Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nashville gets another improbable win in Minnesota



Never count the Nashville Predators out of a game until the clock hits zero. The Minnesota Wild learned that lesson the hard way on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. Nashville came back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Wild by a 5-4 score in regulation.

Dany Heatley scored two goals in the first period to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. He was left all alone in front of Pekka Rinne on both of his goals, and gave the Wild an early lead.

Cal Clutterbuck added to the Minnesota lead just 1:29 into the second period when he drove around Kevin Klein and put one past Rinne for the third goal of the game. Rinne made the initial save, but the puck went off of Clutterbuck's skate on the rebound and into the net.

Matt Halischuk finally got the Predators on the board when he was able to deflect a shot from the point by Kevin Klein past Josh Harding. Brandon Yip got the secondary assist on that goal for his first point as a Predator.

Kyle Brodziak gave the Wild the 4-1 lead just 16 seconds into the third period on a total defensive lapse by the Predators. It seemed as if they Wild would be able to coast to victory. But, as they have proven so many times so far this season, the Predators weren't going away without a fight.

Yip got the comeback started when he was able to sneak one past Harding after Halischuk drove to the net. The play had to be reviewed, but it was determined that the puck crossed the line in the end for a good goal.

Patric Hornqvist pulled the Predators within one goal with 3:21 remaining in the third period. Hornqvist made a wrap-around attempt that was stopped by Harding, but he was able to jam away at the puck to eventually get it to cross the line for the goal.

Mike Fisher tied the game for the Predators just 21 seconds later on a great tic-tac-toe play from Colin Wilson and Martin Erat. Fisher was able to score the game-winning goal for the Predators at 19:39 of the third period on a simple wrist shot from the boards. It was really a soft goal allowed by Harding, but the Predators were able to escape with a 5-4 victory.

With the win, Nashville sits in fourth place in the Western Conference and second in the Central Division with 66 points. They will travel to Philadelphia on Thursday to take on the Flyers for the second time this year.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Dany Heatley(MIN)
3. Brandon Yip(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Dany Heatley(MIN)
2. Mike Fisher(NSH)
3. Cal Clutterbuck(MIN)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Preds hope to pick up where they left off in Minnesota



The Nashville Predators will look to pick up where the left off before the All-Star break against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. The Predators have gone 12-2-0 in their past 14 games, and Pekka Rinne has been huge for them. The Finnish goalie has won nine consecutive games, which is a franchise record.

Nashville has posted a 1-1-0 record against Minnesota so far this year. The Wild won the first meeting of the year by a 3-2 score in an eventful third period, but Nashville was able to get a 2-1 victory by way of the shootout when these two teams last met.

While Nashville has been surging as of late, the Wild have been doing the opposite. In their last 20 games, Minnesota has posted a 5-11-4 record. They have gone from first in the entire NHL before that run to eighth place in the Western Conference.

Minnesota is always a tough building for the Predators to go into, but Rinne has had success against the Wild so far in his career. He has posted a 7-3-1 record against the Wild, including three shutout performances.

My player to watch for the Wild is Dany Heatley. He is the biggest scoring threat on Minnesota's roster, and has scored against the Predators in both meetings against them so far this year. His line will likely see a lot of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Martin Erat. He has been on an offensive tear lately, scoring 11 points in his last 10 games. Erat has overtaken Weber for the team lead in points, and his consistent play has been critical to Nashville's success so far this year.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Which Central Division team has the advantage going forward?



Now that the All-Star weekend has come and gone, the push for the Central Division title will crank into high gear for Nashville and the other contenders in the division. Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago are all within three points of each other coming out of the All-Star break.

The race for the Central Division title is sure to be tightly contested for the remainder of the regular season. The eventual winner of the Central Division has a very legitimate shot of winning the President's Trophy for the best regular season record in the NHL.

The Red Wings are the leader of the pack right now with 67 points on the year. However, with the division being as tight as it is, who has the advantage going forward?

DETROIT:
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Red Wings have posted an incredible 20-2-1 record on home ice. However, their road record hasn't been anywhere near as stellar. The Red Wings are just 13-14-0 on the road this season. They have three games remaining against Nashville, three against Chicago and one more game against St. Louis. The key for Detroit is going to be to try and maintain their home dominance while winning more games on the road. If they are able to do that, they will have a great shot at winning the division and the President's Trophy.

ST. LOUIS:
Much like Detroit, the Blues have posted a fantastic record at home so far this year but haven't been effective on the road. They are 21-3-4 within the confines of Scottrade Center this year, but are only 8-10-3 on the road. That road record will have to drastically improve if the Blues want to win the Central Division. St. Louis will be on the road for 20 of their final 33 games. The Blues have four games remaining against Chicago, three against Nashville and one against Detroit.

NASHVILLE:
One of the biggest strengths for the Predators going down the stretch is that they have been the most balanced team in the Central Division. They have a respectable 16-7-3 at home so far this year and have gone 14-9-1 on the road. Nashville will have to continue to build on their home record and continue their success on the road. The Predators have three games remaining against Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis this year. Those nine games will be crucial in determining how the Central Division will shake out. The key stretch will be from March 25-31 when Nashville travels to Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit, and then will return home for another game against Chicago on that Saturday night.

CHICAGO:
The Blackhawks have a ton of firepower when healthy. Chicago has posted a 19-6-4 record on home ice so far this season and have gone 10-9-2 on the road so far. Chicago has a key stretch coming up. The Hawks will begin a nine-game roadtrip on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks have four games remaining against St. Louis, three against Nashville and three against Detroit.

Barring a major collapse, it looks like the top four teams in the Central Division have a great shot of making the playoffs. But which team has the edge moving forward as far as winning the Central Division? There are three keys that will determine who comes out on top in the Central Division.

The first key is stamina and health. Which team will be able to stay healthy enough to win the necessary amount of games? The team that is able to stay the healthiest may be the team that has the inside track to winning the division.

Secondly, what kind of moves will be made by the trading deadline? A key addition to one of these teams could be the difference in winning the division. If Nashville is able to add a scoring forward that makes their offense consistently reliable, will that put them over the top?

Finally, which team will be able to post the best record against the other three teams? The games against other Central Division opponents will determine who wins the division.

It's hard to pinpoint which team has the edge going forward. If the Predators add a big offensive threat, one could argue that they become the best team in the division. Detroit is one of the most skilled teams in the NHL, but will they be able to stay healthy going down the stretch? Can Chicago survive the nine-game roadtrip they are about to go on and still be in contention for the Central Division? Will St. Louis be able to start performing better on the road?

There are so many questions that are left unanswered, which is why the stretch run toward the end of the regular season should be very exciting for these teams. As the playoffs draw closer, the answers to these questions will come into focus. The Central Division has been a dog fight all year long, and there is no reason to think that will stop anytime soon.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weber breaks personal record but falls to Chara once again

Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber set a personal record in the 2012 Hardest Shot competition in Ottawa when he unleashed a 106 mph slapshot. He was thwarted, once again, by Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins. Chara released an incredible 108.8 mph shot that shattered the old record of 105.9 that he set last year.

Chara vs. Weber in the Hardest shot competition is one of the most anticipated events of the All-Star weekend. Their shots keep getting harder every year, and it is a real treat for the fans to watch.

The All-Star game itself will start at 3 p.m. central on Sunday on the NBC Sports Network.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weber, Suter will play against each other



Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber was chosen by Team Alfredsson in the 8th round of the 2012 Molson NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft. Team Chara immediately responded with Ryan Suter in the 9th round of the Fantasy Draft.

