Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shea Weber likely being put on Injured Reserve



At Nashville Predators practice this morning at Centennial Sportsplex, Head Coach Barry Trotz implied that Preds captain Shea Weber will likely be put on the Injured Reserve list.

"(Weber) is concussed, and really he'll probably end up going on IR here. We won't have an update until he really starts skating. It will be indefinite," Trotz said.

Other notes from Preds Practice:

Kevin Klein will return to the lineup tomorrow against Calgary.

Colin Wilson is out for the game against Calgary and Trotz said there will be a further update on him on Tuesday.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Rinne survives three rushes without stick in Preds shootout win



The Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues in a shootout on Friday night by a score of 2-1. Pekka Rinne was stellar again for the Predators, stopping 35 of 36 St. Louis shots on the night.

Matt Halischuk got the early goal for the Predators to give them the 1-0 lead in the first period on a scrum in front of Jaroslav Halak. Nashville appeared to have a 2-0 lead when David Legwand deflected the puck into the net off of a Martin Erat pass. However, the goal was waved off due to a distinct kicking motion.

T.J. Oshie tied the game at one at 13:40 of the first period. The score remained tied at one for the remainder of regulation and overtime. Erat scored the lone goal in five rounds of a shootout to give Nashville the win. However, the Predators almost didn't make it to the shootout.

Throughout the course of the game, Rinne's stick was knocked out of his hand on three separate occasions. On all three occasions, he was able to weather the storm and, in some cases, make key saves without his stick.

"It's frustrating when you lose your stick. You kind of get in a little bit of a panic mode. You search for your stick and you've got to ask for your teammates help just to get the stick. It was just one of those nights," Rinne said.

A goalie playing without a stick makes shots on the blocker side, and on the ice, pretty difficult to stop. Rinne found that to be true on Friday night.

"If the shot is on the ice, it's hard to seal the five-hole without your stick. It's tough. You just try to kind of cover your five-hole and kind of cheat a little bit. Hopefully that doesn't happen every game," Rinne said.

Nashville will take on the Calgary Flames on New Years Day at Bridgestone Arena.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Jaroslav Halak(STL)
3. Martin Erat(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Jaroslav Halak(STL)
3. Martin Erat(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Smith's goal-less streak hits 11 games in Preds shootout win



The Nashville Predators defeated the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night in a shootout by a 2-1 score in front of the 10th sellout crowd of the year at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville got it's lone goal in regulation in the third period on a tip-in by Jordin Tootoo. Jonathon Blum fired a shot from the point that was redirected by Tootoo and past Josh Harding.

Minnesota responded with a goal of their own at 16:01 of the third period when Dany Heatley was able to sneak a wrap-around past the out-stretched pad of Pekka Rinne. Colin Wilson scored the lone goal for the Predators in a shootout, and the Wild failed to score on all three of their shootout attempts.

The line of Martin Erat, David Legwand and Craig Smith really played well in this game. While they didn't register a goal, the line really controlled the play when they were in the game.

"I thought, at times, we were kind of scrambling in their zone. I guess we were kind of making it tough for them because we were really moving good, and we were making good plays. I think one thing we did good was when it was time to take the puck to the net, I think we were trying to get it there," Smith said.

Smith, who started the year on a blistering pace with seven goals in his first 15 games, hasn't scored a goal in his last 11 games. He had a few good chances against the Wild, but was unable to capitalize. Nashville really needs him to start putting the puck in the net, and he feels the same way.

"Oh my gosh yes. Yeah. I could use one, but the team is winning right now so I'm just going to keep controlling what I can control. I'd like for them to come soon, but that's out of my control. All I can do is shoot the puck and try to make plays for others guys to get pucks in the net. Eventually they'll start to go in. Hopefully they'll come in bunches," Smith said.

This was the second game that Nashville had to play without superstar defenseman Shea Weber. They responded pretty well tonight, only surrendering the one goal. The Predators' forwards really seemed to be defensively strong in their own end.

"I think everybody is really working together, not to say any more than usual, but right now with having (Weber) out we've got to have our forwards coming back and helping out in the defensive zone maybe a little more than usual. But I think everybody is pulling together well. We've got some young defensemen coming in and I think everybody is playing well and trying to fill that hole as much as possible," Smith said.

Rinne, who had been struggling as of late, played a magnificent game. He stopped 34 of 35 shots and didn't allow a goal in the shootout. If he gets back to his Vezina Trophy-caliber self, it will make dealing with the loss of Weber a little easier.

"He's playing well. He's been playing well all year. He had a great game, and hopefully he can keep that going. Hopefully we can prevent some of those opportunities where he has to stop them, but he's doing his job. When there is a play to be made, he's always there to make it. We're happy to have him there, and we're going to try to make it easier on him," Smith said.

The Predators will travel to St. Louis on Friday to take on the Blues. Stay tuned to Hockey Night in Nashville for live updates on Friday night from Scottrade Center.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Josh Harding(MIN)
3. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Josh Harding(MIN)
3. Jonathon Blum(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds host a struggling Wild team tonight at Bridgestone Arena



The Nashville Predators will host the Minnesota Wild tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. This will be the second meeting of the year between these two clubs. The Wild completed a third period comeback against the Predators on November 23 in Minnesota when they scored three consecutive goals in the final frame to get a 3-1 victory.

Minnesota has been struggling as of late, going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. The Wild have particularly been struggling in their last seven games, going 0-5-2 during that span. They will be desperately searching for a win in Nashville tonight.

The Predators have reached a crossroad in the 2011-2012 season. Shea Weber is out indefinitely with a concussion, and the Predators are missing a big hole offensively and defensively. Nashville will have to survive without Weber if they want to have a postseason birth this year.

On Monday night against Detroit, the 4-1 score on the scoreboard would indicate that Nashville was beaten pretty soundly by the Red Wings. However, that really wasn't the case. Nashville had plenty of chances to score in that game, but were unable to capitalize. The Predators have to get the same sort of offensive chances against the Wild tonight and will have to convert.

My player to watch for the Wild is Dany Heatley. Heatley collected a goal against the Predators in their first meeting this year, which proved to be a costly one for Nashville. The Predators will have to limit Heatley's scoring opportunities tonight.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Ryan Suter. With Weber being out, the onus is on Suter to be the defensive leader on the team. Look for Suter to reach 30 minutes of ice time tonight. He'll have to be a stabilizing force on defense, and will have to limit the chances for the Wild.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Josi plays on top defensive pairing in 4-1 loss to Detroit



The Nashville Predators were defeated by the Detroit Red Wings by a 4-1 score on Monday night in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena. Ryan Ellis made his NHL debut for the Predators tonight, due to Shea Weber being out of the lineup for the first time this season.

Valtteri Filppula got the scoring started for the Red Wings when he fired a snap shot past Pekka Rinne. Filppula was streaking down the right side of the zone, and Henrik Zetterberg hit him with a great pass. Filppula was able to quickly snipe one past Rinne for the goal. The Predators went into the second period down one goal.

Pavel Datsyuk gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead on a nifty wrap-around attempt. The play was originally ruled as no goal, but a linesman over-ruled the original call on the ice and called it a goal. The play went to review, and the good goal call on the ice stood.

"I don't know what happened. The ref pointed at the faceoff so that's no goal. I don't know what they saw on the video and it was in, but there's nothing we can do. We just have to respond better after those goals and get one back right after," said Predators defenseman Roman Josi.

Nashville didn't respond well at all after the goal by Datsyuk. Danny Cleary added another goal for the Red Wings just 13 seconds later, and put Detroit up 3-0. Filppula added another goal in the third period for the Red Wings, and Jonathon Blum scored for the Predators. Detroit won the game 4-1 for their second victory over the Predators in the 2011-2012 season.

