. Even on the back end, they've got guys that can make spin-o-rama plays and all those kind of fun stuff. It's a dynamic team. We've just got to play a good western style checking game that should take it away from them a little bit," Wilson said.

The Predators are coming off of a five game road trip, which saw them put up a 3-1-1 record. It was a very successful road trip for the Preds, and it should give them confidence going forward.

"I think at the beginning of the season we struggled because we lacked confidence. I think getting some wins and getting a lot of guys scoring goals will develop confidence for the whole team," Wilson said.

It should be a very special night for the Predators franchise and for the city of Nashville in general. This team is now a part of Nashville's DNA,and this night is really a celebration for the entire city of Nashville.

My player to watch for the Canadiens is Scott Gomez. It will be his first game since Oct. 20 so it will be interesting to see how he plays. He's got a lot of skill when healthy, and the Predators will have to keep an eye on him.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Sergei Kostitsyn. He began his NHL career with Montreal and had some problems while he was there. He's come to Nashville and has been a successful player since he got here. He'll have something to prove against his former team.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nashville's "Big 3" on All-Star Game fan ballot

Shea Weber has participated in two All-Star games in his career so far, and he will have the chance to participate in his third this year. This time, however, he might have the company of his teammates.

Weber, Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter have all been put on the All-Star Game fan ballot for the January 29 showdown in Ottawa. If chosen, it would be the first NHL All-Star game for both Rinne and Suter.

Fans can begin voting on Monday, November 14. All three players have a great shot at making the All-Star Game this year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Preds do their talking on the ice; Beat Ducks again



The Nashville Predators went into Anaheim and defeated the Ducks by a score of 4-2. With the win, the Predators closed out their five game road trip with a 3-1-1 record.

Nashville got off to a very fast start when Craig Smith scored 1:10 seconds into the game. Smith jammed the puck past Jonas Hiller from the side of the net to give the Predators the 1-0 lead.

Colin Wilson scored at 4:54 of the first period on a goal that was originally given to Patric Hornqvist. Wilson made a backhand pass that was intended for Hornqvist, but deflected off of Saku Koivu and into the net to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

Anaheim got on the board at 19:21 of the first period when Cam Fowler fired a wrist shot past Pekka Rinne. Devante Smith-Pelly did an excellent job of screening Rinne in front of the net, and the puck was able get past Rinne without him seeing it.

Nashville took a 3-1 lead in the second period on a controversial play. The Ducks were on the power play when Martin Erat found himself on a shorthanded breakaway. Lubmomir Visnovsky gave Erat a little tap from behind, and the referees awarded a penalty shot to Erat. Erat was able to convert, and the Preds took a two-goal lead.

The Ducks would answer less than two minutes later when Francois Beauchemin was able to jam the puck past Rinne from the crease. Bobby Ryan threw the puck towards the net and Beauchemin was able to find the puck and jam it home.

At 1:36 of the third period, the Predators went up 4-2 when Craig Smith scored his second goal of the night. It was a great cycle sequence by the Hornqvist-Wilson-Smith line. Hornqvist dumped the puck down to Wilson who made a great play to get around the defender. Smith converted on the pass from Wilson and the Predators took a lead that would last for the remainder of the game.

With his performance against the Ducks, Smith took the rookie lead in points with 14. He's gotten off to a better start than anyone in the Predators' organization could have possibly imagined. If he keeps playing like this, he'll have to get some serious Calder Trophy consideration.

Nashville now turns its attention to the Montreal Canadiens in a night that will be very special for the organization and fans. It will be the 1,000th regular season game played in franchise history.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Craig Smith(NSH)
2. Colin Wilson(NSH)
3. Martin Erat(NSH)

3 Stars by Anaheim Media:
1. Martin Erat(NSH)
2. Craig Smith(NSH)
3. Francois Beauchemin(ANA)

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Preds travel into hostile territory to take on Anaheim



The Nashville Predators head into Anaheim tonight to take on the Ducks, who have quickly become the new nemesis around Pred nation. Nashville defeated the Ducks on Oct. 29 at Bridgestone Arena by a score of 3-0 in a game where physicality was plentiful.

