Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Intensity still there for Preds despite cushion in standings



On March 1st of 2011, the Nashville Predators found themselves in 10th place in the Western Conference standings and battling just to make it into the postseason picture. On March 1st of 2012, the Predators find themselves in a different situation.

Nashville currently sits in fifth place in the Western Conference with a 10-point cushion on the eighth place Dallas Stars. They are still in contention for the Central Division title, and still have a chance of winning the number one overall seed in the Western Conference going into the playoffs.

Given that the Predators aren't on the playoff bubble coming into March for a change, is there still the same sense of urgency with this year's team as there would be if they were battling for the final playoff spot?

"It's still the same. The good thing about this year is that we have a chance to catch the guys ahead of us. If we play well down the stretch, we have that opportunity to maybe take first in our division. I think the pressure is still there because there are a bunch of good teams chasing us right now. We definitely want to look ahead and not behind us," said Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.

"We're in a different situation than we were last year. We're pushing to win the division, so every game is important. We're just trying to get as many points as we can," said Predators forward Matt Halischuk.

Nashville is a much younger team this year than they were in the 2010-2011 season. The Predators lost veteran players like Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont in the offseason, and began the season as the youngest team in the NHL. That is not usually a recipe for success.

Still, the Predators have overcome their youth so far this year. They are actually a better team than they were last year, and a lot of that has been due to the stellar play of Nashville's rookies when they have been called upon.

"I think everyone is just improving as a player. We've had a lot of young guys come in and step up and play very well for us. We do have a lot of youth, and they are doing a great job handling the pressures. The last 20 games will be kind of a precursor to the playoffs. It will be good to see how they handle it," Klein said.

As has become expected around Music City, Barry Trotz has his team right in the thick of things as the calendar turns to March. The Predators have always been known for being a team that works hard, no matter how much talent they have on the ice. This year, that hard work has been combined with a little more talent, which has made the Predators even tougher to contend with on a nightly basis.

"There's obviously different personnel, but the same identity is still there. We want to be a hard-working team and try to grind teams down," Halischuk said.

So far this season, the Predators have been grinding teams down with regularity. They are one of only five teams to surpass the 80-point threshold so far this season, and they are within six points of the Central Division lead.

March will be the most critical month of the season for the Predators. With the depth that the additions of Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad gives them, expect Nashville to make a serious push for the Central Division title.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lindback's misfortune continues in Preds loss to Carolina



The Carolina Hurricanes held on to defeat the Nashville Predators by a 4-3 score on Tuesday night at the RBC Center. Carolina used two power play goals to put them over the top.

Anders Lindback started in net for the Predators, and got the loss for the sixth consecutive time that he has appeared in a game. Despite giving up four goals, Lindback played a pretty solid game. Nashville took six penalties on the night, which put them at a disadvantage for a significant portion of the game.

Nashville got goals from Craig Smith, Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque. However, the three goal output wasn't enough. Untimely penalties, defensive lapses, average goaltending and bad turnovers proved to be the difference in the game.

Carolina got goals from Jamie McBain, Eric Staal, Tim Brent and Bryan Allen on the night. Staal played a fantastic game for the Hurricanes, recording one goal and two assists on the night.

It was very clear that Carolina had more energy throughout the night than the Predators did. Carolina outworked the Predators for the majority of the night, and they won the battles along the wall. It was a good effort from the Hurricanes, and Nashville couldn't get that big goal near the end of the game like they have throughout this season.

The Predators will now get a few days off to rest. After playing five games in the past eight nights, the Predators will now have a three day break before taking on the Florida Panthers on Saturday night in Sunrise.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Eric Staal(CAR)
2. Bryan Allen(CAR)
3. Jeff Skinner(CAR)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Eric Staal(CAR)
2. Bryan Allen(CAR)
3. Jeff Skinner(CAR)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Nashville looking to sweep Carolina



The Nashville Predators will take on the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center at 6 pm CT on Tuesday night from Raleigh. It will be the second game in a back-to-back set for the Predators. Nashville was able to hold on to defeat the Los Angeles Kings by a 2-1 score on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena.

Carolina is coming off of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. The Hurricanes currently sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, and are extremely unlikely to make the playoffs this year. Still, the Hurricanes have young talent that is capable of scoring goals at any time.

Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad will join the Predators in Carolina for their first game in a Nashville uniform. Anders Lindback will start in net for the Predators, which will allow Pekka Rinne to get some rest.

In the first meeting between these two clubs this year, the Predators dominated the Hurricanes en route to a 5-2 win. Ryan Ellis scored his first NHL goal against Carolina, and he will likely be in the lineup tonight due to an injury to Kevin Klein.

My player to watch for the Hurricanes is Eric Staal. Staal has been one of the most talented offensive players in the NHL over the past few years, and is still producing at a high level with Carolina this year. Staal leads the Hurricanes with 51 points, and is 19 points ahead of Carolina's second leading scorers.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Lindback. Lindback has struggled so far this year, and a win tonight could go a long way for his confidence. If he's able to get some goal support, Lindback could be on the way to his third win of the year.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds serious about competing for Cup



With the acquisition of Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad on Monday, along with the acquisition of Hal Gill on February 17th, the Nashville Predators were considered big winners of the trade deadline by almost all of the experts and pundits. But what will the newest Predators bring to the lineup for the remainder of the season, and will these moves by David Poile be enough to solve the Ryan Suter and Shea Weber situation?