It will be the first time that Weber and Suter will play against each other since the 2010 Olympics. The Skills Competition will kick off the on-ice festivities on Saturday night. The All-Star game will take place on Sunday.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All-Star festivities begin with Thursday's fantasy draft



The 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft will kick off the 2012 NHL All-Star weekend on Thursday night in Ottawa. Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara will choose the members of their respective teams in a style that was pretty popular with the fans last year.

Each team will consist of 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goaltenders. The 12 rookies in attendance will be split into two separate groups of six. After the 15th round of the Fantasy Draft is completed, one rookie will be asked to choose which team his group wants to join.

Ryan Suter and Shea Weber will both likely be taken fairly early in the Fantasy Draft. Weber will more than likely be chosen by Team Alfredsson rather early in the draft to set up the showdown between he and Chara in the Hardest Shot competition. It will be interesting to see if Suter and Weber end up on the same team, or whether they are playing against each other.

The All-Star weekend is designed to put on a good show for the fans and to allow the players to have fun in a more relaxed environment. The 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft will be televised on the NBC Sports Network at 7 p.m. central time.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Preds stay hot heading into All-Star break



The Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by a 3-1 score on Tuesday night at the United Center for their fourth consecutive victory heading into the All-Star break.

Craig Smith got the scoring started for the Predators in the first period. He was able to fool Corey Crawford on a quick turnaround shot through the legs of a Chicago defender for the goal. Matt Halischuk was instrumental to the play. He was able to track down the puck and keep a swarm of Blackhawks at bay. Smith ended up with the puck and netted his 11th goal of the season.

Mike Fisher scored his third goal in the past two games right from the slot. Patric Hornqvist made a great pass with his skate to Fisher, and he was able to put it past Crawford. Hornqvist's stick was tied up on the play, so using his skate was the only option. It was a great individual effort by Hornqvist, and he was rewarded with an assist.

Brandon Yip squared off with Steve Montador at 13:12 in the second period. It was Yip's first fight in a Predator uniform, and he was able to do a pretty nice job against Montador. After that fight, however, the Blackhawks seemed to grab the momentum.

Dave Bolland was finally able to put the Blackhawks on the board at 7:20 of the third period while on the power play. He fired a one-timer from that slot that deflected off of Pekka Rinne's pad and into the net.

Nashville, however, was able to weather the storm. Colin Wilson added an empty-net power play goal at 19:47 of the third period to put the game away for the Predators.

Roman Josi was very solid for the Predators in this game. He made several great defensive plays against Patrick Kane, and was positionally sound all night long. Overall, it was a great team win for the Predators heading into the All-Star break.

With the win, the Predators leap-frogged the Blackhawks in the Western Conference standings. Nashville improved to a 30-16-4 record with 64 points heading into the All-Star break, while Chicago dropped to 29-15-6 on the season with 64 points as well. Because the Predators have more wins, they hold down the fifth spot in the Western Conference while Chicago is in sixth place.

With the exception of Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Craig Smith, the Predators will have a few days off to recharge the batteries. Nashville's next game will be next Tuesday night in Minnesota. Weber, Suter and Smith will participate in the All-Star festivities this weekend in Ottawa.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Dave Bolland(CHI)
3. Mike Fisher(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nashville overcomes sluggish second period to beat Columbus



The Nashville Predators displayed their dominance over the Columbus Blue Jackets once again as they were able to defeat them by a 4-1 score in front of 14,310 at Bridgestone Arena. With the win, the Predators ended the season series against Columbus with a 5-0-1 record.

Mike Fisher got the scoring started for the Predators in the first period when he beat Steve Mason with a quick wrist-shot from the slot. Martin Erat made a great play to intercept the puck deep in the Columbus zone, and fed it to Fisher for the goal. The Predators ended the first period with a 1-0 lead, and out-shot the Blue Jackets by a 12-3 margin.

Columbus came out strong in the second period. The Blue Jackets fired seven shots on goal through the first five minutes of the period. Rick Nash was able to capitalize on the continuous Columbus pressure at 6:14 of the period when he got around Shea Weber and tucked it past Pekka Rinne for the equalizer.

"We didn't play a great second period, overall. For whatever reason, we came out flat, and they started to take the play to us a little bit," said Predators forward Jerred Smithson.

The Blue Jackets had two chances to take the lead on the power play, but Nashville's penalty kill came up big for them. After they were able to weather that storm, Fisher scored his second goal of the night. The goal was extra sweet for the fans, as was the first Goo Goo goal of the season.

"We did get some key kills and some big saves from (Rinne). We got through with a late goal there in the second, and kind of got the ball rolling again in the right direction," Smithson said.

Nashville played a good third period, and was able to add two more goals. Matt Halischuk scored his 11th goal of the season on a great display of hustle by his entire line, and Patric Hornqvist tipped in a power play goal to ice the game away for the Predators.

With only one more game remaining until the All-Star break, the Predators have a lot of momentum right now. They have won three games in a row, and have won 18 out of their last 25 games. After Tuesday night's game in Chicago, the Predators will have a week off before their next game.

"It's tough when you are rolling pretty good to slow things down, but I think all of the teams need this break. I don't know a team out there that isn't banged up and sore so I think for us to take a few days to recharge the batteries, rest up and heal some injuries will be huge down the stretch," Smithson said.

Nashville still has to play one more game before that time comes, however, and they know how important Tuesday's Central Division showdown with the Blackhawks is in the long run.

"It's huge. We got them a few days ago on a back-to-back. We know they are a better hockey club than they played, so we're expecting their best. We're going to have to come out and just get on our forecheck and establish that early, get our skating legs under us and put pucks to the net," Smithson said.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Matt Halischuk(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Central Division dominance



The Central Division has been the best division in the NHL so far this season. Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago and Nashville have four of the five highest point totals in the Western Conference so far in the 2011-2012 season.

If the regular season were to end today, the Central Division would hold four of the top six places in the Western Conference standings going into the playoffs. It's been an extremely competitive division since the beginning of the season, and it doesn't seem like that will change anytime soon.

So far this season, the top four teams in the Central Division have posted a 30-19-5 record against the Northwest Division and a 30-16-1 record against the Pacific Division, which is a combined 60-35-6 record against the rest of the Western Conference.

The Western Conference as a whole has posted a 90-61-25 record against the Eastern Conference so far this season. The Central Division has gone 32-16-7 against Eastern Conference opponents this year, and Columbus has accounted for seven of the 16 losses in regulation.

Nashville has posted a 9-2-2 record against Central Division opponents this year, which is the best record in the division against divisional opponents. It's going to be a battle between four teams for the rest of the year in the Central Division.

It seems as if the top teams in the Central Division have been winning every night when they're not playing each other. The Predators have won 15 out of their last 20 games, and haven't really gained much ground on Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago.

"For some odd reason, even though we've been going so well, we're somehow fourth in our division," said Predators forward Colin Wilson after Saturday night's 5-2 win over Chicago.

Nashville has 10 games remaining against the top three teams in the Central Division this season. The Predators will take on Detroit and St. Louis three more times respectively, and they still have four more contests against the Chicago Blackhawks. If they are able to perform well in those games and collect points, it could go a long way toward winning the division.

There is no denying that the Central Division will be the toughest division to win this year. There is a possibility that it will take close to 110 points just to win the division. However, the high level of play that has been on display among the top four teams in the division so far this year could serve each of them well in the playoffs.

It's going to be an interesting race as the regular season winds down. With the exception of Columbus, each team in the division has a legitimate chance to come out on top. Could this be the year that Nashville manages to win their first Central Division title in franchise history?

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wilson thrives in dominating win over Chicago



The Nashville Predators dominated the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night, winning the game by a 5-2 score. The Predators controlled the play for most of the night, and used a three-goal second period to coast to the win.

It was an incredible atmosphere for a regular season game. It was the 15th sellout crowd of the season at Bridgestone Arena, and there were a lot of Chicago fans inside the building.