Simply put, these two teams aren't very fond of each other. Anaheim still has a bad taste in their mouths from the playoffs last spring. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf expressed his distaste against Jordin Tootoo after the Preds 3-0 win on Oct. 29 by accusing Tootoo of diving.

The fact of the matter is that the Ducks have 135 penalty minutes against Nashville since the beginning of last April's playoff series until now. In that same period of time, the Preds have 83 penalty minutes against the Ducks. Former Predators defenseman Shane O'Brien accounted for 14 of those 83 penalty minutes for the Preds. It may be time for the Ducks to stop complaining and look in the mirror.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-3 loss in Los Angeles last night. Anders Lindback made his first start of the year, and the Patric Hornqvist scored a goal for the sixth consecutive game.

David Legwand is expected to miss tonight's game against Anaheim, but Sergei Kostitsyn is expected to play. One would assume that Pekka Rinne would be making the start in goal for the Predators tonight.

Anaheim has a 5-6-3 record on the year so far and have lost five games in a row. Teemu Selanne leads the team in points with 14, and Bobby Ryan only has six points in 14 games played.

It should be an intense game once again between these two teams with lots of extra curricular activity after the whistle. The fans at the Honda Center will be revved up for this game given that the Predators eliminated the Ducks last year.

My player to watch for the Ducks is Corey Perry. He's a big offensive threat, but he also does a lot of things after the play is over to try and get under the skin of his opponents. Watch Perry after the whistle is blown tonight.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Shea Weber. Weber only has one goal in 14 games this year. Teams are trying to take away his shot, and they've been doing a pretty good job. However, Weber has too much firepower for that trend to continue. Look for him to score a goal tonight.

Preds lose a wild one in L.A.



The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Nashville Predators by a 4-3 score on Tuesday night at the Staples Center. Anders Lindback made his first start of the season, and Patric Hornqvist scored a goal for the sixth consecutive game, which tied the franchise record.

Los Angeles started the scoring when Alec Martinez scored on the power play. Nashville had just killed off the 5-on-3 portion of the power play, but Martinez one-timed it from the right circle and beat Lindback.

Drew Doughty made it 2-0 Kings when he unleashed a missile from the point. It was a goal that Lindback might like to have back, but it was still a great shot from Doughty.

Matt Halischuk got the Predators on the board with a wrist shot from the slot at 10:41 of the first period. He worked extremely hard on the shift to get himself in position to score.

Craig Smith made a great individual effort to tie the game at two at 16:02 of the first period on the power play. He knocked down a clearing attempt and fired a blazing wrist shot that beat Jonathan Bernier.

The Kings would retake the lead in the second period when Mike Richards converted on a one-timer on a great pass from Dustin Brown. Lindback was able to get in front of the shot, but it bounced off of him into the back of the net.

Simon Gagne put the Kings up 4-2 when he redirected a Dustin Penner shot. There wasn't much that Lindback could do on that play. Gagne had a clear path to the net and was able to screen Lindback without interference.

Hornqvist scored while Nashville had their net pulled to make things interesting toward the end, but the Kings were able to hold on for the victory. Nashville is now 2-1-1 on the road trip so far, and will take on the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night at the Honda Center.

David Legwand was hit very hard by Dustin Brown in the first period, and did not return for the rest of the game. His status is unknown going forward. Shots for this game were even at 30 apiece.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Dustin Penner(LAK)
2. Simon Gagne(LAK)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)

3 Stars by Los Angeles Media:
1. Jarret Stoll(LAK)
2. Drew Doughty(LAK)
3. Ryan Suter(NSH)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Preds to face tough road test in Los Angeles



The Nashville Predators will invade Staples Center on Tuesday night to take on the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings dominated the Predators last season, winning three out of four games in the season series. Los Angeles scored 16 goals in four games against the Predators last season.