ANDREI KOSTITSYN

The decision to reunite Andrei with his younger brother Sergei has been met with mixed emotions across Pred Nation over the past 24 hours. It has been reported that the two brothers didn't mesh well while they were in Montreal, but there have also been reports stating that there were no major problems between the two at all when they were both members of the Canadiens.

Since coming to Nashville, Sergei has thrived. He was the leading goal scorer for the Predators in the 2010-2011 season, and is having another productive year for Nashville this season. The Predators hope to work the same sort of magic with Andrei.

Andrei has been a 20 goal-scorer in three out of the past four years in the NHL. This season with a Montreal team that has been in disarray, he had 12 goals and 12 assists. However, if he's able to live up to his potential in Nashville, the Predators will have acquired a true difference maker. He has a rocket for a shot, and he has the ability to make a highlight-reel play when he has the puck.

PAUL GAUSTAD

Gaustad is a guy that is excellent in the faceoff circle, and he brings an added element of size that the Predators lack at the center position. He's not a huge offensive threat, but he's a guy that can play in a lot of different situations on a nightly basis.

He's not afraid to drop the gloves and stick up for his teammates. Gaustad adds another veteran leader to the lineup, and is really a replacement of Jerred Smithson in a lot of ways. He's a top 10 faceoff guy, brings a physical edge to his game and has a lot of leadership skills. He could have a huge impact for the Predators during the playoff run.

HAL GILL


Gill's impact has already been on display. The Predators are 4-0-1 since Gill has been in the lineup, and his presence on the penalty kill has been felt. He absolutely shut down the Ryan Kesler line in the Predators 3-1 victory over Vancouver last Tuesday night, and his big body allows him to make certain plays that other defensemen can't make.

One of the most valuable assets that Gill has is his experience. He has played in more regular season games in his career than the Predators have as a franchise. He's won a Stanley Cup, and he knows what it takes to get the job done. Tools like that are invaluable come playoff time.

IMPACT ON THIS SEASON

With these new additions, the Predators have addressed the necessary areas that they needed to in order to compete for the Central Division title and to compete for the Stanley Cup.

In last year's second round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, Kesler was the big difference in that series. The Predators didn't have a sufficient shutdown defensemen on the second defensive pairing. With the addition of Gill, they have that physical player that can be a huge difference maker.

With the addition of Andrei, the Predators have added another top-six forward. He is a guy that has the potential to be an electrifying player. He just has to prove that he can. The new environment in Nashville could be the spark that will increase his productivity. It definitely worked for his brother.

Gaustad adds the physical, gritty forward. Most of all, however, he adds depth at the center position. Depth is the common theme with all of the acquistions that Nashville has made. The Predators are now a deep hockey team, and that depth will be absolutely crucial during the playoff run. Each of the new players that the Predators added are rental players, which means that the Predators are going for it all this season.

SUTER/WEBER

One of the hot topics around the NHL is how do these acquisitions by the Predators affect the future of Suter and Weber?

Suter and Weber have made no secret about the fact that they want to win. With the additions that Poile has made over the past two weeks, he has sent a message to Suter and Weber that the Predators are serious about competing for a Stanley Cup championship.

Will the new additions be enough to convince Suter and Weber to sign a long-term deal with the Predators? Only time will tell. But one thing is clear: The Predators are no longer satisfied with being a good team. They want to be a great team.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Preds beat Kings, move within four points of division lead



The Nashville Predators were able to hold on to defeat the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night in front of 15,665 at Bridgestone Arena. Pekka Rinne made 30 saves on the night, and recorded his 35th win of the season.

Nashville came out pretty well in the first period. The two teams had a good pace during the opening frame. There wasn't a stoppage in play until 3:44 into the period. At 18:27 of the first period, Roman Josi gave the Predators a 1-0 lead by simply putting the puck on net.

"It was just kind of a rush and (Legwand) made a good play in our zone, passed it to the middle and I had some time. I saw guys crossing to the net so I just tried to put it there. I think it went off the defenseman's stick so it was kind of lucky," Josi said.

Patric Hornqvist gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 3:52 of the second period. David Legwand fired a shot wide of Jonathan Quick that went behind the net. Hornqvist was in good position for the rebound and put the puck into an essentially wide open net.

In the third period, Dustin Brown would spoil Rinne's shutout effort when he fired a puck at the net that deflected in off of Ryan Suter. However, the Predators would hold on for the one-goal victory.

With the win, the Predators are now 4-0-1 since acquiring Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens. He's been a steady force on the defensive end, and his penalty killing efforts have been extremely valuable for the Predator so far.

"It's been great. He does all of the little things right. He's great defensively and always makes the right play. He talks to me a lot so it makes it easy for me. I get to learn a lot," Josi said.

Nashville added two more pieces on Monday before the trading deadline. Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad were acquired by Nashville on Monday afternoon, which gave the locker room a bit of a boost.

"It gave us a good boost. We were focused on the game today, but it was kind of like a special day with all of those trades. I think they are two great players. It gives us a boost, and it gives us more depth," Josi said.

With the win, the Predators are now four points behind St. Louis and Detroit for the Central Division lead. Nashville will travel to Carolina on Tuesday to take on the Hurricanes for the second time this season. If the Predators win, they can potentially pull within two points of the division lead if Detroit loses to Columbus in regulation.