Due to Weber's absence, Josi started the game on a defensive pairing with Ryan Suter, and played most of the game with him. They seemed to have pretty good chemistry on the ice for two players who have never played together before.

"I thought it was pretty good. I didn't think they had a lot of chances. We basically played against the Datsyuk line all night, and I thought we played well. They scored on the one, and I don't know if it was in or not, but yeah I thought it was ok," Josi said.

While Josi played a pretty solid game, it's overwhemingly apparent that Nashville missed Weber in this game. Weber took a huge hit against the Dallas Stars on Friday, and left morning skate early on Monday morning. His absence against the Red Wings really seemed to negatively affect the Predators.

"If you're missing your best player and your captain that's always a big loss, and he plays a lot of minutes against top guys every night. It's a big loss for us, but still we had to focus on the game and play without him," Josi said.

Nashville will hope to forget about this loss to Detroit and focus their attention on Wednesday night's tilt with the Minnesota Wild at Bridgestone Arena.

"If you have a tough loss, it's always good to play one or two days after. I hope we're going to be better on Wednesday," Josi said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Jimmy Howard(DET)
2. Valtteri Filppula(DET)
3. Pavel Datsyuk(DET)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Jimmy Howard(DET)
2. Valtteri Filppula(DET)
3. Pavel Datsyuk(DET)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Guest Blog: Analyzing the Detroit/Nashville rivalry




Monday night will mark the third meeting of the season between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings, with each team winning one game so far. It's sure to be another intense game between two Central Division rivals, who seem to be continuing to develop a rivalry that is sure to grow from here on.

We contacted Matt Saler of onthewingsblog.com to get a sense on how this rivalry is viewed from a Detroit perspective. Here's what he had to say:

Hockey Night in Nashville: In Nashville, Detroit is considered the biggest rival in the league. That's not the case in Detroit, but how much do you think the rivalry with Nashville has grown over the years?

On the Wings: The rivalry with the Preds has grown over the years as Nashville has become better in terms of competition. Included in that is the playoff series in 2007-2008. You read all the time how the playoffs solidify rivalries and that seems to be true in this case. The Preds making the playoffs and making that series as difficult for the Wings as they did made paying attention to them as a threat in the Central a necessity. The games themselves are generally physical, which helps increase the sense of a rivalry from a fan standpoint. A guy like Jordin Tootoo sets that kind of tone. The Predators have grown from a typical expansion team to a team to watch out for in the Central. If they continue on this trajectory, the rivalry is only getting started.

HNIN: What kind of an impact do you think the proposed conference realignment will have on the Detroit/Nashville rivalry?

On the Wings: The realignment plan is going to enhance the playoff effect on the rivalry, as the Wings and Predators will be much more likely to meet in the playoffs by keeping the first two rounds in the conference. That playoff format is the main reason I'm looking forward to the plan being implemented. There's going to be that much more interaction between the teams in the emotionally-charged atmosphere of the playoffs and that's going to do more to enhance regional rivalries than the old divisional incessant regular season play idea did. It's taken years of regular season games plus two playoff series to get where we are in this rivalry now. Put the two teams together in a series potentially playing for the conference championship and the right to move on to the final four and it's going to skyrocket.

What are your thoughts on the Detroit/Nashville rivalry as it stands today, and what kind of an impact do you think conference realignment will have on the rivalry? Sound off in the comments below.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)






Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from HNIN

I hope you all have a safe and Merry Christmas! Check back into Hockey Night in Nashville on Dec. 26 as we talk about the game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Second period resilience proves to be key in another Preds comeback win



You can pretty much bet that games between the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets will be decided by one goal. However, not many people could have predicted how this game would play out on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators came back from a 4-1 deficit and defeated the Blue Jackets by a 6-5 score in regulation.

Nashville drew first blood in the first period when Mike Fisher tallied on the power play. Sergei Kostitsyn made a terrific pass through traffic in front of the net and Fisher converted on a wide open net.

Columbus would respond just 27 seconds later when Jeff Carter tied it at one. After that goal, Brian McGrattan laid a big hit on Jared Boll, which got him a five minute interference major and a game misconduct.

The Blue Jackets would respond with a flurry of power play goals. They scored three consecutive goals on the power play to build a 4-1 lead in the first period. Carter scored two of the power play goals, which gave him a hat trick in the first period. Ryan Johansen was the other goal scorer for the Blue Jackets.

Nashville would begin their comeback in the second period. Patric Hornqvist got the ball rolling at 5:28 of the second period when he scored from the crease on a wide open net. Shea Weber made a great pass that fooled Curtis Sanford, and allowed Hornqvist to deposit the puck in the open net. Nick Spaling and Roman Josi also tallied in the second period, while Johansen added another goal for Columbus on the power play. The Blue Jackets led 5-4 after the second period, but the momentum was completely in favor of the Predators.

"The second period was a big period for us. We were down three to start the period and after we were just down one goal. Anything can happen. I think we were really playing good in the second, and we really stayed with it the whole time," Hornqvist said.

In the third period, the Predators were able to complete another late-game comeback. David Legwand tied the game at five on the power play at 16:12 of the period, which sent the sold-out crowd into a frenzy. Martin Erat scored the game-winning goal on a breakaway with 8.4 seconds remaining in the third period.

It was another resilient effort by a Predators team that doesn't seem to be affected by any lead the opposition may have. They seem to always find a way to claw back into the game, and this game was another prime example of that.

"We're never out of a game. That's what this group is all about. We work hard for each other and we need everyone," Hornqvist said.

Nashville will have little time to celebrate this dramatic win. They will take on the Dallas Stars on Friday night at American Airlines Arena.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Martin Erat(NSH)
2. Jeff Carter(CBJ)
3. Shea Weber(NSH)

Official 3 Stars of the game:
1. Martin Erat(NSH)
2. Jeff Carter(CBJ)
3. David Legwand(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds look to bounce back against Columbus



After Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals, the Nashville Predators will look to bounce back tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nashville came out on top in a dramatic comeback victory over the Blue Jackets two weeks ago, which sparked a five-game winning streak. Tonight's game will mark the fourth meeting of the season between these two Central Division foes.

The last time that these two teams met at Bridgestone Arena on November 19, the Blue Jackets got their first victory in Nashville since 2006. They will be looking to win two games in a row in Bridgestone Arena for the first time in the history of their franchise.

This will be the front end of a back-to-back set for the Predators. They will square off with the Dallas Stars on Friday night in the Lone star state.

Columbus is coming off of a 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. Steve Mason allowed five goals in that game, and St. Louis added an empty-net goal to put the game away. Expect Curtis Sanford to get the start in net tonight for the Blue Jackets.

Games between these two clubs almost always are one goal games, and tonight figures to be no different. The Predators are going to want revenge for the last game between these two teams at Bridgestone Arena, and the Blue Jackets are going to want revenge for Nashville's comeback victory two weeks ago. It should be an interesting contest.

My player to watch for the Blue Jackets is Curtis Sanford. Look for him to see a lot of action tonight. Nashville will try to come out firing because of the lack of offensive production on Tuesday night against the Capitals.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Colin Wilson. Wilson has played some of the best hockey of his career so far this season, and the Predators will need him to continue to produce moving forward.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tootoo becoming complete player for Preds



Jordin Tootoo has been a fan favorite in Nashville since he first came on the scene with the Predators in the 2003-2004 season. His rambunctious style of play, and his bone-shattering hits, made him an instant star among the Nashville faithful.

He's often been described as a player that every team hates to play against but would love to have on their team. Tootoo has always been a player that brings a heavy physical presence on a nightly basis. Nowadays, however, the opposition also has to worry about Tootoo's offensive capabilities.