"It honestly felt like the playoffs. It was unbelievable. Everybody was pretty rowdy there so it was really exciting and I think that gave us a bit of an edge," said Predators forward Colin Wilson.

Marian Hossa gave the Blackhawk fans something to cheer about at 15:04 when he blew past Shea Weber and snuck a backhand shot past Pekka Rinne. It was a great play by Hossa, who played a great game for Chicago.

Craig Smith got the Predators on the board while on the power play at 17:19 of the first period when he was able to corral a rebound and put it past Corey Crawford.

Nashville really blew the door wide open in the second period. Kevin Klein scored a fluky goal when he dumped the puck in the zone, and it bounced right over the stick of Crawford and into the net to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

After having several chances in the first period, Wilson was finally able to convert in the second period on a great pass from David Legwand. It was his first goal in the last 15 games.

"I hadn't scored in a while. I realized that, so I've got to get to the net. My linemates were getting pucks to the net and making good plays so I was fortunate enough to get one," Wilson said.

Wilson had been driving to the net all night. He made a highlight reel move in the first period that almost resulted in a goal, and made his presence felt around the net all night. The goal was a big relief for him.

"I had some assists, but I haven't been driving to the net like I should be. I haven't been sticking around the net like I should be so it was good to get that one. Hopefully I can get on a roll," Wilson said.

Sergei Kostitsyn gave the Predators a 4-1 lead on a beautiful deke attempt on a breakaway. He faked out Crawford, and put the puck into an essentially wide open net.

Hossa struck again for the Blackhawks in the third period to bring them within two goals, but Patric Hornqvist iced the game away for the Predators when he tipped in a shot from Klein. Nashville held on for the 5-2 victory, and gained two points on the Blackhawks.

Detroit and St. Louis both got wins on Saturday night, which means that Nashville didn't gain any ground those teams. The Central Division has been the toughest division in the NHL so far this season, so this win could be big for the Predators in the long run.

"For some odd reason, even though we've been going so well, we're somehow fourth in our division. We want to be first, so beating them is a big game. It's always a four point game," Wilson said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Colin Wilson(NSH)
2. Kevin Klein(NSH)
3. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Kevin Klein(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Marian Hossa(CHI)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Blackhawks visit Nashville for first time this season



The Nashville Predators will host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena in a highly anticipated Central Division showdown. It will be the second meeting of the year between these two clubs. Chicago won the first game by a 5-4 score in overtime on Halloween night in the Windy City.

With their win last night against the Florida Panthers, the Blackhawks now sit atop the Western Conference with 64 points. Chicago has been on a roll as of late, winning three games in a row.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-0 shutout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Pekka Rinne has been dominant as of late, winning each of the last six games that he has started.

Brandon Yip will likely make his debut for the Predators against the Blackhawks. Nashville acquired Yip on waivers from Colorado on Thursday. Yip has battled with injury so far this season, but it looks like he'll be in the lineup for the Predators tonight.

Marian Hossa and Jonathon Toews have been a two-headed monster for the Hawks this season. They are tied for the team lead in points with 50, and Toews is second in the NHL in goals scored with 27 on the year.

Chicago boasts one of the most complete teams in the NHL. They have the ability to get production out of all four lines. Nashville will have to be very sound defensively, and will have to convert on the power play chances they get.

My player to watch for the Chicago Blackhawks is Patrick Kane. He posted one goal and one assist on Friday night against Florida, and has some of the best hands in the NHL. He is a very skilled passer, and is one of the most creative players in the league in the shootout.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. Legwand has 48 career points against the Blackhawks, and always seems to elevate his game when these two teams square off. In Nashville's 2010 playoff matchup with Chicago, Legwand led the team with seven points in the six-game series. It should be a good matchup between two of the hottest teams in the NHL.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Preds continue dominance against Blue Jackets in Rinne's shutout effort



The Nashville Predators defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 3-0 score on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena. It was the ninth win in the last 11 games for the Predators, who are trying to keep pace in the ultra-competitive Central Division.

Martin Erat got the Predators on the board in the second period. He was able to finish on a 2-on-1 rush. Sergei Kostitsyn displayed some good patience, and was able to deliver a perfect saucer pass to Erat for the goal.

Mike Fisher added the second goal for the Predators on the power play. Erat delivered a great pass on a back-door play, and Fisher was able to tap the puck into what was essentially an open net.

Shea Weber added an empty-net goal while shorthanded at 19:28 of the third period to ice the game away for the Predators. He shot it from about 160 feet away from the goal, which made the shot all the more impressive.

Pekka Rinne was spectacular in net once again for the Predators, particularly in the third period. He stopped all 38 Columbus shots, and made a few incredible saves to preserve the lead for the Predators. It was his fourth shutout of the season, and the 24th of his NHL career.

With the win, Nashville moves to 27-16-4 on the season, which is good for 58 points. The Predators are still in fourth place in the Central Division, and will have a chance to gain ground on the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Martin Erat(NSH)
3. Antoine Vermette(CBJ)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Nashville invades Columbus in Central Division showdown



The Nashville Predators will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets for the fifth time this season tonight at 6 p.m. at Nationwide Arena. The Predators have had dramatic comeback victories in the last two games against the Blue Jackets. Nashville came from behind to win 4-3 in overtime on December 8, and came back for a 6-5 victory on December 22 when Martin Erat scored the game-winning goal with eight seconds left in regulation.

In their last outing, the Predators were shutout by the New York Rangers. Pekka Rinne had the night off in that game, but he will most likely be in net for the Predators tonight. Jerred Smithson was activated from injured reserve, and Ryan Suter participated in morning skate according to Josh Cooper of The Tennessean. Brandon Yip, who the Predators claimed off of waivers today, will not play against the Blue Jackets tonight.

Columbus is coming off of a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. The Blue Jackets have won two out of their last three games, and always seem to play the Predators well. Most contests between these two teams are decided by one goal, and this one doesn't figure to be any different.

The Predators have won eight of their last ten games, but are still in fourth place in the Central Division. The Central Division is, without question, the best division in the NHL right now. Nashville will have to continue to collect points to stay with the rest of the division.

My player to watch for the Blue Jackets is Rick Nash. He's been a big offensive threat against Nashville for his entire career. Nash has a plus-minus rating of minus-20 this year, which is indicative of the kind of year that Columbus is having so far.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Colin Wilson. Wilson hasn't scored a goal in 13 games, and has only collected five points during that time span. Wilson is due to put one in the net. Look for him to get one tonight in Columbus.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Press release: Preds claim Yip on waivers



The Nashville Predators claimed forward Brandon Yip on waivers today from the Colorado Avlanche. Here is the official press release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (January 19, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club claimed forward Brandon Yip on waivers from the Colorado Avalanche and activated forward Jerred Smithson from injured reserve.

Yip, 26 (4/25/85), has 41 points (23g-18a) in 113 career NHL contests, all with Colorado, since the 2009-10 campaign. The Vancouver, B.C., native has been limited to 10 games in 2011-12 – going pointless – due to arm (missed 18 games from Oct. 8-Nov. 15) and groin (missed four games from Dec. 13-19) injuries. The 6-1, 195-pound right wing amassed 108 points (45g-63a) in 139 games with Boston University from 2005-09, helping the Terriers win the 2009 NCAA National Championship on a team that also included current Predator Colin Wilson.

Colorado’s seventh selection, 239th overall (eighth round), in the 2004 Entry Draft, Yip is on a one-way contract worth $750,000.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Long defensive shifts burn Nashville in loss to Rangers



The New York Rangers dominated the Nashville Predators in every aspect of the game on Tuesday night as they got the 3-0 shutout victory. Nashville was without Ryan Suter in this game on defense, and Anders Lindback got the start in net. However, it was the offense that was non-existent.