"It's really important. We've got to play a little better than we did today. We didn't play as well as we hoped to, and we made it closer than it should be at the end. It's going to be another huge game tomorrow. We're trying to catch St. Louis and Detroit," Josi said.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. David Legwand(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Roman Josi(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Press Release: Ellis recalled to Nashville

The Nashville Predators have recalled Ryan Ellis from the Milwaukee Admirals. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 27, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has recalled defenseman Ryan Ellis from Milwaukee (AHL).

Ellis, 21 (1/3/91), has appeared in 22 games for Nashville this season, posting nine points (3g-6a), including two game-winning goals, and a plus-eight rating. Nashville has posted a 16-5-1 with Ellis in the lineup. He was reassigned to Milwaukee on Friday, and posted one assist in three games, giving him 18 points (4g-14a) in 26 AHL games.


Press Release: Preds acquire Gaustad from Buffalo



The Nashville Predators have acquired Paul Gaustad and a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. It was Nashville's second trade of the day after acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn earlier in the day. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 27, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired forward Paul Gaustad and a fourth-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft from Buffalo for a first-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft.

Gaustad, 30 (2/3/82), has 17 points (7g-10a) and 70 penalty minutes in 56 games for the Sabres this season, in addition to ranking 10th in the League in face-off efficiency (56.8 percent) and eighth among forwards in average shorthanded ice time (2:52). The 6-5, 220-pound center has finished among the NHL’s Top 10 in face-offs each of the past two seasons (third in 2010-11, 59.8 percent and sixth in 2009-10, 57.4 percent). In 479 career games with Buffalo, the Fargo, N.D., native has amassed 181 points (71g-110a) and 585 penalty minutes. The seventh-round selection (220th overall) by Buffalo in the 2000 Entry Draft also has eight assists in 38 playoff games.

Press Release: Nashville acquires Andrei Kostitsyn



The Nashville Predators have acquired Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and the conditional fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft that the Predators acquired in the Hal Gill trade. The official press release is here:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 27, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired forward Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft, in addition to the conditional 2013 fifth-round pick Nashville acquired from Montreal along with Hal Gill in a trade 10 days ago. Kostitsyn is expected to meet the team for its game in Carolina tomorrow.

Kostitsyn, 27 (2/3/85), has 24 points (12g-12a) in 53 games for the Canadiens in 2011-12. The brother of current Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn has suited up for 379 NHL games since the start of the 2005-06 campaign – all with the Habs – amassing 99 goals and 210 points. He is a three-time 20-goal scorer, notching career highs in both goals (26) and points (53) during the 2007-08 campaign. The 6-0, 205-pound right wing has also helped Montreal advance to the postseason the past four years, amassing 19 points (11g-9a) in 41 career playoff games.

The Novopolotsk, Belarus, native was drafted 10th overall (first round) by Montreal in the 2003 Entry Draft held at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators look to finish off their final extended homestand of the season on a high note when the L.A. Kings make a stop in Smashville tonight (7 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game, Dollar Dog Night). The Predators then hit the road for the rest of the week, making stops in Carolina on Tuesday (6 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game) and Florida on Saturday (6:30 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game), while the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament takes over Bridgestone Arena. Limited tickets are available for remaining Nashville Predators home games; to purchase, visit nashvillepredators.com, ticketmaster.com or call 615-770-PUCK (7825).
Special Predators Ticket offer for Friends & Family: Use special offer code "preds"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tootoo's blocked shot kick-starts Preds rout of San Jose



The Nashville Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks by a 6-2 score on Saturday night in front of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. It was Nashville's third victory in their past four games, and it is their ninth home victory in the past 11 home games.

Nashville took a 1-0 lead just 2:03 into the first period. Jordin Tootoo blocked a shot from San Jose's Colin White from the point, and took the puck down the ice into the San Jose zone. Tootoo was able to draw both San Jose defenders over to him, and then fed the puck to Colin Wilson for the goal.

"One area where we have to be a lot better is getting out to the points and blocking shots. Fortunately, we got a good bounce there. It went off of me and (Wilson) drove to the net hard," Tootoo said.

Shea Weber gave the Predators a 2-0 lead just 1:20 later when he joined the odd-man rush with Sergei Kostitysn and Martin Erat. Weber showed tremendous speed on the play, and was able to convert on a beautiful feed from Erat. Just like that, the Predators had two goals on their first two shots of the game.

"Our starts have got to be better. The last couple of games, we haven't been that great in the first five minutes. Tonight, we just wanted to stick to the basics and out-work them, and that's what we did," Tootoo said.

Patrick Marleau responded for the Sharks at 10:58 of the first period when he was able to fire a wrist shot through traffic and into the net. Five minutes later, however, Kevin Klein would re-establish the two-goal lead for the Predators when he beat Antii Niemi with a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle. That would be the end of the night for Niemi. Thomas Greiss was brought in to relieve Niemi after Klein's goal.

At the start of the second period, it looked like the Sharks might be on the comeback trail. Joe Pavelski scored just 23 seconds into the period to bring San Jose within one goal once again. Nashville would respond again, however, when Weber fired a bomb past Greiss for a power play goal to increase the lead to 4-2.

In the third period, San Jose out-shot the Predators by a 16-3 margin. However, Nashville would score two goals on their three shots while the Sharks weren't able to score in the final frame. Erat added an empty-net goal to make it 5-2, and Nick Spaling scored from the slot to make it 6-2 with 42 seconds remaining in the game. The Predators ran out the clock and got a good bounce-back victory.