Tootoo has 13 points in 31 games played so far this season, which is only five points away from his career high of 18 points that he's reached twice in his NHL career. He's on pace to almost double that amount.

"I think as the years go on you become more comfortable," Tootoo said. "Obviously, with my off-ice activities, I've bettered myself in that way. The game has just slowed down a half of a second for me, and that makes a big difference."

"He's just going to the hard areas. He's got a lot of detail. He's trying to shoot and he's got awareness," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. "He's made some big changes in his life, which allows him to perform at that level. There's not the inconsistency. He has an impact on almost every shift."

The changes that Tootoo made in his life stem back to last season when he voluntarily checked himself into the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program of the NHL and NHLPA. Since coming back from that, Tootoo has started to become a complete hockey player for the Predators.

"When you're mentally in the right place, things tend to just fall into place for you. This is the best I've felt since my first year in the league so I've just got to stay healthy and keep plugging away," Tootoo said.

Trotz has seen the improvements that Tootoo has made both on the ice and off of the ice over the past year, and has gradually been increasing his ice time. He is averaging 13:34 of ice time per game, which is 1:29 more than his career-high average of 12:05 in the 2008-2009 season.

"He has deserved some more ice time. He gets the 5-on-5 stuff. On an offensive standpoint, he's seeing a little bit of power play. Not a lot, but a little bit. He's just playing a really solid two-way game right now," Trotz said.

Tootoo has definitely seemed to be more comfortable out on the ice in those late-game situations, and he also sees the trust that Trotz has in him by giving him more ice time.

"It shows that he trusts my game. My foundation is being a physical player, and that creates room out there not only for myself but for my linemates as well," Tootoo said.

Since he came into the league, Tootoo has always been expected to be more of an offensive threat for the Predators. His offensive production through the first part of this season seems to suggest that Tootoo is well on his way to becoming the complete player that the Predators' coaches and fans have always thought he could be.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Washington ends Preds' winning streak in 4-1 rout



Going into Tuesday night's game against the Washington Capitals, the Nashville Predators had won the past five games. That winning streak came to an end on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center as the Capitals thumped the Predators by a 4-1 score.

Washington came out in a dominating fashion in the first period. The Predators barely possessed the puck throughout the entire period, and the Capitals got seven scoring chances. Alex Ovechkin gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead when he snuck past Jonathon Blum for the breakaway goal on Anders Lindback. Blum tried to play the puck while he was in front of Ovechkin and he missed. Ovechkin went in all alone and was able to fool Lindback.

The Capitals would take a 2-0 lead when Nicklas Backstrom scored on a wrap-around play. Backstrom was able to get around Jerred Smithson behind the net, and the defensive help didn't get there in time. The Capitals took the 2-0 lead into the second period.

Nashville played much better in the second period, but were still unable to put one past Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

In the third period, Sergei Kostitsyn got the Predators on the board when he fired a high wrist shot that beat Neuvirth. Neuvirth didn't appear to see the puck on the play, and was very disappointed with himself when the puck went by him.

Alexander Semin would squash the momentum that the Kostisyn goal gave Nashville, however, when he fired a laser of a wrist shot past Lindback. Semin took a drop pass from Marcus Johansson and sniped one in the upper right corner of the net.

Troy Brouwer would give the Capitals a 4-1 lead on the power play at 13:46 of the third period when he tipped in a shot from Dennis Wideman. The Capitals would hold on to win the game 4-1.

The Predators will hope to quickly forget about this game and focus on the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets make their second trip of the season to Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Alexander Ovechkin(WSH)
2. Michal Neuvirth(WSH)
3. Marcus Johansson(WSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Nicklas Backstrom(WSH)
2. Alexander Ovechkin(WSH)
3. Marcus Johansson(WSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Resiliency has been a key theme in Nashville's winning streak



The Nashville Predators are currently riding a five-game winning streak heading into tonight's game against the Washington Capitals. During that span, the Predators have seen their fair share of late game heroics.

It all started on December 8 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Predators were down 3-1 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, and were able to come back and tie the game at three to send it to overtime. Colin Wilson scored the game-winning goal in overtime to catapult Nashville to a dramatic victory.

A game like the Columbus game can go a long way toward building confidence late in games. Nashville has put that confidence on display on several occasions during the past few weeks.

"I think we've shown some good signs of just not giving up. Sometimes you win one like we did in Columbus and you really gain some confidence in third periods," said Predators centerman Mike Fisher.

Trailing late in games is never something that teams want to have to deal with, but the Predators seem to have the confidence to keep battling in those games where they find themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard with not a lot of time left. The Predators seem to become more aggressive in late game situations where they are trailing.

"Sometimes you'll change your gameplan a little bit where (defensemen) are joining and you're trying to take a few chances," Fisher said.

During this five-game winning streak, those chances have paid off. The Predators have found themselves trailing or tied in the third period in all five games.

One thing that has really helped the Predators in the third period this year has been the power play. In the game against Detroit on December 15, Nashville's power play got the game-tying goal when Shea Weber fired a laser past Jimmy Howard.

"Our power play has been really timely this year and has scored when we needed it to," Fisher said.

Hockey is just like anything else in life. If you've done it before, you have the confidence to be able to do it again. In Nashville's playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks last season, they were able to come back in the third period of a critical Game 5 matchup to tie the game. They eventually won in overtime on a goal by Jerred Smithson. Nashville has continued to show their resiliency so far this year despite being a very young team.

If the Predators are able to continue their resilient ways late in games, it will have a huge benefit for them in the Western Conference playoff race for the rest of the season.

Of course, it would be easier on the cardiovascular health of PredNation if they just started winning by five goals a game.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

PRESS RELEASE: Preds recall Blum, Geoffrion from Milwaukee.

The Nashville Predators have recalled Jonathon Blum and Blake Geoffrion from the Milwaukee Admirals after sending them down last week. Both players have made the trip to Washington.

Here is the official press release from the Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (December 19, 2011) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has recalled forward Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Jonathon Blum from Milwaukee (AHL).

Geoffrion, 23 (2/3/88), has two assists in 19 games for the Predators this season. He was assigned to the Admirals after missing six NHL games from Nov. 29-Dec. 10 due to an upper body injury, where he notched an assist in three AHL games.

Blum, 22 (1/30/89), has five points (2g-3a) in 27 games for the Predators in 2011-12. He also spent three games with Milwaukee, scoring a pair of goals.

After Saturday’s 2-1 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues, the Preds look to make to make it six-straight victories when they head to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Capitals tomorrow night (6 p.m. Fox Sports Tennessee, 102.5 The Game). The Preds return home on Thursday when they face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets for a College Night showdown in Smashville (7 p.m., 102.5 The Game).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spaling dominates faceoff circle in Preds' shootout win



The Nashville Predators were able to steal two points from a St. Louis Blues team that dominated the majority of the game. In a contest that only saw one goal for each team through three periods and overtime, the Predators were able to get the 2-1 victory by way of a shootout.

St. Louis out-shot the Predators by a 40-20 margin in this game, including a 14-2 effort in the first period. Nashville was able to weather the storm, and took a 1-0 lead in the third period on a goal by Martin Erat. T.J. Oshie would tie the game at one for the Blues on the power play after a horrible line change by the Predators. David Legwand scored the lone goal for both teams in the shootout, and the Predators escaped with a 2-1 victory.

"I think the guys definitely stuck with it. The first period wasn't the way we wanted to play. I don't know how many shots we had after the first, but that's not our game plan going into the game. But we stuck with it and got back, and it was a huge two points," said Nashville centerman Nick Spaling.