New York got a bit of a fluky goal in the first period when Dan Girardi fired a puck toward Lindback that deflected in off of Nashville defenseman Jack Hillen. Hillen and Ryan Ellis had been stuck on the ice for 2:10. They were exhausted toward the end of the shift, and the Rangers were able to capitalize.

In the second period, the Rangers took a 2-0 lead when John Mitchell wristed one high to the glove side of Lindback for the goal. Roman Josi had been on the ice for a long time as well, and ended up screening Lindback on the goal by Mitchell.

Nashville put on a bit of an offensive push in the third period, but Henrik Lundqvist was there to slam the door for the Rangers. Lundqvist stopped all 27 shots that he faced on the night. Ryan Callahan got credit for a goal after he was hooked by Martin Erat on a breakaway while Nashville's net was empty. Nashville's five-game winning streak was snapped.

Over the past few weeks, the Predators had been winning games by scoring timely goals on the power play and playing strong defensively. They weren't effective in either aspect of the game against the Rangers. The absence of Suter was very noticeable, but Lindback played a strong game in goal. He stopped 26 out of 28 New York shots, and made several point blank saves to keep the Predators in the game.

Nashville will head to Columbus to take on a Western Conference opponent in the Blue Jackets. It will be the final trip to Columbus on the season for the Predators.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Henrik Lundqvist(NYR)
2. Brandon Dubinsky(NYR)
3. Dan Girardi(NYR)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist(NYR)
2. Dan Girardi(NYR)
3. Brandon Prust(NYR)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Erat has been steady offensive option for Preds



Since the days of Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg, the Nashville Predators haven't really had a player who is a legitimate threat to produce offensively in every game. While it's true that the Predators still don't have that prolific scorer, they do have a player that has been very consistent over the past year.

In his last 74 games played in the regular season, Martin Erat has put up 63 points. Those are not quite superstar-like numbers, but on a team like Nashville where defense is the main point of emphasis, Erat's consistent offensive game is very valuable.

During the Predators current five game winning streak, Erat has posted two goals and five assists. There are still times when he makes some questionable decisions with the puck, but he always seems to make up for a mistake with a good offensive play.

One of the biggest strong points in Erat's game is his strength on the puck. It's very rare to see Erat get knocked off of the puck when he has it in his possesion. His vision and balance allow him to find his teammates for the best scoring opportunity.

So far this season, Erat has 30 points in 37 games played, which is good for the second most points on the team behind Shea Weber. Erat's longest drought without a point in his last 74 games came from Dec. 26-Jan.5 of this season when he was held off of the scoresheet for five games.

Nashville has a 23-11-3 record with Erat in the lineup this year, but are 3-4-1 without him. While there are certainly other factors in that stat, there is no denying Erat's importance to the Predators. He still has his critics, but he's been as productive over the last calendar year as he has been in his entire career.

The Predators will need Erat to maintain his production as the playoff race heats up. With the trading deadline quickly approaching, it's possible that the Predators will try to acquire a scorer. If that happens, and Erat is able to continue to produce offensively, it's possible that the Predators will be one of the most complete teams in the league come playoff time.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Strong first period propels Preds past Islanders



The Nashville Predators defeated the New York Islanders on Monday by a 3-1 score for their fifth consecutive win. Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk and David Legwand all scored in the first period for the Predators to propel them to the victory.

Pekka Rinne was very strong in the game, stopping 36 out of 37 shots. Rinne was particularly strong in the second period. The Islanders put 19 shots on goal during the middle frame, and Rinne was able to stop every one of them. John Tavares was finally able to put one past Rinne in the third period for the Islanders' lone goal of the game.

It was announced the Ryan Suter had an upper-body injury just before the puck dropped. He played 7:04 in the first period, but did not return after that. According to Josh Cooper of The Tennessean, Suter is listed as doubtful for Tuesday night's game against the New York Rangers.

Kostitsyn picked up his sixth goal of the 2012 calendar year on his eighth shot of the 2012 calendar year. He's shooting very well for the Predators right now, but still only shot one time in the game.

The Predators will take on the Rangers tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. from Madison Square Garden. The game will be televised on the new NBC Sports Network.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. David Legwand(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Preds, Islanders square off in mid-day game



The Nashville Predators will take on the New York Islanders at a special start time of noon on Monday at Nassau Coliseum. It will be the second consecutive Eastern Conference opponent for the Predators after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.

"You don't have the emotional connection that you would with a divisional rival and a conference rival, but you know the team just from watching highlights from around the league. We watch video and look at some of their tendencies," said Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.

Nashville has won 13 of their last 17 games, including eight out of their last nine. The Predators will have to be prepared for a little bit of a road stretch after playing 14 of their last 20 games within the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena.

It's been a rough season on Long Island so far this year. The Islanders sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference coming into the game with a 16-20-6 record. New York is coming off of a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. Evgeni Nabokov recorded his 300th career NHL victory in that game.

While the Islanders have struggled this season, they are not a team that Nashville can afford to take lightly. They have a few extremely dynamic players that are capable of scoring at any time. I would expect Anders Lindback to get the start in net against the Islanders in the first game of a back-to-back set for the Predators.

My player to watch for the Islanders is John Tavares. Tavares is having an incredible season so far, accounting for 42 points in 42 games played. The first overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is living up to the high expectations that were placed upon him coming into the league. Nashville will have to be very aware of where he is. Expect Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to see a lot of time against the Tavares line.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn has scored five goals on his last seven shot attempts. The more he shoots, the more it benefits the Predators.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nashville bests Philadelphia in wide open contest



The Nashville Predators defeated the Philadelphia Flyers by a 4-2 score in front of a sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night. It was a wide open game that saw plenty of offensive chances for both teams.

"It was a pretty fast game with a lot of pace. I think both teams tried to score on the rush. It was a good game with a lot of chances. They have a great team," said Predators forward Gabriel Bourque.

The pace in the first period was incredibly high. Nashville had several scoring chances in the period. It looked like the Predators had taken a 1-0 lead early in the first period, but the goal was disallowed because it was kicked in by Bourque.

"I didn't try to put it in with my skate. I would've liked for it to be a goal, but it's alright. We had to put it past us and work for another one," Bourque said.

Nashville was able to cash in on the power play at 19:02 of the first period when Martin Erat threw a puck toward the net that found its way past Ilya Bryzgalov. Patric Hornqvist was screening Bryzgalov in front, and the puck bounced off of the ice and over his pad.

The Predators took a 2-0 lead at 10:36 of the second period when Sergei Kostitsyn snapped a shot from the slot, and beat Bryzgalov top shelf on the glove side. Philadelphia responded less than two minutes later when Sean Couturier beat Pekka Rinne with a great snap shot on the far side.

In the third period, the Predators would pull ahead to a 3-1 lead when Nick Spaling scored a very odd goal on the rush. Jordin Tootoo fired a pass across the middle of the ice and it hit Spaling. The puck found its way through traffic and past Bryzgalov for the goal.

Wayne Simmonds added another goal for the Flyers to make it a one goal game once again, but the Predators were able to hold on. Mike Fisher added an empty-net goal, and the Predators won their fourth game in a row. Nashville has really seemed to be on top of their game in the last few weeks.

"Yeah I think we're playing well. It's the game plan to be on top of our game before the All-Star break so I think we're doing a pretty good job," Bourque said.

The Predators will take on the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon for a rare noon start time.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Nick Spaling(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Nick Spaling(NSH)
2. Sean Couturier(PHI)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Preds host high-powered Flyers tonight in Smashville



The Nashville Predators will take on the high-powered Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. Former Predators Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen will be returning to Nashville for just the second time since joining Philadelphia.