With another home victory, the Predators have not lost in regulation on home ice since January 5th against the Dallas Stars. The home ice advantage that seemed to be missing at the beginning of the year has returned.

"Mentally, for teams that come in here, they know that it's a little strenuous. Obviously, it's a good thing for us. We can't worry about the past. We've got to move ahead here one game at a time, and we need points every night," Tootoo said.

Saturday night's crowd was the 17th sellout crowd of the 2011-2012 season for the Predators, which is already one more sellout than Nashville had in the 2010-2011 regular season. The Predators are on pace to break their regular season sellout record of 20 games, which was set in the 1999-2000 season.

"It's been unbelievable. Our fan base and the support around the city has just been mind-blowing. For us players, we really appreciate their support. It's loud out there, which creates energy. In some games when things aren't going our way, they raise the intensity a little bit. It's great for us to feed off of," Tootoo said.

Nashville will host the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. The trading deadline is also on Monday, so it will be interesting to see if the Predators make any moves between now and then.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)
3. Patrick Marleau(SJS)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Patrick Marleau(SJS)
3. Colin Wilson(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Pavelski previews Preds



After San Jose's morning skate on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, Hockey Night in Nashville caught up with the Sharks' Joe Pavelski for a quick chat about tonight's game against Nashville, their nine-game road-trip and trying to stay ahead of Phoenix in the Pacific Division. Here's what he had to say:

HNIN:- It's the eighth game in a nine-game road-trip for you guys tonight. How taxing has the road-trip been?

Pavelski:- There have been stretches but there are no excuses. We've had our time to rest along the way, and we've got to show up with a high-quality game.

HNIN:- Phoenix is right behind you guys in the Pacific Division. How important is it to get a win tonight to maintain the division lead?

Pavelski:- Well, (Nashville) is higher than us so we're trying to look ahead more than look back. It's going to be a good, hard game tonight. They're a good team and they seem to be ready so it's important for us to show up.

HNIN:- What's the biggest thing you see when you prepare for Nashville?

Pavelski:- They're detailed. They've got good defense so those guys can get up, and they like to join. We've got to make sure that we make it hard on them. We've got to finish our checks and put ourselves in position to keep them from jumping up.

Preds host Sharks in first game after trading Smithson



The Nashville Predators will host the San Jose Sharks tonight at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. Tonight's game will be the eighth consecutive road game for the Sharks, who have posted a 2-4-1 record on their current roadtrip.

Nashville is coming off of a disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. They will be looking to keep pace with the Blues with a win tonight against the high-powered Sharks.

On Friday afternoon, the Predators traded Jerred Smithson to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. Tonight's game will be the first game without Smithson on the Nashville roster since the 2005-2006 season.

"We're going to miss (Smithson). He's been around this dressing room for a long time. He's a great person, a great player and we're definitely going to miss him in the room. It's tough when you lose your friend. I've just got to wish him good luck in Florida, and I'm sure he'll do well and fit in there," said Nashville Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.

"It's definitely tough to see a veteran guy like that go. He's a guy that I definitely looked up to from my time here, and he's definitely going to be missed in the room," said Predators forward Matt Halischuk.

San Jose will be a desperate hockey team tonight. They are trying to fend off the Phoenix Coyotes in the Pacific Division, who could take over the division lead today with a win in Edmonton if the Sharks were to lose to Nashville tonight. The Predators are prepared for a playoff-style game.

"It's going to be a hard, tight-checking game. Obviously, we want to make sure that we're not turning pucks over and giving them rush opportunities. It should be fun. The building should be great. It's Saturday so it should be fun," Halischuk said.

My player to watch for the Sharks is Logan Couture. He leads San Jose in the goal department, and is a rising young star in the NHL. Nashville will have to limit his time and space.

For the Predators, my player to watch is Ryan Suter. Suter, along with his partner Shea Weber, will likely see close to 30 minutes of ice time tonight against San Jose. The key in this game for the Predators, however, may be the power play. Suter does a good job of quarterbacking the power play, and that will be critical tonight against the Sharks.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Press release: Smithson traded to Florida



The Nashville Predators have traded veteran forward Jerred Smithson to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round pick. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 24, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired a sixth-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft in exchange for forward Jerred Smithson.

The Predators now have nine draft picks for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to be held June 22-23, 2012 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. – their own picks in the first, and fourth through seventh rounds, in addition Toronto’s third-round pick, Phoenix’s fourth rounder and both Florida and the New York Rangers’ sixth-round selections.

Smithson, 33 (2/4/79), suited up for 497 regular-season games for the Predators from 2005-12, the sixth-most in franchise history, amassing 86 points (36g-50a) and 313 penalty minutes. The Vernon, B.C., native has appeared in each of the Predators last five playoff appearances as well, and ranks fifth in the franchise’s postseason games played list (31). On April 22, 2011 in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. Anaheim, he scored the first overtime goal in Predators postseason history, helping Nashville win its first ever playoff series the following game.


(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Press Release: Ellis sent back to Milwaukee



The Nashville Predators announced today that Ryan Ellis has been reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 24, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has reassigned defenseman Ryan Ellis to Milwaukee (AHL).