Spaling was dominant in the faceoff circle for the Predators tonight, winning 74 percent of the draws he took. Spaling and Jerred Smithson combined to win 23 of 30 faceoffs for Nashville.

"I think that's the way it goes some nights. I think you try to prepare the same every night for the faceoffs, and tonight it just seemed to go my way," Spaling said.

Pekka Rinne played an extremely strong game in net for the Predators, stopping 39 of the 40 shots he faced. He also didn't allow a goal in the shootout.

"It was great. I think he's been great in our homestand here. He's been playing awesome for us. Especially in the first half in the first half of the game he held us in when we had some lapses there. He was there to keep us in the whole time, and then at the end of the game coming up huge," Spaling said.

After starting the year with a series of lackluster performances on home ice, the Predators won all four games on the four-game homestand. All four of those wins came against Western Conference opponents.

"We had a rough start at home at the start of the season, but it was huge to be able to play this many games at home and to be able to take advantage of that was big. We want to be able to continue to play well on home ice," Spaling said.

Nashville will take on the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Martin Erat(NSH)
3. Jaroslav Halak(STL)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Martin Erat(NSH)
3. T.J. Oshie(STL)

Preds host Blues in Central Division showdown



The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues will square off tonight at Bridgestone Arena. Both teams are riding four-game winning streaks coming into the game, so something has to give.

St. Louis has been playing particularly well in their past 10 games, going 8-1-1 in that time span. The Blues will be a tough challenge for the Predators.

"They're probably one of the best teams in the league. They're playing really well right now. They're pretty skilled, they have good size and they're playing as well as Detroit right now so they're going to be a unique challenge. We've got to be ready. It's going to be a tough battle," said Predators centerman Mike Fisher.

Ken Hitchcock has really given new life to the Blues, who currently sit in 5th place in the Western Conference with 39 points. Nashville could pull within one point of the Blues tonight with a win in regulation.

"I feel like we're playing better. We've made some improvements and we definitely have been good at home this week. We've got to keep going. We know how tough the West is, so hopefully we can keep rolling at home. We've got a good schedule this month, and we have to take advantage of it," Fisher said.

My player to watch for the Blues is Alexander Steen. Steen leads the Blues in points with 21, and is a tenacious forward for the opposition to play against. The Blues don't have any offensive superstars, but they have four lines that are capable of putting the puck in the net.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. Legwand is a key two-way forward for the Predators, and they will need him to be effective on both sides of the ice tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Guest blog: Reaction to Blum, Geoffrion AHL demotion



Blake Geoffrion and Jonathon Blum were both key players in last year's Nashville Predators team that made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. However, neither player has played particularly well this year, and both were sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals earlier this week.

Seth Lake, a contributor over at ontheforecheck.com and a hockey guru, stopped by Hockey Night in Nashville to answer two important questions regarding the demotion of Blum and Geoffrion.

What were some of the main differences that you noticed in Blum and Geoffrion's game from last year to this year?

While Barry Trotz has pointed to the fact that both Jonathon Blum and Blake Geoffrion are still "first year players" having come up to the NHL late last season and playing through the playoff run, I think the reasoning behind sending each down was unique and ultimately the right call in the end.

Blum was brought up last season as injuries mounted on the Predators blueline and was inserted into an established defense corps in the middle of a playoff race with a clear understanding of how the team worked and what he needed to do to help the team accomplish their goals. With that direction, Blum succeeded last season playing big minutes down the stretch and throughout the playoffs on the Predators second pairing with Kevin Klein.

Over the summer, Blum continued to fill out his frame in preparation for his first full year in the NHL, but when the team struggled defensively out of the gate, he appeared to squeeze his stick a little tighter, try too hard to elevate his game, and from my perspective got away from the simple, smart, two-way game that made him successful last season. As the season has progressed, Blum appears to have lost some confidence on the ice and too often found himself standing around watching the play, rather than reading and reacting to it, and eventually leading to him being a healthy scratch last week.

That's the message I think was sent to Blum upon being told he was heading to Milwaukee. This is not the end for him. He will be back in Nashville. They expect him to return later in the season and be a key contributor down the stretch, but first he's got to go down to Milwaukee, simplify his game, and get back to what made him successful upon debuting last season.

As for the case of Blake Geoffrion, it's not a popular opinion with some, but this is simply the continuation of his development on the ice. Geoffrion scored some big goals during the playoff run last season, he played some big minutes as well, but had Mike Fisher and Nick Spaling not have been injured to start the season, Geoffrion would have started the season in Milwaukee.

While he is an older prospect, having played junior hockey, then four years of college, Geoffrion still has a good amount of development ahead of himself over the next few years to become the player the Predators think he's capable of becoming - a top 9 forward.

At the NHL level, Geoffrion has largely seen 4th line minutes and very limited special teams time. At the AHL level, Geoffrion will likely find himself again getting top-6 minutes at even strength and see time on both special teams units as he did last season when he thrived prior to his recall.

Much like Blum, Geoffrion will be counted upon later this season to provide quality depth when he is recalled and I think the hope is that with this time at the AHL level, he will continue to round out his skills, build confidence, and once again be able to contribute to the Predators playoff run down the stretch this season.

How do you think the demotion to Milwaukee will affect Blum and Geoffron in the long run?

These were the right moves for both the Predators organization and the players earlier this week and should pay off in the long run. As seen with the cases of Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist, it has worked in the past and I don't see any reason why it will not work in these cases.

While this might come as a bit of a shock to the system, both are young and talented players who were seeing limited minutes at the NHL level this season and have much more to offer moving forward. Now that they have each tasted the NHL and know what it takes to play there and be successful, they should be very motivated to earn their way back as soon as possible.

The key will be how the players respond to being sent back to Milwaukee. Neither will be given the first recall at either position just because they started the season in the NHL. The Milwaukee Admirals are a very deep and talented team sitting one point behind the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina's affiliate) in the Midwest Division with 5 games in-hand on the Checkers.

Up front, Geoffrion will be battling with Chris Mueller, Kyle Wilson, Ryan Thang, Gabriel Bourque, Jusso Puustinen, Michael Latta, and Zach Stortini for that first recall spot. On the back end, Blum will join a pretty well established blueline with Teemu Laakso, Tyler Sloan, and Ryan Ellis all in the mix for a recall as well.

Ultimately, it will be up to them to earn their way back, but in the meantime they are being given the opportunity to refine and improve their game while waiting for their next opportunity. I think we can all agree that the team will be better off if they take advantage of this chance and prepare themselves to permanently claim a spot in Nashville when their number is called again.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Preds complete thrilling comeback despite Detroit's offensive zone dominance



The Nashville Predators were able to extend their winning streak in a thrilling 4-3 comeback victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night in front of a sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville got two late goals from Shea Weber, and the crowd went into a playoff-like roar as the Predators took the 4-3 lead. Detroit would make a late push at Pekka Rinne, but the Predators were able to hold on for the win.

"What a game. It's probably our biggest rivalry in the league and it's always a pretty intense game against Detroit. We were expecting that before the game, and the crowd was there tonight. It was so nice to win," said Predators defenseman Francis Bouillon.

Detroit took the early 1-0 lead in the first period on a power play goal by Tomas Holmstrom. Rinne made the original save but Holmstrom was able to corral the rebound for the goal.

Nashville would respond almost five minutes later when David Legwand scored on a great second effort play. Craig Smith fed the puck to Legwand for the one-timer, and Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard made the original save. Legwand stuck with the play, however, and was able to lift the second attempt over Howard to tie the game at one.

In the second period, the Red Wings would capitalize on another power play goal at 10:03 of the period when Henrik Zetterberg fired one past Rinne. A little over a minute later, Nicklas Lidstrom gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead when he fired a shot from the point that found it's way through Rinne.