With the Flyers being an Eastern Conference opponent, they bring a bit of a different element to the game. The Predators aren't as familiar with them as they are with Western Conference teams.

"It's a little different. You don't know that much about them. Obviously, you follow them around the league and you know what kind of team they have. It's a good team, and they've been playing really well this year," said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.

While the Predators aren't as familiar with Philadelphia as they are with other teams, preparing for them isn't really all that different from other games.

"It's not really more difficult preparing for them. Understanding them and knowing how they operate against your team is a little bit different. Usually the first period is a little more generic and then you get a feel for what they really do," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. "When you become familiar with teams, it's easy to understand some of their tendencies."

Philadelphia currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and really have a load of offensive talent. Claude Giroux has 49 points in 38 games played this year, which is tied for second most in the league.

My player to watch for the Flyers is Jaromir Jagr. At 39 years of age, Jagr still possesses and incredible skill level. He's a big guy that is very strong on the puck. Nashville's defense will have to limit his time and space.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Shea Weber. Weber and Ryan Suter will likely see close to 30 minutes of ice time tonight, and they'll have to be very defensively sound. If the Predators are able to be defensively sound, they will be able to create opportunities in the transition game.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Preds earn critical two points against Avalanche



The Nashville Predators came from behind to defeat the Colorado Avalanche by a 3-2 score in overtime on Thursday night in front of 16,905 at Bridgestone Arena. With the win, the Predators have now won three games in a row.

Colorado dominated the first period of the game. They got two goals in the period, and both of them are goals that Pekka Rinne would probably like to have another shot at.

Ryan O'Reilly scored the first goal for the Avalanche after he intercepted a pass attempt from Rinne. After he made the interception, he was able to fire it into what was essentially an empty net to give Colorado the 1-0 lead. The Avalanche took a 2-0 lead when Gabriel Landeskog fired a shot that squeezed through the five hole on Rinne. It wasn't the best effort for the Predators in the first period, and it put Nashville in a pretty big hole.

"We came out pretty soft in the first period," said Predators defenseman Francis Bouillon.

However, the Predators would come out in the second period with a lot more jump in their game. Nashville brought the game within one goal when Matt Halischuk banged the puck off of the pads of Colorado goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere and David Legwand converted on the rebound. Bouillon kept the play alive on the blueline, and allowed Halischuk to make the play that led to the goal.

"You always create more offense when defensemen get involved. We try to jump in the play every once in a while. We try to create more offense. The forwards always like it because it opens the play.

Nashville rolled out a dominant effort in the third period and overtime. Sergei Kostitsyn tied the game at two on a great shot in the third period, and Legwand scored his second of the game in overtime to win the game for the Predators.

With the victory, Nashville got all four possible points against Colorado this week. That's particularly impressive when these two teams play back-to-back games against each other. It's hard to beat teams two times in a row.

"That's character. It was a kind of mini playoff for us, and we've talked about those two games for a week now. We played really well in the game in Colorado. Tonight was another great performance by the team, and we've got to keep playing the same way," Bouillon said.

Nashville will now begin a little bit of an Eastern Conference swing. They will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, and will travel to New York after that.

"It's always easier to keep the focus when you're playing against your conference, but those two points are the same. It's going to be important to play the same game. We've always got a good chance to win when we play three good periods, and we've got to start in the first period next game," Bouillon said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. David Legwand(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Ryan O'Reilly(COL)

Official 3 Stars:
1. David Legwand(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Ryan O'Reilly(COL)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wilson's consistency has provided big spark for Predators



Coming into this season, Colin Wilson had a lot to prove. He had played in all 82 regular season games in the 2010-2011 season, but was scratched for Nashville's first round playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.

It was pretty clear that Wilson was in Barry Trotz's doghouse during last year's playoff run. He had some poignant words for Wilson coming into this season.

"One of the things that played in (Wilson)'s favor last year to play 82 games was that we ran out of bodies," Trotz said. "Sometimes you get in a position where you get a little bit of a free pass because there is no one else to put in there."

Wilson used his benching in the playoffs as motivation over the summer. He had a mental coach during the summer that really helped him learn how to focus and prepare for games. He came into this season with a chip on his shoulder.

Through the first half of this season, Wilson's overall play has been a drastic improvement from last season. He has 23 points in 39 games played so far this year, and has been one of Nashville's biggest offensive threats.

"(Wilson) is a guy that is probably our best offensive guy in terms of the creativity, and the ability to do certain things that other guys can't do. His overall consistency in his game is much better," Trotz said.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Wilson's game so far this season is his defensive play. His play in the defensive zone is almost 180 degrees different from a year ago, which has really added to the improvement of his overall game.

"Last year, he'd have good stretches where he was dominant. And then he would fall off to being very, very lethargic in terms of his play. Not a lot of push on the puck. Not a lot of detail. What he's learned at the end of last year, and early this year, is that he can still be a force offensively, but when you're doing the right things defensively and you're putting in the work and the details of the game, you end up with the puck a lot more. That's been really good," Trotz said.

While he's only 22 years old, Wilson has a pretty good amount of experience in the NHL. With each passing game, he's learning what it takes to be a consistent professional player. He's happy with his consistency level so far this year.

"I think I've done a good job with it. It's more of just a mentality. I think it just comes with playing the game. I've already had a full season in the NHL and a half season. I'm kind of getting used to playing a lot and how you have to keep your mindset throughout the whole season," Wilson said.

Wilson's newfound maturity will continue to be tested as the playoff push heats up in the Western Conference. His play will be critical in determining the position of the Predators at the end of the regular season.

The coaching staff will continue to build more trust in Wilson's game as he continues to mature as a player. Wilson has averaged 16:46 of ice time per game this season, which is 3:29 more than he averaged per game last season. That's just further proof that his role is dramatically different this year than it was last year.

"His role is growing every year. He's an integral part of the power play. He's a guy that can create things out of nothing, which not a lot of guys can do. He has that ability. That's a special ability, and I think there is more consistency in his work ethic game in and game out. That's the maturing process that he's going through right now," Trotz said.

The exciting thing for Predators fans is that Wilson is still a young player. He hasn't come close to reaching his prime yet. If he continues to grow as a player on and off the ice, the sky is the limit for him.

Coming into this year, Wilson wanted to prove to Trotz and the rest of the coaching staff that he has what it takes to be an effective NHL player. So far this season, he's done just that.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rinne holds down fort in Preds 4-1 victory



The Nashville Predators defeated the Colorado Avalanche by a 4-1 score on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Nashville got goals from Nick Spaling, Ryan Ellis and Martin Erat in the first period to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Ryan O'Reilly would put the Avalanche on the board in the second period, but Patric Hornqvist scored the dagger goal in the third period to finish off the 4-1 Predators victory.

Pekka Rinne stopped 32 out of 33 shots in the game after the Avalanche only put up six shots in the first period. Rinne was especially brilliant in the second period when he was able to stop 17 out of 18 Colorado shots.

With the win, Rinne improves to 21-11-4 on the year. He's really been on a roll as of late, winning four out of his last five games. His play is going to be absolutely crucial to Nashville's success this season.

Ryan Ellis seems to be finding his comfort zone on the power play. He's had a two-point game in two consecutive games, and it's clear that he has a great shot. His two goals have been really impressive slapshots from almost the same exact spot on the ice. As a whole, Nashville's power play unit is much more complete when he and Roman Josi are on the second pairing.

Jerred Smithson missed the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. He's listed as day-to-day. The Avalanche and Predators will meet up once again on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Martin Erat(NSH)
3. Ryan O'Reilly(COL)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Predators head into Denver to take on Avalanche



The Nashville Predators will take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight at Pepsi Center for the first time in the 2011-2012 season. These teams will square off with one another tonight, and will then face each other again in Nashville on Thursday night.