Ellis, 21 (1/3/91), has appeared in 22 games for Nashville this season, posting nine points (3g-6a), including two game-winning goals, and a plus-eight rating. He returns to Milwaukee where he started the season, posting 17 points (4g-13a) in 26 games. He was named to the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic, but missed the contest due to his recall.
The Predators finish off their final extended homestand of the season with visits from the San Jose Sharks on Saturday (7 p.m., 102.5 The Game, McDonald’s Family Four Pack) and the L.A. Kings on Monday (7 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game, Dollar Dog Night). When the Sharks come calling on Saturday, the Predators will also be honoring former Associate Coach and current Hockey Operations Advisor Brent Peterson with a Brent Peterson Appreciation/Parkinson’s Awareness Night. Peterson will be recognized for his contributions to the organization, and courage for taking his battle with Parkinson’s to the public. To purchase tickets, visit nashvillepredators.com, ticketmaster.com or call 615-770-PUCK (7825).


(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Halak stones Preds in shootout to propel St. Louis to victory



The St. Louis Blues were able to get an elusive victory in Nashville on Thursday night, defeating the Predators in a shootout by a 3-2 score. It was the first time this year that the Blues were able to get two points against the Predators.

St. Louis dominated the first period. Aside from the first four minutes of play, the Blues were consistently in control of the puck for the opening period. Chris Stewart got the Blues on the board on an odd play in front of the net. The puck actually went in the net off the skate of Kevin Klein after former Nashville captain Jason Arnott threw the puck to the front of the net.

Nashville was lucky to escape the first period only trailing by a goal. They responded with a much better effort in the second period. Roman Josi tied the game at one when he was able to convert on a great pass from Brandon Yip on a 2-on-1 rush.

Colin Wilson gave the Predators the lead at 12:52 of the second period when he was able to convert on a beautiful backhand goal. Jordin Tootoo and Nick Spaling did an excellent job forechecking, which led to the goal by Wilson.

"It was a good job by (Spaling) and (Tootoo) forechecking. The puck bounced out, and I just wanted to get a quick backhand on net," Wilson said.

It was the second time in the last three games that Wilson had scored a goal on a backhand shot. The backhand shot can really be a valuable weapon because it's a lot harder for goaltenders to read.

"Goalies never know where the puck is going off of a backhand shot. You can't read it very well. That's what happened on those last two goals," Wilson said.

Vladimir Sobotka tied the game for the Blues on a backhand shot that beat Pekka Rinne. It was a bit of a broken play in front of the Nashville net, and Sobotka made a great play to get his stick on the bouncing puck for the shot.

The game remained scoreless throughout the third period and overtime. In the shootout, T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald scored for the Blues while Colin Wilson and Martin Erat were both unsuccessful for the Predators. St. Louis was finally able to defeat Nashville, which should provide them with a lot of confidence moving forward.

Shooters have differing styles when it comes to making a move in the shootout. There is time to plan a move, but sometimes shooters are forced to change their plan due to unforseen circumstances.

"Sometimes it's read and react and sometimes you have a move. Tonight, I was going to go backhand and go up, but I had to react because the puck jumped up. I wasn't too trusting in my backhand there so I tried to go five-hole," Wilson said.

Nashville will try to bounce back from the shootout loss when they host the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Colin Wilson(NSH)
2. Vladimir Sobotka(STL)
3. Jaroslav Halak(STL)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Vladimir Sobotka(STL)
2. Colin Wilson(NSH)
3. Roman Josi(NSH)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Preds look to continue dominance over St. Louis



The Nashville Predators will host the St. Louis Blues for the third and final time in the regular season on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville will look to improve their sparkling 4-0-0 record against the Blues so far this year and pull within one point of St. Louis in the Central Division.

St. Louis is coming off of a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. The Blues will be playing the back end of a back-to-back set on Thursday night against the Predators. So far this season, the Blues have simply been unable to solve Pekka Rinne. St. Louis has scored a combined five goals in the four previous meetings between the two teams this year.

Nashville is coming off of a thrilling 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night. Mike Fisher played a stellar game for the Predators, picking up three points on the night. Fisher, along with his linemates Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn, will need to continue to produce offensively for the Predators.

Jaroslav Halak will likely start in net for the Blues on Thursday night, while Rinne will almost assuredly get the call for the Predators. This is a pivotal game for both teams. If the Predators are able to win in regulation, they will be one point behind St. Louis in the standings. If the Blues are finally able to get the elusive win over the Predators, they will have a nice five point cushion on Nashville moving forward.

My player to watch for the Blues is Andy McDonald. Thursday night's game will be McDonald's first against Nashville since October 8th of 2011. He didn't play in the last three contests between these two teams due to injury. McDonald is a player that adds another offensive element to the Blues roster. McDonald helps to solidify the St. Louis lineup, and it gives them three lines that have a legitimate chance to score each time they are on the ice.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Erat. He has posted four points in three games played against the Blues so far this season, and also scored the game-winning shootout goal against St. Louis on December 30. With 44 points on the season so far, Erat is Nashville's leading point producer.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preds limit Vancouver's 'low plays' in 3-1 win



The Nashville Predators defeated the Vancouver Canucks by a 3-1 score on Tuesday night in front of 16,769 at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville's special teams proved to be the difference in the game. The Predators scored a power play goal and a shorthanded goal in the second period.

Mike Fisher got the scoring started for the Predators on the power play after missing Sunday night's game with the flu. Martin Erat and Ryan Suter made two smooth passes to enable Fisher to score on an easy tap in on the doorstep.