The Predators needed a momentum shift as the second period was coming to a close. They got it from Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo was able to collect a rebound in the slot and fire it into a wide open net to bring the Predators within one goal at the end of the second period.

The intensity level went up in the third period. Several long, intense battles for the puck took place in the Nashville zone, which was personified by an extremely physical battle on the boards between Bouillon and Jiri Hudler.

"When you play an intense game like that, it's the way you have to expect to play. Both teams want to win, and you want to do anything that is possible to win," Bouillon said.

In the first half of the third period, Detroit was really controlling the play in the Nashville end. They had several long shifts in the Predators' defensive zone, which caused Bouillon and Kevin Klein to be out there for a very long shift.

"Everybody was getting tired, and when you're getting tired you lose focus," Bouillon said.

At 15:14 of the third period, Justin Abdelkader took the first penalty for the Red Wings. That penalty proved costly. Weber fired a blazing one-timer from the point just 22 seconds into the power play that tied the game at three.

Weber scored the game-winning goal at 18:24 of the period to propel the Predators to their fourth consecutive victory. The comeback effort wasn't as stunning as the game in Columbus last Thursday, but it was still an impressive third period showing by Nashville.

"It showed a lot of character. Everybody knows that there is a lot of character on this team. A game like tonight always makes you feel better, especially against a team like that. I don't know what their record was before the game, but it's probably the best team in the league right now. It's going to give us a lot of confidence," Bouillon said.

Nashville will now turn its attention to the St. Louis Blues, who have also won four straight games. The Blues will make their first trip of the season to Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)
3. Nicklas Lidstrom(DET)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)
3. Nicklas Lidstrom(DET)

Rivalry renewed as Red Wings visit Smashville



The sizzling Detroit Red Wings head into Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night to take on a Nashville Predators team that has won three games in a row. Both teams have been playing pretty well as of late, and tonight figures to be another classic game between these two teams.

In the first meeting between these two teams this year on November 26 in Detroit, the Red Wings dominated every facet of the game and won 4-1 over Nashville. This time around, the Predators will hope to go 180 degrees in the other direction.

Nashville is coming off of a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night in a game that saw the Predators put 45 shots on Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. The Predators will need to pepper the Detroit net tonight if they want to have offensive success.

Detroit is one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and have gone 8-2-0 in their last ten games. The Red Wings are led by superstar forward Pavel Datsyuk. He has arguably the best hands, and overall skill set, in the entire NHL. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter will likely see a lot of Datsyuk tonight, and they will have to really be on their toes.

The key to this game is going to be special teams. Will the Predators power play continue to perform at the high level that they have been for the past six games? Can Nashville's penalty kill hang with the high-powered Detroit power play? Nashville's power play is ranked 4th in the league, while the Red Wings' power play is ranked 6th in the league. The team that is able to stop the opposition's power play will come out on top in this game.

My player to watch for the Detroit Red Wings is Johan Franzen. Franzen is second on the team (behind Datsyuk) in points, and is a strong forward. The Red Wings have a lot of weapons on both sides of the ice, but Franzen is a key part of this Detroit lineup. Nashville will have to neutralize his game by controlling the puck for the majority of the night.

For the Predators, my player to watch is Patric Hornqvist. He will need to plant himself in front of the Detroit net and do a good job of screening the goalie tonight.

(Photo credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Preds best Flames for third consecutive win



The Nashville Predators defeated the Calgary Flames by a 2-1 score on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena to earn their third consecutive victory. Nashville got goals from Matt Halischuk and Colin Wilson, while Calgary got its lone tally from Curtis Glencross. Nashville had 45 shots in the game, while Calgary had 36 shots on goal.

Nashville took the early lead in the first period when Halischuk scored on a backhand spin-o-rama swipe at the puck in mid-air. Brian McGrattan threw the puck on net and Halischuk was there for the rebound.

The Predators out-shot the Flames by an 18-6 margin in the first period, and played one of the best periods that they have played all season. However, the Flames were the ones that came out flying to start the second period.

Glencross was able to skate right in the zone and fire a nice backhand shot past Rinne for the goal. Calgary had been applying lots of pressure before that point, and Glencross was finally able to get one past Pekka Rinne.

Both teams had 17 shots on goal in the second period, but both Miikka Kiprusoff and Rinne were both on their game. It was a 1-1 hockey game after two periods of play.

Nashville would get the game-winning goal on the power play when Wilson scored on a rebound from a Craig Smith shot. That makes six games in a row that the Predators have scored a power play goal. Calgary had several chances to tie the game in the third period, but Rinne shut them down with his Vezina Trophy caliber of play.

Rinne seemed to be back in his groove tonight. He had been struggling as of late, but it seems as if he's found his game again in the past two games. The Predators are certainly glad he's back to his usual self because they face the high-powered Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Colin Wilson(NSH)
2. Miikka Kiprusoff(CGY)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Surging Flames make first trip to Nashville



The Nashville Predators will host the Calgary Flames tonight at Bridgestone Arena for the first time at home this season. These two teams have already met twice in Calgary, with each time winning one and losing one. Calgary got the 1-0 shutout victory over the Predators in their last meeting.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night. The Predators played a strong team game, and really controlled the play throughout the contest.

Calgary is coming off of a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. Jarome Iginla scored two goals in that game, and has really been heating up as of late. He was named the NHL First Star of the week last week.

Normally, games between these two teams often come down to goaltending. Both the Predators and the Flames have great goaltenders, and that usually means that games between Nashville and Calgary are low-scoring affairs. Expect the same sort of storyline tonight.

My player to watch for the Flames is Iginla. He's been on fire as of late, and that's never good news for the Predators. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter will have to play a strong game against Iginla's line tonight.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Pekka Rinne. Rinne hasn't been playing as well as he would like as of late, and he'll need to have a strong game in net for the Predators tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Preds show good team effort in win over Anaheim



The Nashville Predators got their first home victory since November 17 as they defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a 3-2 score in front of a rowdy sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville controlled the play throughout the first period and didn't allow an Anaheim shot on goal for the first 14 minutes of the game. Colin Wilson appeared to score a goal on the power play in the first period, but the goal was waved off due to an apparent kicking motion. The play went under review, but the call on the ice was confirmed after the review. It was a tough play to try and decipher, but it didn't look like Wilson ever made a kicking motion.

Anaheim got on the board just 38 seconds into the second period when Andrew Gordon beat Pekka Rinne to the short side on a quick wrist shot. Minutes later, Mike Fisher would appear to give the Predators another goal. However, his goal was also waved off. The official had already blown the whistle before Fisher knocked it in the net from under the glove of Anaheim goaltender Dan Ellis.

"We didn't let it rattle us. We thought maybe the first one should have been a goal. I can see an argument for the second one, but on the first one he was going to the net and he didn't make any kicking motion. He was just turning his skate. But it didn't really phase us too much. We stuck with the game plan and played a solid game," said Nashville forward Jerred Smithson.

Nashville was able finally get on the board in the second period when Nick Spaling converted a one-timer on a great pass from Wilson.

The Predators would take the lead at 2:33 of the third period when Roman Josi fired a shot on the power play that beat Ellis for his first career NHL goal. It was an impressive slapshot that blew right past Ellis, who was being screened in front. Josi has been up with Nashville since the Detroit game on November 26, and seems to be finding his rhythm lately.

"He's looked good. It seems like in training camps he's gotten a few nicks, bumps and bruises and wasn't able to really compete. He looked pretty good tonight. You can see how he sees the ice and how he can move. He's still a young guy and he's still learning the game, but there's no better place to be than watching Ryan Suter and Shea Weber out there and letting those guys lead by example. He looked great tonight. He's got a great shot from the point as we all saw, and I'm really happy for him," Smithson said.