Los Angeles made several changes in the offseason. Newcomers like Mike Richards and Simon Gagne have made immediate impacts with their new club, and they still have plenty of firepower with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner. Drew Doughty is a young defensive star for the Kings, and does a good job of quarterbacking the power play. Needless to say, the Kings have a lot of talent on their roster.

Even with all of that talent, the Kings haven't gotten off to the start that they wanted. Coming into the game against the Predators, Los Angeles has a 6-5-3 record. Still, they are a team that is capable of catching fire at any moment. There's simply too much talent on the LA roster to be down for a long period of time.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-3 overtime victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. The Preds have a 4-0-1 record in their last five games, and seem to really be finding their groove. David Legwand has 14 points in 12 games for the Predators, and Patric Hornqvist has scored in five consecutive games.

The Predators will be looking to strike quickly against the Kings. Los Angeles lost 4-2 last night against the Sharks in San Jose, and fatigue may be a factor for them against the Predators. Nashville will want to jump out to an early lead to take the crowd out of the game and control the momentum.

My player to watch for the Kings is Anze Kopitar. He's a very skilled player when he has the puck, and he's very dangerous offensively. Kopitar went down with an injury near the end of last year, which really hurt the Kings in their playoff series against the Sharks. With Kopitar in the lineup, the Kings are an extremely dangerous team.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Craig Smith. He will be especially interesting to watch during the first period of the game. Since Los Angeles played last night, Smith's speed will be very tough for the Kings to defend. Smith is the fastest player on the Nashville roster, and will have several chances if he utilizes that speed in tonight's contest.

(Photo Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images North America)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Preds start California part of road trip against San Jose

The Nashville Predators will play their first game in the state of California in the 2011-12 season tonight as they take on the Sharks at HP Pavillion. The San Jose faithful are known to be some of the loudest fans in the NHL so the Predators will have to deal with that home ice advantage that the Sharks have.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. Pekka Rinne recorded his third shutout in his last six games. Patric Hornqvist scored a goal for the fourth straight game, and David Legwand recorded his 12th point of the season in the 12th game of the season.

San Jose is coming off of an exciting win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jamie McGinn tied the game at three for the Sharks with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. The Sharks would win it in the shootout, and improved to 7-4-0 on the season.

These two teams are pretty familiar with each other. San Jose got the better of the Predators on Oct. 23 at Bridgestone Arena in a 3-1 win. Joe Pavelski had two goals in the game for the Sharks, and Logan Couture had the other. Craig Smith scored the lone goal for the Preds on the power play.

My player to watch for the Sharks is Logan Couture. He's a good young player, and is a key offensive weapon for the Sharks. Couture has seven points for the Sharks so far this season.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Kevin Klein. He took a puck off the ankle against the Coyotes, and then proved his toughness by coming back and playing in the game. Klein is an excellent shot-blocker, and that's extremely valuable against an offensive team like San Jose.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Preds add to successful day by knocking off Phoenix



November 3, 2011, was a pretty good day for the Nashville Predators organization. They locked up one of the best goalies in the world in Pekka Rinne for the next seven years. Nashville then took the ice against the Phoenix Coyotes and beat them by a 3-0 score.

Rinne was his usual stellar self, and showed why he was worth the deal that the Predators gave him. He stopped all 35 shots that he faced, and made a few saves that were spectacular.

Jonathon Blum got his first goal of the season in the second period to put the Predators up 1-0. Matt Halischuk screened Coyote goaltender Jason LaBarbera on the play, and the puck was able to sneak through traffic for the goal.

The Predators took a 2-0 lead when Halischuk scored on a 2-on-1 rush. Craig Smith took the puck in the zone and made a great pass to Halischuk for the one-timer goal.

Nashville would hold on in the third period despite a pretty good flow of pressure by the Coyotes. Patric Hornqvist scored the empty-netter to ice the game away for Nashville. The Preds started the west coast road trip on the right foot.