Francis Bouillon took a tripping penalty at 12:29 of the second period that put the Canucks on the power play. While shorthanded, Hal Gill made a great play to tip the puck to Fisher who stormed up the ice with Sergei Kostitsyn on an odd-man rush. Fisher made a great pass to Kostitsyn, who was able to blow it by Roberto Luongo to give the Predators a 2-0 lead. Gill's defensive awareness made the shorthanded goal possible. He was a difference-maker for the Predators all night, and he really made his presence felt.

"He's a big body and he did a great job. He's always a force out there. It's obviously nice to have a big guy like him. He has such a long reach, and he's using his big body and strength," said Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.

Dale Weise was able to capitalize on a David Legwand giveaway to pull the Canucks within one goal at 16:52 of the second period. However, Nashville would come out of the second period with a 2-1 lead thanks to their penalty kill.

"We had a couple of penalty kills in the second period. The guys battled hard, and they didn't get too much going on. We always got the puck down the ice, and that was key in the game," Rinne said.

Legwand added another goal for the Predators in the third period to ice the game away for Nashville. Luongo, along with a little help from the crossbar, really kept Vancouver alive in the third period. However, the Predators were just too much for the Canucks, and they walked away with the 3-1 victory.

Nashville did a great job of eliminating the Vancouver cycle on Tuesday night. The Canucks were forced to shoot from outside for most of the night, and they didn't have a lot of prime scoring chances.

"I think we did a better job of cutting their low plays. They like to cycle the puck and they're really good at playing down low. I think that's the one area that we focused on. It's always easier when we box out guys, and maybe let a few more shots from the point. It's dangerous, but it's a better option than those low plays," Rinne said.

The Predators will return to action on Thursday night when they host the St. Louis Blues. Nashville has posted a 4-0-0 record against the Blues so far this season, and will be looking to continue their dominance against them.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Mike Fisher(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Nashville kicks off crucial homestand against Vancouver



The Nashville Predators will square off with the Vancouver Canucks for the final time in the 2011-2012 regular season on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. In their last meeting, Vancouver walked away from Bridgestone Arena with a 4-3 shootout victory.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Sunday night. It was only the fourth time that the Predators have won since the All-Star break. With that win behind them, the Predators will now look to put together a winning streak this week within the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena.

Vancouver got a victory of their own on Sunday night against the Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks sit atop the Northwest Division with a 38-15-6 record, and have a firm hold on the second spot in the Western Conference with 82 points. The Canucks have been playing stellar hockey, going 8-0-2 in their last 10 games.

Tonight's game against Vancouver is the first of three critical Western Conference contests this week for the Predators. They will take on the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night and the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Expect to see playoff-style hockey throughout the week, starting tonight against Vancouver.

My player to watch for the Canucks is Alexandre Burrows. According to Amanda Dipaolo of Inside Smashville, Burrows will be playing in his 500th career game tonight. He's always been a pest when playing against Nashville.

For the Predators, my player to watch is Craig Smith. Smith has racked up 11 shots in his past five games but hasn't found his way onto the scoresheet. Smith has been getting plenty of opportunities lately, but he just hasn't been able to cash in of late. Look for him to get on the board tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds recall Mueller from Milwaukee

The Nashville Predators have recalled forward Chris Mueller from the Milwaukee Admirals. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 21, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has recalled forward Chris Mueller (KRIHS MEW-luhr) from Milwaukee (AHL).

Mueller, 25 (3/6/86), has been recalled twice already this season, going pointless in four NHL games. The West Seneca, N.Y., native is ranks seventh in the AHL in goals in addition to being tied for the League lead in game-winning goals (6). The 5-11, 203-pound center – who appeared in the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic last month – also leads the Admirals in points (23g-15a-38pts) through 48 games in 2011-12.

The Nashville Predators kick off a four-game homestand, their final extended stay of the season, tonight against the 2010-11 Western Conference Champion Vancouver Canucks (7 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game, Daily’s Super Tuesday). The homestand will see visits from the division rival St. Louis Blues on Thursday (7 p.m., 102.5 The Game, College Night), the San Jose Sharks on Saturday (7 p.m., 102.5 The Game, McDonald’s Family Four Pack) and the L.A. Kings on Monday (7 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game, Dollar Dog Night). To purchase tickets, visit nashvillepredators.com, ticketmaster.com or call 615-770-PUCK (7825).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Does regular season advantage translate into postseason success?



The final two months of the NHL season are rapidly approaching, bringing with it the added anticipation and excitement from fans all around the league. Teams across the NHL that are fortunate enough to still be in playoff contention are gearing up for their final push in the battle for playoff positioning.

As the playoff picture slowly begins to come into focus, experts and fans around the league begin to dissect all of the possible first round matchups that may take place come mid-April. One of the most prevalent things that people look to help dissect a possible playoff series is the regular season series between the two respective teams. How did they stack up against one another, and what sort of impact does the outcome of the regular season series have on the series in the first round of the playoffs?

Since the 2003-2004 NHL season, there have been 56 different series in the first round of the playoffs. Thirty-five of those 56 matchups involved a team that had beaten its first round opponent in the regular season series of that same year. Did the regular season success benefit those teams in the first round matchups? The statistics show that it really depends on the conference.

Twenty-one of the 35 teams that won the regular season series also won the first round matchup between the two teams in the playoffs. In the Western Conference, however, the regular season series seemed to be meaningless. Of the 12 Western Conference teams that held a regular season advantage on their first round opponent, only six of them were able to win the postseason series against that same opponent.