Jordin Tootoo put the Predators up 3-1 when he fired a remarkably quick wrist shot past Ellis from the faceoff circle on the rush. That goal was extremely important for the Predators because Francois Beauchemin brought Anaheim within one goal with 6:36 remaining in regulation. However, Nashville would tighten up defensively and hold on for the 3-2 win.

This game was another good example of the high level of intensity that seems to be becoming routine for contests between these two clubs. It's almost like a playoff game each time these teams square off.

"They are a good hockey club. They compete and battle hard. Their skill guys are their go-to guys that work and get into the hard areas. They are hard to play against, not only offensively but physically. We knew that going in. We knew we were going to have to have a good team effort. That's what the playoffs does. It starts those rivalries. It just seems like every game is a continuation of the playoffs. It's a lot of fun to be out there, that's for sure," Smithson said.

Predators fans at Bridgestone Arena finally were able to leave the building on a happy note, which is something that Nashville will hope to continue going down the stretch.

"It's been a while. It finally feels pretty good. We did some great things tonight by just going to the net, establishing our forecheck and putting pressure on their D. That's something we wanted to do. For the most part, we were disciplined and kept them off of the power play. We all know what happens when they get on the power play and get rolling, so I just thought it was a great job by everybody from the fourth line right up to the go-to guys," Smithson said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:

1. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)
2. Colin Wilson(NSH)
3. Roman Josi(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)
2. Nick Spaling(NSH)
3. Roman Josi(NSH)

Anaheim makes final trip of regular season to Nashville



The Anaheim Ducks have really struggled so far this season. The early deficit in the season brought about a new coaching change. Bruce Boudreau is now the head man in Anaheim, and they will be looking to get their first victory against the Nashville Predators this season on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville is coming off of an impressive come-from-behind victory on Thursday night in Columbus. Those type of wins can be a big boost for a team that was struggling. The Predators come into this game with a 13-11-4 record, and currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference.

Anaheim is 2-7-1 in their last ten games, and lost their last outing by a 4-2 score to the St. Louis Blues. Teemu Selanne leads the Ducks in points with 28.

It will be interesting to see how the style of play has changed for the Ducks since Boudreau took over as head coach. You can expect the same kind of intensity between two teams that aren't very fond of each other.

My player to watch for the Ducks is Selanne. He always seems to have great games against the Predators, and he's still a great threat to score in his early 40's. Selanne is one of the greatest talents to every play in the NHL, and the Predators will have to be mindful of when he's on the ice tonight.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Jordin Tootoo. It will be interesting to see how he responds after being suspended for the previous two games. Nashville will need him to bring a physical, disciplined presence to the game.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nashville gets a huge win when all seemed lost



The Nashville Predators have occasionally been known to have a flare for the dramatic. Their 4-3 comeback victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets is a perfect example of that.

Nashville was down 3-1 with a little under two minutes remaining in the third period when they pulled Pekka Rinne to bring on the extra attacker. Patric Hornqvist was able to slide one past Curtis Sanford to bring the game within one.

With 13 seconds remaining in regulation, Sergei Kostitsyn tied the game at 3-3, and sent the game into overtime. Colin Wilson completed the unlikely overtime comeback victory when he converted a one-timer on a pass from Martin Erat.

For the first 58 minutes of the game, Nashville was totally outplayed by the Blue Jackets. They really had no business being in the game, but somehow found a way to collect two points.

Barry Trotz felt that the Predators deserved to win the two previous games before this one, but they had lost both of them. Nashville did not deserve to win this game, but they won it anyway. Sometimes things have a way of balancing out.

The Predators will host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, and will be looking to build on this dramatic victory.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Colin Wilson(NSH)
2. Antoine Vermett(CBJ)
3. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Preds in desperate need for win in Columbus



The Nashville Predators have been playing pretty decent hockey of late, but haven't been getting the desired result on the scoreboard. Tonight, they will try to change that in a critical game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. They played a pretty solid game against the Coyotes and had lots of chances to win the game.

Columbus has been on a 5-3-1 since their overtime win in Nashville on November 19. The Blue Jackets had a horrendous start to the year, but have been playing much better hockey as of late. They defeated the Montreal Canadiens on the road on Tuesday night by a 3-2 score.

This will be the third meeting between these two teams so far this season. Nashville has been historically dominant over Columbus, but it seems as if almost every game between these two teams is decided by one goal. Look for the same sort of thing in tonight's game.

My player to watch for the Blue Jackets is James Wisniewski. Wisniewski scored the game-winning goal for the Blue Jackets the last last time these two teams met, and is a legitimate offensive threat from the blue line. Nashville will have to be aware of that and try to limit his shot opportunities.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Francis Bouillon. Bouillon will make his return to the lineup tonight after suffering a groin injury. The defense was much better with Bouillon in the lineup, so his return should be a welcome sight for the Predators.

Puck drop is at 6 p.m. central time.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Power play has been clicking for Preds



Over the past few years, the power play hasn't been a strength for the Nashville Predators. So far this season, it has evolved to become one of the biggest strengths on the team.

The Predators have five power play goals in their last five games, and currently rank 9th in the league with a 19.4% success rate.

"We made a few adjustments. We're finding seams and getting shots on net. We're going to continue to work on that and make sure we get those chances," said Nashville forward Craig Smith.

Whatever adjustments that were made seem to be working, especially in the last five games. Nashville is creating numerous quality scoring chances on the power play, and shooting the puck with more regularity.

"It creates a lot of good movement. We're shooting the puck a lot more and I think that's what we've got to do. We've got a couple of guys that can shoot the puck out there, and we've got to use that to our advantage," said Nashville defenseman Jonathon Blum.

The new-found success on the power play may be as simple as shooting the puck. Players like Smith and Shea Weber don't shy away from pulling the trigger, which has made the Predators' power play a legitimate threat. The willingness to take the shot can sometimes open up all sorts of options on the power play.

"When you shoot the puck, it opens up seams. Guys are making plays," said Predators blueliner Ryan Suter.

If the Predators are able to solve some of the defensive issues that have cost them several games in the past few weeks, they would appear to be in very good shape. Capitalizing on the power play gives the rest of the team confidence for every game.

"The guys are really getting it going. They're getting a lot of movement and a lot of shots. They're making plays. It's nice to see that going because when they're good, that gives us a chance to win every night. It's nice to see those guys step up, and they're working on it every practice," said Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein.

Nashville will have to continue to thrive on the power play if they want to score enough goals to win games. Even strength goals have recently been sparse for the Predators, which makes the power play even more important for them.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mueller takes loss to Coyotes hard



The Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Nashville Predators by a 3-2 score on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena to hand the Predators their third loss in their last five games.

Phoenix got on the board just nine seconds into the game when a shot squeezed through Pekka Rinne, who thought he had made the save. Taylor Pyatt was credited with the goal, and the Coyotes were off to as good of a start as they could have hoped for on the road.

Nashville would tie the game at one with 10.8 seconds remaining in the first period when Jack Hillen fired a wrist shot that went off a few bodies and into the net. The play was reviewed, and the goal was originally given to Mike Fisher. Hillen, however, would eventually be credited with the goal.

The next goal would be scored in the third period when Ray Whitney one-timed one from the slot to put the Coyotes up 2-1. Shea Weber would respond at 12:53 when he scored on a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game again.

Adrian Aucoin and Sergei Kostitsyn got in a confrontation that ended up putting both of them in the box. Phoenix would capitalize on the 4-on-4 play when Keith Yandle beat Rinne for the game-winner.