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

3 Stars voted by Phoenix Media:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Matt Halischuk(NSH)
3. Mikkel Boedker(PHX)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Preds focus shifts to Phoenix after Rinne's big pay day



The Nashville Predators will take on the Phoenix Coyotes at 9:00 p.m. central time tonight in Phoenix. This will be the second meeting between these two teams so far this season. Phoenix spoiled Nashville's home opener on October 13 with a 5-2 victory over the Predators.

Pekka Rinne signed a seven-year deal worth $49 million with the Predators today. It's a huge step for the long-term success of the Predators. It shows that the ownership is committed to winning, and that they aren't afraid to dish out the necessary financial price to do so.

With one of the "Big 3" signed, the free agent focus now is on Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Talks are rumored to restart between Suter's agent and the Predators during the next few weeks. Nashville can't make a deal with Weber until January.

After a successful day from a business standpoint, the Predators will now turn their attention to the Coyotes. Phoenix has won three consecutive games entering tonight's contest, and are 6-3-2 on the year. They've played good hockey as of late, and will look to continue their winning streak.

The Predators are coming off of a 5-4 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night. Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn are expected to return to the lineup, which will make Nashville much more of an offensive threat.

"We've got to worry about ourselves first and foremost. Sometimes we get caught up too much in worrying about what the other team is doing. We've got to get pucks to the net and stay out of the penalty box," said Predators forward Jordin Tootoo.

My player to watch for Phoenix in tonight's game is Shane Doan. Doan scored his 300th career goal against the Dallas Stars on October 25, and is still a very solid player for the Coyotes. However, he's not the only weapon that the Coyotes have.

"Every player is tough to defend in the NHL. It all comes down to communicating with your teammates and being positionally sound," Tootoo said.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist battled an injury during the first few games of the season, but now seems to be healthy. He's played very well during the past three games, and has collected four goals in that span.

"Everyone has their ups and downs. (Hornqvist) is a guy who works hard in front of the net and battles hard. He gets to those second and third chances, and when you keep doing those same things over and over good things happen," Tootoo said.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Smithson embodies Preds' work ethic



The Nashville Predators have long been known as a team that wins games by out-working the opponent. All of the 29 other teams in the NHL know that playing against Nashville means playing against a team that will bring a high intensity level for the entire game. It's the way that Barry Trotz's teams have always played. It's the "Predator way."

Jerred Smithson is the poster child of the "Predator way." He never takes a night off, and is one of the most tenacious defensive forwards in the league. Smithson is one of the best penalty killers in the NHL, and excels in winning faceoffs. He's a fearless shot blocker, and isn't afraid to sacrifice his body for the sake of the team. Smithson does whatever he has to do to make sure that his team has a chance to win every game.

"It's the only way that I know how to play and can play to be effective," Smithson said.

Smithson embraces his role in Nashville. He knows that each member of the team has their own set of skills that make the team successful.

"Some guys are better at scoring goals, some guys are tough, and some guys have to really work to get things done. For me to be successful, I have to play with energy. I have to play physical, and I have to sacrifice," Smithson said. "It just feels good to be able to contribute any way I can."

Throughout his NHL career, Smithson has never been much of an offensive force. In 485 career NHL games, Smithson only has 85 points in his career. He's never had more than 16 points in a single season. But that doesn't define him.

Smithson is the guy that is out there in the tough situations. He's the guy that will give that extra effort to make key plays that sometimes go unnoticed. He doesn't play for the limelight. He plays for the win.

However, that hard-working style of play doesn't stop him from wanting to be more of an offensive force. Smithson wants to help his team on both ends of the ice.

"I want to contribute offensively when I can. Obviously there are guys that are better at it, but whenever I get the chance I want to be able to do it and be able to help out," Smithson said.

Smithson got that chance in the overtime period of Game 5 in last year's Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Anaheim Ducks. He was able to score arguably the biggest goal in the history of the Nashville Predators. It was almost like something out of a movie. A man who puts in all of the work, all of the time, and does all of the little things to make his team successul gets rewarded. But in typical Jerred Smithson fashion, he was focused on the team rather than himself.