The regular season series winners in the Eastern Conference had more success, however. Thirteen of the 21 teams that won the regular season series also won the matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

Today's NHL has perhaps as much parity as any other league on the planet. Because of that parity, there isn't much difference in the talent level from team to team. Twenty-one of the 56 matchups in the first round of the playoffs since the 2003-2004 season have been between two teams who split the regular season series. So, which team has the advantage in the first round when the teams have split the regular season series? Again, it depends on the conference.

In the Western Conference, 11 of the 15 matchups in the first round of the playoffs between two teams that had split the regular season series have been won by the team with the higher seed. For example, the Detroit Red Wings and the Phoenix Coyotes split the regular season series in the 2010-2011 NHL season. However, Detroit won their first round playoff series against Phoenix in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a three seed.

The Eastern Conference matchups between two teams that had split the regular season series were more unpredictable. Of the six matchups in the first round of the playoffs between two Eastern Conference opponents that had split the regular season series since the 2003-2004 season, the higher seed only won three of those postseason matchups.

After taking a look at the stats, it's pretty easy to see that the Western Conference has a little more parity than the Eastern Conference. Since the 2003-2004 season, there have been 15 first round matchups between two teams that split the regular season series in the Western Conference. There have only been six in the Eastern Conference.

As the Nashville Predators continue to march toward the playoffs, these statistics may be important to remember when, and if, they make the postseason. If the playoffs started today, and the Predators were matched up against the St. Louis Blues, you could pretty much throw the fact that the Predators have already won the regular season series against St. Louis out the window. If recent postseason statistics hold true, the regular season advantage over a team means absolutely nothing in the first round of the playoffs.

By the same token, if Nashville draws a first round opponent that they have split the season series with, the recent advantage in the Western Conference has gone to the team with the higher seed.

There is still a long way to go before the first round matchups in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs are set in stone. The standings change on a daily basis, and there is no way to determine how the rest of the season will transpire. Once the matchups are determined however, these statistics may paint a better picture of who really has the advantage going into the series. But as we all know, anything can happen in the playoffs once the puck drops. That's why the game isn't played on a piece of paper.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Press Release: Poile, Fenton awarded contract extension with Predators



The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed General Manager David Poile and Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton to a contract extension. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 20, 2012) – The only General Manager in franchise history and the only one to be a finalist for the NHL GM of the Year Award in each of the last two seasons, David Poile, has been awarded a contract through the 2014-15 season, announced Predators’ Chairman Tom Cigarran today. Poile also announced an extension of Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton.

“Today’s announcement is further recognition by the Predators’ ownership group of the outstanding job David has done as President of Hockey Operations since the franchise’s inception,” Cigarran said. “The consistent success of the Predators on the ice is directly attributed to his ability to assemble and lead a team of management, coaches, scouts and administrators who continually identify, draft, develop and motive an exceptional group of experienced and young players. The ownership group believes that under his leadership, the Nashville Predators will soon achieve its goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”

Poile’s Predators team is bidding for its seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons. The Predators are one of just six teams to have qualified for the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, having been a model of consistency in winning 40 or more games in each of the previous six seasons. Also, the Predators’ top affiliate, the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals, are the first team in AHL history to win 40 or more games and total 90 or more points in eight consecutive seasons while en route to nine straight playoff berths.

The current Predators roster includes 15 players drafted and developed by the Predators, four acquired via trade, three free agents and two selected via waivers.

Under Poile’s direction and philosophy, the Hockey Department has been marked by excellence, stability and consistency; Fenton has been with the organization since 1998, Head Coach Barry Trotz is the only head coach in franchise history, Goaltending Coach Mitch Korn has been with the club since 1998 and Hockey Operations Advisor Brent Peterson has been a part of the organization for all 14 years.

In NHL history, Poile now stands third on the all-time General Managers list for games won (1,049 entering this season) and he will move into second place on the all-time GM list for games (2,235) on March 17, when he will pass Harry Sinden and be only behind Glen Sather.

A 2001 Lester Patrick Award winner for contributions to hockey in the United States, Poile also served as Associate General Manager on USA’s Silver Medal-winning Olympic Team in 2010 and he continues to serve on the NHL’s Competition Committee.

Now in his sixth season as assistant GM, after serving as the franchise’s director of player personnel for its first eight campaigns, Fenton has been instrumental in bringing in many of Nashville’s core players, primarily through the draft, but also through trades and free agent signings.

“I appreciate ownership’s support and, as importantly, ownership’s commitment to building a Stanley Cup winner here in Nashville,” Poile said. “We are in our Window of Opportunity and I look forward to working with ownership, our staff and players to reach our goals.

“Paul’s vast experience in the game, from playing at the NHL level to scouting and evaluation, combine to make him an integral and invaluable member of our organization. We’re thrilled that he will continue to play a key role in our hockey operations.”

In addition to overseeing the Predators’ amateur player development and managing the team’s professional and amateur scouting staff, Fenton serves as general manager of the Milwaukee Admirals and helps head up Nashville’s efforts at the annual Entry Draft. He also served as Associate GM for Team USA at the 2011 World Championships.