"They are behind us in the standings so this is almost like a small playoff series. It's a big week for us. Every game is important, but playing against those teams that are always around you are four point games, and those can be huge for us," said Predators forward Patric Hornqvist.

Now that the second half of the season is here, wins are going to be huge from this point forward for the Predators. During the last few seasons, the Western Conference has been extremely competitive. So far, this year hasn't been any different.

"You win one and you're in fourth or fifth place in the league, and you lose one and you're in the bottom five. With how tight everything is right now, wins are going to be crucial," said Predators forward Colin Wilson.

Colorado is coming off of a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. The Avalanche have been really hot as of late, however, going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games.

Matt Duchene suffered a knee injury that will keep him out of the lineup for an extended period of time. Former Predator Shane O'Brien has also been ruled out of tonight's game with a knee injury.

My player to watch for the Avalanche is Ryan O'Reilly. He leads the team in points with 29 and is only 20 years old. He's the brother of former Predator Cal O'Reilly, and the Preds will have to be aware of his offensive skill when he's on the ice.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Nick Spaling. He was all over the ice on Saturday night against Carolina, and he had several scoring chances. The Predators have never lost in regulation when Spaling scores a goal so look for good things to happen for Nashville if he gets one tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nashville hopes to be more consistent in second half of season



The first half of the 2011-2012 season was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Nashville Predators. Nashville started the year with a 2-3-1 record through their first six games, but were able to rebound. After 41 games, the Predators have posted 48 points and a 22-15-4 record, which is good for sixth place in the Western Conference.

"We had some ups and we had some downs that's for sure. I think in the beginning we didn't start off too hot. Some guys came back in the lineup, like Mike Fisher, and gave us a little energy. We started to figure out our game, and I think lately that's what we've been doing too. Toward the end of the first half, I think we're starting to get our identity. We'll have a bad game but we'll match it with a couple of good ones, and I think that's what we need to do," said Predators forward Colin Wilson.

The Predators really seemed to find their game during the last 20 games before the midpoint of the season. Nashville went 12-8-0 during that time, and posted an 8-4-0 record at home during that time.

"I think in the last 15 or 20 games we really picked it up. We've been playing much better. We've got some young guys coming up, and they're really making our team better. It's nice to have (Suter) and (Weber) back there, and (Rinne) has done a great job the whole season," said Predators right-winger Patric Hornqvist.

Now that the back half of the season has arrived, the Predators hope to play a more consistent game during the playoff push. Defense has historically been the strength of the Predators, but the defensive play this year has been largely unstable.

"We have to be a little bit more consistent defensively. We saw how hard we played defensively when (Weber) was out, and all of the sudden he comes back and I think the guys got a little complacent. We just need to be a little bit more consistent defensively and offensively," Wilson said.

Nashville is sitting in good position to make the playoffs at the half-way point of the season, but nothing is guaranteed in the Western Conference playoff race. Still, the Predators know they can be successful if they stick to their identity.

"We just have to be a little more consistently good. If we can keep our effort level high, we know we can win lots of hockey games," Hornqvist said.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Report Card: Halfway home



The Nashville Predators have posted a 22-15-4 record through 41 games in the 2011-2012 season. Through the first half of the season, the Preds currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference and are on pace to acquire 96 points. While there is no way of knowing if that will be enough to secure a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, it's a good building block for the rest of the season.

At the 20 game mark earlier this season, Hockey Night in Nashville took a look at the performance of each individual player and gave them a letter grade. Now that the Predators have reached the halfway point of the season, we'll take a look at how each player has done since then and do the same.

FORWARDS

#5 Blake Geoffrion- To say that this season has been disappointing for Geoffrion would be an understatement. He's collected three points on the year for the NHL club, but has since been sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals. It's unlikely that Geoffrion will return to the Nashville lineup this season. He really needs to work on his game at the AHL level and come back strong next year. 20 game Grade: C- Mid-season Grade: F

#10 Martin Erat- Erat has historically been one of the most dynamic players for the Predators, and that has been true so far in the 2011-2012 season. He has 25 points in 33 games played. His decision making is sometimes questionable, but he's had a pretty good season so far. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: B+

#11 David Legwand- Legwand started the season off on a blistering pace. He had eight points in the first three games of the season, and really started the year off well from an offensive standpoint. His defensive presence has picked up since the start of the season, but his offense has taken a little bit of a dive. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: A-

#12 Mike Fisher- Overall, Fisher hasn't been as productive as the Predators would have liked from an offensive standpoint so far this year. He brings a physical presence to the rink on a nightly basis, and has been pretty sound defensively. However, the Predators will need him to step up offensively in the second half of the season. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: C+

#13 Nick Spaling- Spaling is a key role player for the Predators. Nashville has never lost a game in regulation when Spaling has scored a goal, and he's a very valuable asset on the penalty kill. He's a good faceoff guy for the Preds, and you know what you're going to get out of him on a nightly basis. 20 game Grade: C Mid-season Grade: B

#15 Craig Smith- At the beginning of the season, Smith was the hot topic of conversation in Nashville. He scored seven goals in his first 15 games, and really seemed to be the offensive solution that the Predators desperately needed. Since then, Smith has just two goals in his last 26 games. He is still playing fairly well, but needs to get his confidence up. 20 game Grade: A+ Mid-season Grade: B

#22 Jordin Tootoo- Tootoo has already surpassed his previous career high in points(18) this season, and has posted 19 points in 39 games played. He's seen an increase in ice time, which shows that the coaching staff really trusts his game this year. 20 game Grade: C- Mid-season Grade: A

#23 Brian McGrattan- McGrattan's job is to be a strong, physical presence for Nashville. So far this season, he's done that job well. He's a great fighter, and he's not a liability on the ice. He's come very close to scoring goals this year on several different occasions. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: B+

#24 Matt Halischuk- Halischuk is quietly putting together a solid year for the Preds. He's got nine goals on the year while playing on the fourth line. That's pretty solid. He's played in every game so far for Nashville, and he's been an effective player. 20 game Grade: B Mid-season Grade: A-

#25 Jerred Smithson- Smithson is a guy that knows and accepts his role on this Predators team. He's a fourth line guy that is invaluable on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. He hasn't been producing offensively the way he would like to, but he's still having a solid season. 20 game Grade: B Mid-season Grade: B-

#27 Patric Hornqvist- Even though Hornqvist leads the team in goals with 11, he hasn't been the consistently productive player that Nashville needs him to be. Hornqvist has had a 19-game scoring drought this year. However, he's one of the toughest players on the team, and is never afraid to go to the hard areas. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: C+

#33 Colin Wilson- Wilson had a chip on his shoulder coming into the season. He was scratched for the entire first round series against Anaheim in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that really forced him to mature quickly. He's responded well, and has posted 23 points in 38 games played this year. 20 game Grade: A- Mid-season Grade: A-

#57 Gabriel Bourque- Since joining the Predators on December 28, Bourque hasn't given any reason to think that he'll be making a return trip to the AHL. He scored his first career NHL goal on January 5 against Dallas, and is a tenacious forward on a nightly basis. Look for his production to increase as the season moves forward. Mid-season Grade: B

#74 Sergei Kostitsyn- The knock on Kostitsyn has always been his lack of willingness to shoot the puck. He had a hat trick on three shots on New Year's Day, but has only registered 39 shots on the year so far. Kostitsyn has a load of offensive talent, but he needs to shoot the puck more as the season progresses. 20 game Grade: B- Mid-season Grade: C