Chris Mueller had gone six for seven in the faceoff circle through the first two periods, but lost the faceoff that eventually led to the game-winning goal by the Coyotes.

"I had a lot of confidence going in, and then I go out there for the last draw, lose the draw and make a mistake and it's in the back of the net," Mueller said.

"I want to say up until two minutes left in the game I played a pretty good game. I had a lot of confidence and then I make a mistake. You can't do that here," Mueller said.

Nashville had another good game in the shot department, firing 32 shots on Jason LaBarbera. The Predators were simply unable to get enough pucks past LaBarbera, who played an outstanding game for the Coyotes.

"You always want to get pucks to the net, and for the most part we did a good job of getting pucks to the net and getting a lot of shots. We just couldn't capitalize on our opportunities. I made a mistake late in the game 4-on-4 and it ended up in the back of the net. I can't make mistakes like that. It ends up in the back of the net and we lose the hockey game," Mueller said.

Nashville will travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Thursday night in a critical game.

"I have to forget about this, go out there and play hard and do what I can to help the team win and get two points on the road," Mueller said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Jason LaBarbera(PHX)
2. Keith Yandle(PHX)
3. Shea Weber(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Keith Yandle(PHX)
2. Ray Whitney(PHX)
3. Shea Weber(NSH)

Nashville set to face Phoenix without Tootoo



The Nashville Predators will square off with the Phoenix Coyotes for the third time this season tonight at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators will be without the services of Jordin Tootoo after he was suspended by the league today for the next two games.

The two prior meetings between these two teams were totally different in every way. In the first game, Phoenix came into Nashville and beat the Predators by a 5-2 score. On November 3, Nashville went into Phoenix and beat the Coyotes by a 3-0 score.

"They have a very similar team to ours. They play strong defensively. They've got good goaltending, and they don't beat themselves. We always have fairly low-scoring games for the most part, and it's always a defensive battle," said Nashville Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.

Phoenix played last night against the Chicago Blackhawks and got a 4-3 shootout win. The Coyotes sit in seventh place in the Western Conference going into this game, while the Predators are in 11th.

"They usually play a solid game and don't hurt themselves at all. They limit their turnovers and get pucks to the net. They go to the net because they know that's what they have to do. We've got to make sure we stay out of the box and take care of the puck on the bluelines," said Nashville rookie forward Craig Smith.

My player to watch for the Coyotes is Radim Vrbata. He is tied with Ray Whitney for the team lead in points with 23, and has really been playing well for the Coyotes this season.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Jonathon Blum. Blum has struggled so far this year defensively, and his defensive play will be key for the Predators in this matchup.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts on Realignment

In what has been a hot topic of conversation around the NHL for the past few months, the NHL Board of Governors met and approved a realignment of the NHL that will take place next year. There will be four conferences in the NHL as opposed to the two conferences that are currently in place.

Here's a look at what each of the four conferences look like:

Central Conference:
Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

West Conference:
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks
Vancouver Canucks

East 1 Conference:
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

East 2 Conference:
Carolina Hurricanes
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

NHL Press Release:
The National Hockey League Board of Governors tonight approved a four-Conference alignment format and authorized Commissioner Gary Bettman to implement this proposal, pending input from the National Hockey League Players' Association. The format would create two eight-team Conferences and two seven-team conferences.

Under the format, every team would play every other team outside its conference twice -- once home, once away.

In the seven-team Conferences, teams would play six times -- three home, three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams would play each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. This process would reverse each season: An eight-team Conference member that plays an opponent six times in one season would play it five times the following season.

The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the second-place team would play the third-place team. The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.

Leftover Thoughts:
Nashville will still maintain all of the divisional rivalries that have been built since they came into the NHL. Those rivalries will be escalated, especially when the Predators could potentially play teams like Detroit and Chicago every year in the playoffs.

Each team will make a trip to Bridgestone Arena next year. I think that's awesome. It's great for ticket sales, and it gives fans the chance to see players like Sidney Crosby every year.

Overall, I think that the realignment proposal is a pretty good one. What are your thoughts?

Nashville hopes to improve on home ice



Bridgestone Arena has traditionally been one of the toughest venues for opposing teams to visit. So far this season, that hasn't been the case.

Nashville has collected just 11 out of 22 points on home ice this year, going 4-4-3 in 11 games. Conversely, the Predators have collected 17 out of 30 points with a 8-6-1 record on the road, which is supposed to be more difficult.

"I think part of our struggles at home are because we have had such a tough road schedule this year. We're home for one and then we leave and then we're home for one again. It will be nice to try and get in a rhythm the rest of the year," said Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter.

Nashville has certainly done their fair share of traveling during the early part of the year. They have already taken two trips to western Canada, and one trip to the west coast of the United States. However, the Predators have eight home games remaining in the month of December. That's the most out of any month this season. Nashville will have to really play well at home this month, and collect as many points as possible.

"We've been traveling a lot. It's kind of a grind when you're traveling that much. We know if we want to be a playoff team, and a high playoff team, we have to start winning at home. It's a building that's tough to play in and we have to make it that way," said Nashville blueliner Jonathon Blum.

Last season, the Predators had nine home games in the month of March. This season, the Predators have nine road games in the month of March and only have six home games. That means that Nashville will really have to take advantage of this month's remaining eight game home slate, four of which are against divisional opponents.

"Points at home are huge. You don't want to count on these points to hold you up so we've got to make sure we work at home. These are somewhat easier points to get than on the road, so we've got make sure we're getting a fair amount here," said Predators rookie forward Craig Smith.

"It's nice to have a little homestand here to really get the fans into it. We've always been a pretty good team at home, and we need to continue that on to this year. Right now, we're not playing Predator hockey at home," said Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein.

Five out of the next six games for the Predators are within the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena. They have a huge opportunity to climb back into the race for the Central Division. That opportunity begins on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Defense has been uncharacteristically inconsistent for Preds

As a team, the Nashville Predators have had their ups and downs so far this season. They've had stretches where their play has been solid, and they've also had stretches where their play has been poor.

Like the team as a whole, Nashville's defense has been uncharacteristically inconsistent so far this year. The Predators have given up 71 goals through 26 games, which is right in the middle of the league. For a team that's usually near the top of the league in fewest goals allowed, that's not a good recipe for success.

"We just need to get on the same page. Defense is five guys working in the zone together, and we just need to communicate more, bear down more, and really eliminate the cycle plays. That seems to be where we are getting beat a lot of times so we just need to sort things out and really play physical and strong down low," said Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein.

Shea Weber and Ryan Suter form arguably the best defensive pairing in the world. They bring an element of consistency to the rink every night. You know what you're going to get out of them. They play a lot of minutes, they're very skilled offensively and they are two of the best shutdown defensemen in the game. However, the defensemen on the second and third pairing have been up and down throughout the year.

"Obviously, (Suter and Weber) are doing their part. The rest of us have to pick it up a bit. We're playing ok, but we're definitely going to have to get better. We've just got to be better as a group. Sometimes it is a little chaotic with guys switching and stuff like that, but we're professionals and we're used to that. We've just got to adjust to it," said Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum.

A the season moves along, younger players like Blum and Roman Josi will continue to improve and adjust to the NHL game. The eventual return of Francis Bouillon will also be a big key in stabilizing the defensive corps. Suter has seen improvement in consistency during the past few weeks.

"I think we've been good lately. We have to continue to work hard in our defensive zone and continue to communicate in the zone. The rest will work itself out," Suter said.