"That was such a hard-fought series and could've easily went either way. Both teams laid it out there, and it was so much fun to be a part of to be able to compete and to battle like that. To come out on top was a great feeling. We've been on the other side of that spectrum before and it's not a great feeling so for us to finally pull it out was a great accomplishment," Smithson said.

At 32 years of age, Smithson is the oldest forward on the Nashville Predators' roster. Overall, the Preds' have a very young team this year. Smithson is the perfect role model for the young players on how to have a successful NHL career.

"For a guy coming in, I think it's important just to keep an even keel. There are nights when you're going to be on top of the world, and there are nights when things aren't going to go your way. It's a long season. It's important to put that last game behind you and learn from it, whether it's a positive or negative. Go out there, work hard, and just enjoy it," Smithson said.

Smithson has confidence in the young players that are currently on Nashville's roster. While they may appear young to the rest of the league, they do have a considerable amount of experience.

"With the guys we have, they are young but they do have experience. There are a few that are new to the league, and maybe I can help them out a little here and there. They are pretty seasoned for being rookies, and they kind of know what to do and what to expect," Smithson said.

Smithson might never be the guy who receives accolades and awards at the end of the year. However, he enjoys his role on the team and knows how fortunate he is to be playing the game he loves.

"It's the best league in the world. You never know when it will end so it's important to enjoy it and enjoy your time at the rink. Just go out there, work hard, and have fun," Smithson said.

That is the kind of player that every coach loves. That's the kind of player that every fan loves. That's the "Predator way."

Hornqvist makes history in Preds' OT loss to Chicago



The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators in overtime by a score of 5-4 in a game that Nashville played without Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn and Nick Spaling.

Patric Hornqvist started the scoring for the Preds. He scored 26 seconds into the game when he drove to the net and deposited a puck from David Legwand. That is the second straight game that Hornqvist has scored in the first 30 seconds of a game. Hornqvist joins Pavel Bure as the only two players in NHL history to score the goals in the first 30 seconds of two consecutive games.

Patick Kane would tie the game at one with only 49 seconds remaining in the first period. He unleashed a wicked shot from the slot that beat Pekka Rinne.

Nashville took the lead again when Martin Erat made a beautiful pass to Craig Smith who wristed one past Corey Crawford to give the Preds the 2-1 lead.

Nick Leddy tied the game for the Blackhawks once again when he pinched down and fired a slap shot past Rinne. Kane made a great pass to Leddy from behind the net, and Rinne had little chance of stopping that shot.

The Predators would take the lead once again at 18:48 of the second period when Hornqvist got his second goal of the evening. Ryan Suter made a terrific play when he faked a dump into the zone and brought the puck across the line. That fake bought Suter enough time to make a pass to Hornqvist, who had a wide open lane to shoot the puck. The Predators would lead 3-2 after two periods.

Chicago tied the game for a third time when Kane scored his second goal of the contest at 4:57 of the third period. The shot appeared to be deflected off of Kevin Klein's stick, and it beat Rinne under the arm.

Bryan Bickell gave Chicago the lead when he fired a wrist shot past Rinne from the right circle. It was a shot the Rinne would have loved to have back.

Legwand tied the game at four when he scored almost two minutes after Bickell's goal. The puck bounced into the slot and Legwand was there for the shot.

The game went into overtime, and Viktor Stalberg got the game-winner for the Blackhawks on a great individual effort. He came down and suddenly threw on the brakes, freezing Predators defenseman Jack Hillen in the process. Stalberg cut in the middle and fired one past Rinne to give Chicago the 5-4 overtime victory.

Nashville had a solid effort in this game, and deserved the point that they received. Given the situation going into the game, the Predators played a very strong game. The Predators will take on the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night in Glendale, Arizona.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Patrick Kane(CHI)
2. Viktor Stalberg(CHI)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)

3 Stars by Chicago Media:
1. Patrick Kane(CHI)
2. Viktor Stalberg(CHI)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)