DEFENSEMEN

#6 Shea Weber- Nashville's captain has been about as good as you can ask a defenseman to be. He's on pace to have 60 points this season, and looks to be well on his way to his first career Norris Trophy. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: A+

#7 Jonathon Blum- Blum has been reassigned to Milwaukee on two separate occasions, and really hasn't found his game yet this season. He has slightly improved as the season has progressed, but still hasn't found that form that made him successful during last season's playoff run. He needs to find his game in Milwaukee and regain confidence. 20 game Grade: D+ Mid-season Grade: D+

#8 Kevin Klein- So far this season, Klein has proven to be a valuable asset for the Predators. He specializes in blocking shots, and plays a key role on the Nashville penalty kill. While he's not playing as well as he did to start the season, he's still a good veteran presence on the Nashville blueline. 20 game Grade: A- Mid-season Grade: B

#20 Ryan Suter- Suter is playing the best hockey of his career so far this season. He's been a great mentor for the young defensemen in the Nashville system, and is on a good pace offensively. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: A+

#38 Jack Hillen- Hillen has had his ups and downs so far this season. He'll have games where he plays great, and he'll have other games where he gets caught out of position. He's got six points on the year, and will be an important piece for Nashville as the season moves along. 20 game Grade: C+ Mid-season Grade: C

#49 Ryan Ellis- While he's only played in five NHL games, Ellis has looked pretty steady since being called up from Milwaukee. It will be interesting to see how long he stays in Nashville moving forward. Mid-season Grade: B

#51 Francis Bouillon- Nashville's oldest defenseman has been a valuable player for them so far this season. He has fully recovered from the concussion that kept him out for almost half of the year in the 2010-2011 season, and has been steady on defense. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: B+

#59 Roman Josi- When Shea Weber was out with a concussion, Josi played very well on the number one defensive pairing with Ryan Suter. He's been one of the best surprises of the year for the Predators, and it looks like his NHL future is bright. Mid-season Grade: B+

GOALTENDERS

#35 Pekka Rinne- While he hasn't been his normal dominant self over the past few months, Rinne is still one of the best goalies in the league. He's second in the NHL in wins, but he's Goals Against Average is ranked 27th in the league. Nashville will go as far as Rinne takes them. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: B+

#39 Anders Lindback- Lindback has seen limited time so far this year, and has looked pretty average when he's been called upon. Lindback will be called upon to win a few games in the back half of the season, which could be critical for the Predators. 20 game Grade: C Mid-season Grade: C

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Smith scores first goal in 15 games in Preds 5-2 win



The Nashville Predators defeated the Carolina Hurricanes by a 5-2 score on Saturday night in front of the eighth consecutive sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

Shea Weber got the scoring started for the Predators when he fired a one-timer from the point past Carolina goaltender Justin Peters. Martin Erat gave Weber the beautiful setup, and the Predators' captain was able to hammer it in for his ninth goal of the season.

Craig Smith would kick off the offensive onslaught on the power play for the Predators in the first period when he blasted a one-timer past Peters for his first goal in 15 games.

"We were moving it pretty good. (Legwand) just kind of rolled up the wall, and I backed off and spread them out a little bit. They were cheating on Weber with his shot. It opened up a lane for me, and I just tried to get as much as I could on it," Smith said.

It was the first of four power play goals for the Predators on the night, and it was huge for the confidence of Smith. He hopes this goal will be a springboard for more goals in the coming games.

"You've got to think positively. It's nice to get that one out of the way. It's been a while so I'll just kind of build off of that and get ready for Tuesday. That's all you can do. Keep shooting the puck," Smith said.

The Predators would tally three more goals on the power play as the night went on. Patric Hornqvist accounted for two of the goals, and Ryan Ellis scored his first career NHL goal on the power play at 14:28 of the third period.

Jay Harrison scored both Carolina goals on the night, but the Hurricanes were never able to really establish a consistent offensive attack. Pekka Rinne played a solid game in net for the Predators, and made a few highlight-reel saves in the third period. Mike Fisher notched three assists on the night for Nashville.

The Predators will travel to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. After that game, the Predators and Avalanche will both travel to Nashville to square off once again on Thursday night.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Ryan Ellis(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Preds seem emotionally overcharged in 4-1 loss to Dallas



The build-up coming into Thursday night's matchup between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars was perhaps as high as it's been all season for Nashville. Shea Weber was making his return to the lineup against the team that injured him in the first place, and the franchise regular season sellout record was expected to be broken. The Stars weren't phased, however, and were able to defeat the Predators by a 4-1 score.

Nashville came out with a lot of energy, and really seemed to be focused on the physical aspect of the game. It really looked like the Predators were emotionally overcharged from the start of the game. Jordin Tootoo and Mark Fistric squared off 1:46 into the game in an anticlimactic fight that saw just one takedown by Tootoo. After that, it really seemed like the Predators struggled to find consistency in their game.

"I think we were focused a little bit in different areas. We try not to be, but sometimes it happens. We weren't sharp. We didn't have the execution that we normally do, and just had an all-around bad game," said Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.

Dallas got on the board first when Mike Ribeiro dangled past Roman Josi and Klein for a beautiful goal. Nashville would respond a little over four minutes later when Gabriel Bourque notched his first career NHL goal from the slot.

As the first period was drawing to a close, Ribeiro got his second goal of the night when he was able to tap a loose puck past Pekka Rinne. It was an odd play, and it gave the Stars all of the momentum heading into the second period.

"It was just a tip and it hit a couple of guys and bounced around. It just happened to get behind (Rinne), but we can't let that bother us. We were only down by one goal going into the second so we've got to be better in a lot of areas," Klein said.

Jamie Benn added another goal in the third period on a miscommunication behind the Nashville net. Ryan Suter reversed the puck behind the net and none of his teammates were there for the puck. Rinne didn't realize what had happened, and Benn was there for the easy goal. Adam Burish added another goal for the Stars in the final frame, and Dallas was able to coast to a 4-1 win.

Franchise history was made for the Predators on Thursday night. It was the seventh consecutive sellout , which is a regular season franchise record. The support from the fans has really seemed to give the team a boost this season.

"That's fantastic. We know the fans are behind us. We're being recognized more in the community. I think we're doing a lot more to sell the game, which is nice. It's nice to have the fans behind us for sure," Klein said.

Nashville will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, and will be looking to extend the sellout streak. Anders Lindback has been sent down to Milwaukee, and Jeremy Smith has been called up from the Admirals. While it's likely just to give Lindback more playing time, it will be interesting to see if Smith sees any playing time while up in Nashville.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Mike Ribeiro(DAL)
2. Loui Eriksson(DAL)
3. Kari Lehtonen(DAL)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Mike Ribeiro(DAL)
2. Kari Lehtonen(DAL)
3. Loui Eriksson(DAL)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nashville franchise has an opportunity to make history against Dallas



There was a time when the stability of the Nashville Predators franchise was in doubt. There was a time when it seemed as if it were only a matter of time before the Predators would be moved from Nashville to Hamilton, Ontario. As Thursday night's game against the Dallas Stars approaches, one thing is clear: That time is long, long gone.

The city of Nashville has an opportunity to make regular season franchise history on Thursday night at 7 p.m. against Dallas as the Predators aim for their seventh consecutive sellout. It's a pretty big deal for the franchise, and the fact that it could possibly come this early in the season is particularly impressive.

Dallas is coming off of a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night. The Stars currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference with 43 points, and have gone 5-5-0 in their past 10 games.

Nashville is coming off of a 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames. Sergei Kostitsyn notched his first career hat trick in that game, scoring on all three shots he took. Nashville has won three straight games and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.

All eyes will be on Shea Weber leading up to the game. It's unclear whether or not he will play Thursday night, but he has participated in both of the practices leading up to the game. Weber suffered a concussion on December 23 at Dallas.