If the Predators are able to establish consistent play from both sides of the ice on a nightly basis, they will find that winning games will also come more consistently.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Preds lose to Buffalo despite dominating performance



The Buffalo Sabres came into Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd and got a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators. Nashville controlled the play for most of the game, out-shooting the Sabres 34-14, but Ryan Miller was able to make key saves to preserve the Buffalo win.

Luke Adam put the Sabres on the board first at 10:00 of the first period when he got to a loose puck in the slot and fired it past Anders Lindback. Zack Kassian added another goal for the Sabres when he beat Roman Josi in the neutral zone and coasted in on a breakaway. He made a good move and beat Lindback on the backhand.

There would be no additional scoring in the second period, but it was full of action. It was also full of controversy. Jordin Tootoo drove to the net at a high speed and crashed into Miller. Miller took immediate exception and started throwing punches at Tootoo while in a dog pile on the ice. Every player on the ice, except Lindback who was at the other end, was involved in a big scrum.

Tootoo will likely face a disciplinary hearing for the incident. This was Miller's first game back since he was hit by Boston's Milan Lucic and
suffered a concussion.

"I think he did make contact because he was driving to the net hard, but I think he did make a valid effort to get out of the way," said
Predators forward Colin Wilson.

The Predators were finally able to get a puck past Miller in the third period when Craig Smith converted a one-timer on the power play.
However, Buffalo responded at 15:45 of the period when Tyler Ennis converted on a turnover by Josi in the defensive zone. David Legwand
would add another goal for the Predators at 18:25, but Miller and the Sabres were able to hold on.

"I think we were going really well. We were all getting pucks to the net. I think we were confident throughout the whole game," Wilson said.

Nashville had several chances to get pucks past Miller tonight, but were unable to solve the Sabres' netminder. The Predators had 20 more
shots than Buffalo, which is something that hasn't been the norm for Nashville as of late.

"We've been out-shot quite a bit. We came out there and really out-shot them, and I feel like we out-chanced them as well. It's something to
build off of looking forward," Wilson said.

Phoenix comes to Music City on Tuesday night to take on a Preds' team that really needs to collect wins on home ice. Pekka Rinne will likely
be the starter for that game after having the night off tonight.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Luke Adam(BUF)
2. Ryan Miller(BUF)
3. Craig Smith(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Luke Adam(BUF)
2. Ryan Miller(BUF)
3. David Legwand(NSH)

Preds to host Sabres in first of nine home games this month



The Nashville Predators will host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena after playing each of their past five games on the road.

Nashville is coming off of a thrilling 6-5 victory over the high-powered Vancouver Canucks. In that game, the Predators had leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before finding themselves on the wrong end of a 5-3 score. The Predators went on to score three straight goals to get the 6-5 comeback victory.

"It's big. We can build on that just in our confidence. We're not always going to have the best game, but the fact that we showed resiliency and came back to win is going to be big in putting the next couple of games together," said Nashville forward Colin Wilson.

Buffalo is coming off of a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings last night. They sit in 7th place in the Eastern Conference with a 13-11-1 record and 27 points. Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek are tied for the team lead in points with 27.

"We're expecting a game very similar to Vancouver. They come hard and they have a lot of offense. The East is always very offensive and a quick game," Wilson said.

The Sabres have been struggling as of late, but help could soon be on the way. It's possible that Ryan Miller will be getting the start for the Sabres tonight, which would be his first start since taking that hit from Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins.

It looks like Anders Lindback will get the start in goal for the Predators tonight. Lindback played well in relief of Pekka Rinne in Vancouver, and has earned more starts down the road. Rinne has struggled as of late, so a few extra days off might do him a lot of good.

Nashville has nine home games in the month of December, which is the most of any month of the season. This month is one of the most critical months of the season, and the Predators have a big opportunity to put themselves in a good position.

"We haven't been as good as we want to be at home, so I think with this home stretch it's something that we're going to have to focus on. We've got to use our home ice to our advantage," Wilson said.

My player to watch for the Sabres is Thomas Vanek. He's one of the best offensive players in the NHL, and has been great so far this season. If he's able to get his game going early, the Predators could be in for a long night.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Chris Mueller. He will be making his season debut for the Predators tonight, and will be centering the fourth line. Mueller is a native of Buffalo so this game is special for him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Preds win wild game in Vancouver



In what was one of the wildest games in the history of the franchise, the Nashville Predators defeated the Vancouver Canucks by a 6-5 score on Thursday night at Rogers Arena. The Predators led the game 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period. Vancouver stormed back to take a 5-3 lead, but Nashville was able to rally with three consecutive goals to win the game 6-5.

David Legwand got the Predators on the board first on the power play with a hard one-timer that beat Cory Schneider. Mike Fisher would add another goal just over two minutes later on a beautiful backhand shot.

Cody Hodgson pulled the Canucks within one goal on the power play when he one-timed a puck from the slot that beat Pekka Rinne. However, Nashville would regain their two goal lead when Shea Weber unleashed an absolute bomb that beat Schneider before he had any chance to react to it. The Predators would take a 3-1 lead into the second period, and Roberto Luongo replaced Schneider in net for the Canucks.

Vancouver responded with a fury in the second period. The Canucks scored four straight goals to take the 5-3 lead, and chased Pekka Rinne out of the game. Anders Lindback came on in relief, which seemed to be a turning point for the Predators.

Jordin Tootoo brought the Predators within one goal on a quick one-timer that beat Luongo. Colin Wilson would tie the game at five on the power play for the Predators when he made a slick backhand move and roofed the puck over a sprawling Luongo.

The Canucks spent a lot of time in the Nashville zone in the third period but were unable to put one past Lindback. The Predators got the game-winning goal from Fisher at 18:44 of the third period to give the Predators a much-needed victory.

This was, by far, the wildest game of the season for the Predators, and it could possibly be a big turning point in the season. Nashville showed a lot of resiliency in this game, and stuck with it to pull out the victory. Vancouver attempted a total of 81 shots in this game, but only got 37 on goal. The Predators only had 20 shots on goal in this game, but were able to make six of them count.

With the win, the Predators move to 12-9-4 on the year and have 28 points. Nashville went 2-3-0 on the five game road trip, and will now return home to face the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Colin Wilson(NSH)
3. Anders Lindback(NSH)

Official 3 Stars of the game:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Henrik Sedin(VAN)
3. Daniel Sedin(VAN)

Nashville searching for elusive victory in Vancouver

The Nashville Predators will take on the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena tonight for the final game of their five game road trip. Nashville has gone 1-3-0 on the road trip so far, and they will desperately be looking to close it out with a win in Vancouver.

It was a wild first period the last time these two teams met. The Canucks had a 4-1 lead after the first period, and Anders Lindback entered the game in relief of Pekka Rinne after the first period. Vancouver won the game 5-1, and outshot the Predators by a 40-26 margin.

Nashville has really struggled as of late, posting a 1-4-1 in their last six games. They will be looking to get back on track against a Vancouver team that has found their groove. The Canucks have won five games in a row, and have an 8-2-0 record in their past 10 games.

Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with 27 points in 24 games played this season, and Henrik Sedin is right behind his brother with 24 points of his own. Ryan Kesler has been heating up as of late, and has registered at least one point in each of his last five games.

The Predators are going to have to generate more shots on goal if they want to beat the Canucks. Veterans like Mike Fisher and David Legwand are going to have to elevate their offensive productivity to get the Predators back to their winning ways.

My player to watch for the Canucks is Dan Hamhuis. The former Predator has gotten off to a pretty good start this year. He has 13 points on the year, and has a plus-minus rating of plus-4.

For the Predators, my player to watch is Sergei Kostitsyn. He hasn't been producing offensively as of late, and that doesn't bode well for Nashville. However, every good offensive player bounces out of their slump. Look for Kostitsyn to do that tonight.