In the last meeting between these two teams, Mark Fistric delivered a nasty hit to the head on Weber, which caused the concussion. It will be interesting to see how hard the hitting is between these two teams on Thursday night, especially when Fistric is the subject of the hit.

My player to watch for the Stars is Loui Eriksson. He's the second leading scorer on the Stars, and has a lot of offensive talent. The Gothenburg, Sweden native has five points in his last five games.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo's offense has been a big story this year for the Predators. He has already tied his career high for points in a season with 18, and he still has half of a season left to play. It will be interesting to see how he balances his physical game with his offensive game on Thursday night against the Stars.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Q&A with Ryan Ellis



On December 26, the Nashville Predators recalled defenseman Ryan Ellis from Milwaukee due to the injury to superstar captain Shea Weber. Since then, Ellis has fit in nicely with the Predators. He's averaging 17:11 of ice time per game, and has really looked good on the power play even though he has yet to register a point. His power play skills have even drawn praise from the coach of Nashville's biggest rival.

"(Ellis) is as good as there is in hockey on the power play. He's no slouch. He doesn't have the bomb that Weber has, but he has all of those other things. He's very deceptive, he can really see, he's got ice water in his veins and he's a great player. He's going to be a dominant power play guy," said Detroit Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock after Nashville's 4-1 loss to Detroit on December 26.

After practice on Tuesday, Hockey Night in Nashville caught up with Ellis on his birthday for a brief conversation. Here's what he had to say:

Hockey Night in Nashville: First off, Happy Birthday. Anything special planned?

Ryan Ellis: Thank you. No, not really. My dad is in town so I'll probably just grab dinner with him and celebrate quietly.

HNIN: You started the season in Milwaukee. How do you think that has helped your development?

Ellis: Well I think just kind of getting used to the speed and the size of the guys. It's different from junior hockey, and it's kind of allowed me to transition nicely.

HNIN: What was your "Welcome to the NHL" moment?

Ellis: Probably in our training camp this year when I tried to step up on Ovechkin and he dropped me. It was kind of one of those things.

HNIN: What's the biggest thing you've learned since being in Nashville the past week?

Ellis: I just think the pace and the attitude that you have to bring to the rink every day. You learn about it quick, and I think everyone is here to work hard and practice hard every day.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Players, fans enjoy open practice



The Nashville Predators held an open practice on Tuesday afternoon at A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin, Tennessee. The day began with a public skate at 1 p.m., and the open practice began at 3:30 p.m.

There were a lot of fans in attendance, which really made it a unique atmosphere for a practice.

"It's always fun to practice when there are more fans in the building. I was surprised there were so many that showed up. It was fun. Hopefully they had a good time too," said Predators forward Patric Hornqvist.

Shea Weber was the topic of conversation around practice. Nashville's captain participated in the full practice, and really looked like he was in good condition. While there is still no timetable for his return, his presence on the ice was a welcome sight to the other players in the locker room.

"It was great. He brings so much energy to this room. It was nice to have him back. He's one of the best defensemen in the league, and he's going to help for sure," Hornqvist said.

Nashville doesn't play again until Thursday night when Dallas comes to town. The Predators played four games in seven nights last week, and were able to come away with three wins.

"It was nice coming up with three big wins, and hopefully we can keep rolling and building on that now," Hornqvist said.

Tuesday's practice was a unique experience for all involved. The pace of the practice seemed to be higher than normal, and the fans seemed to really enjoy being in attendance.

"There had to be close to 1,000 fans here today," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. "The fans give us a lot of energy at the game, and they gave us a lot of energy at the practice today."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hornqvist contributes on his birthday in Preds 5-3 win



The Nashville Predators defeated the Calgary Flames by a 5-3 score on Sunday night in front of the 11th sellout crowd of the season at Bridgestone Arena. Sergei Kostitsyn notched his first career hat trick to propel the Predators to the win. With the win, the Predators ended the season series with the Flames with a 3-1-0 record.

Calgary got the scoring started in the game when Jarome Iginla scored his 499th career goal. Iginla planted himself in front of the net, and was able to one-time the puck past Pekka Rinne on a great pass from Olli Jokinen, who was playing in his 1,000th career NHL game.

Kevin Klein, who made his return to the lineup after missing six games with complications from the flu, tied the game at one for the Predators when he rifled one past Miikka Kiprusoff from the point.

Kostitsyn scored his first goal of the night at 15:06 of the first period on a beautiful feed from Mike Fisher. Patric Hornqvist was able to keep the play alive behind the net and give the puck to Fisher, which resulted in essentially an open net goal for Kostitsyn.

"I saw Sergei on the point. I got it behind the net and tried to get separation between me and the D-man. (Fisher) just picked it up and made a great pass to Sergei. He really went hard for that, and it was a big goal to really get us going there," Hornqvist said.

Nashville used that momentum, and came out flying in the second period. Matt Halischuk scored his ninth goal of the season on a snap shot from right in front of the net.

Kostitsyn scored again at 5:59 of the second period on a 2-on-1 rush. He had Hornqvist on his left side, but opted to take the shot. He wristed one through the five-hole of Kiprusoff to give the Predators a 4-1 lead.

In the third period, the Flames would make a push to get back in the game. Rene Bourque and Brendan Morrison both scored for the Flames in the final frame, but Kostitsyn put the game away for the Predators with an empty-net hat trick goal.

It wasn't the typical Nashville vs. Calgary game. There was a lot of space for players to try and create offense, and the goaltending wasn't as sharp as it usually is.

"Usually it's 1-0 or 1-1 or whatever. I think it was a little sloppy there in the end for our side. We have to stay focused for 60 minutes. If we do that, we know we have a chance to win every single game," Hornqvist said.

Hornqvist celebrated his 25th birthday on Sunday night. He had two assists in the win, and had plans for a birthday celebration after the game.

"Hopefully it will be a good dinner here with a couple of teammates, and I've got a couple of friends in town," Hornqvist said.

Nashville doesn't play again until Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena against the Dallas Stars.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
2. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)
3. Matt Halischuk(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
2. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)
3. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Calgary comes to town for final time this season



The Nashville Predators will take on the Calgary Flames for the final time in the 2011-2012 season tonight at Bridgestone Arena at a special 5 p.m. start time. The Predators have gone 2-1-0 against the Flames this year in the previous three meetings.

Calgary superstar Jarome Iginla enters tonight's contest just two goals away from 500 goals for his career. He's been a consistent player for the Flames since he first broke into the NHL in the 1996-1997 season.

"He's got a really good shot. He knows how to get in position. You can't teach scoring. You just have to have a knack for it, and he's been one of the best players of this era," said Predators defenseman Jack Hillen.

"When you think of a power forward, that's one of the first names you think about in the National Hockey League for probably the last 10 years. When he's playing that straight-line game and hammering pucks at the net, he's a force," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

Colin Wilson and Shea Weber will not being playing in tonight's game. Weber is out with a concussion, and Wilson suffered an upper body injury that kept him out of the lineup against St. Louis. Kevin Klein will return to the lineup tonight for the Predators.

My player to watch for the Flames is Miikka Kiprusoff. He usually plays a very good game against the Predators, and tonight's game will probably be no different. The Predators will have to generate a lot of shots on Kiprusoff, and capitalize on the rebounds after he makes the initial save.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Pekka Rinne. Rinne has allowed a combined two goals in the last two games, and hasn't allowed a goal in the shootout in eight attempts during the same time frame.

"(Rinne) has been outstanding in the last few games here. I just think he's been really sharp, and when you need that big save he's been able to do that. He's been really battling. Teams have been really crashing on him, and he's been really solid for us," Trotz said.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)