Fenton joined the Predators after spending five seasons in the Anaheim Ducks’ hockey operations department. Prior to joining the Ducks, Fenton played eight seasons in the NHL, amassing 100 goals and 83 assists in 411 contests.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Preds hold on to beat Dallas despite lackluster third period



The Nashville Predators got back to their winning ways on Sunday night at American Airlines Center when they defeated the Dallas Stars by a 3-2 score. Pekka Rinne made 22 saves on 24 shots to help improve Nashville's record to 34-19-6.

Michael Ryder got the Stars off to a good start in the first period when he was able to fire a wrist shot from the slot past Rinne for the first goal of the game. Mike Ribeiro took the puck behind the Nashville net and brought two defenders with him. He was able to get the puck to Ryder for the easy goal.

Nashville would respond with a goal of their own at 15:39 of the first period when Gabriel Bourque tipped in a shot by David Legwand from the boards. The Predators took a 2-1 lead on a dramatic goal from Shea Weber with 0.1 second remaining in the first period. Weber's goal was reviewed, but it was upheld.

Colin Wilson gave the Predators a 3-1 lead in the second period with a beautiful backhand goal that beat Kari Lehtonen. Wilson made a great individual effort to keep the puck on his stick, and was able to shoot the puck through traffic for the goal.

Dallas made a serious push in the third period. The Stars controlled the play for the majority of the period, firing 11 shots on goal at Rinne. Alex Goligoski was able to put one past Rinne to bring the Stars within one goal at 15:11 of the period. Nashville was able to hold on for the victory, but their lackluster play in the third period almost cost them two points.

With the win, the Predators(74 points) pulled with five points of the St. Louis Blues(79 points), and stayed three points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks(71 points) in the Western Conference Standings. The Predators have a four-game homestand coming up, which gives them a huge opportunity to collect points. The first game of the homestand will be on Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Michael Ryder(DAL)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds hope to solve Stars in Dallas



The Nashville Predators will take on the Dallas Stars on Sunday night for the third time in the 2011-2012 season. Dallas has dominated the Predators so far this year, winning the first two meetings by a combined 10-4 score.

Nashville is coming off of a heartbreaking loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. The Predators have posted a 3-3-2 record since the All-Star break. They will look to get back to their winning ways on Sunday.

Dallas played on Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes were able to defeat the Stars by a 2-1 score in overtime. The Stars currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference with 62 points, while the Predators find themselves in the fifth spot with 72 points.

The Predators are only three points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks and trail the St. Louis Blues by seven points in the standings. This game is a pretty big game for both of these teams.

My player to watch for the Stars is Loui Eriksson. He is an extremely creative player with the puck and has 49 points on the season so far. Eriksson doesn't get the credit that he deserves, but he's a really good hockey player for the Stars.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Hal Gill. Gill is expected to make his Predator debut against the Stars, and it will be interesting to see where he is placed in the lineup. Who will the Predators sit in order to make room for Gill?

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Datsyuk burns Preds with dramatic game winner



Pavel Datsyuk is considered by many to be the best all-around player in the world. He proved it on Friday night against the Nashville Predators. The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Nashville Predators by a 2-1 score on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena for their 22nd consecutive victory on home ice.

Detroit got on the board first on a what would have been a broken play for most other teams in the NHL. Datsyuk carried the puck in the zone and fell down along the boards. Shea Weber went over to try and take the puck from Datsyuk, who then proceeded to make a ridiculous pass to Todd Bertuzzi while laying down on the ice. Bertuzzi fed the puck ito the front of the net and Johan Franzen beat Pekka Rinne with the one-timer.

Nashville got on the board in the second period when Jordin Tootoo made a great no-look pass to Nick Spaling for the one-timer goal. Tootoo was able to force a turnover in the corner and then made a great feed to Spaling. Detroit goaltender Joey MacDonald had no chance to make the save, and the Predators tied the game at one heading into the third period.

In the final frame, the two teams traded chances back and forth in what seemed like a playoff-style game. However, the nightmare situation for the Predators became reality at 19:54 of the third period when Datsyuk broke in the zone and scored on a fantastic move. Datsyuk took a pass from Henrik Zetterberg and broke in with a 1-on-1 matchup with Ryan Suter. Datsyuk made a sensational move to beat Suter and fired a puck past Rinne for the dramatic game-winner.

There's simply not a better all-around player than Datsyuk in the NHL. He put the Red Wings on his back tonight and carried them to victory. His offensive skill with the puck is uncanny, and his defensive presence as a forward is unmatched.

Nashville will take on the Dallas Stars on Sunday at 6 p.m. in the Lonestar State. The Predators have been dominated by the Stars so far this year. Hal Gill is expected to make his debut as a Predator on Sunday in Dallas.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pavel Datsyuk(DET)
2. Joey MacDonald(DET)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Joey MacDonald(DET)
2. Pekka Rinne(DET)
3. Pavel Datsyuk(DET)

Pieces falling into place for Predators



For the most part, the consensus on the Nashville Predators this season from pundits and experts is that they are a veteran defenseman and another top six forward away from truly competing for the Stanley Cup. Nashville took care of one of those needs on Friday.

Nashville acquired veteran defenseman Hal Gill and a conditional fifth-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Draft from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney and a second round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.

The biggest advantage for Nashville with Gill's acquisition is the added size on defense. Gill brings a lot of playoff experience to the Predators, which could prove invaluable in Nashville's Stanley Cup push. The official press release is below:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 17, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired veteran defenseman Hal Gill and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft from Montreal in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft and forwards Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney. He is expected to meet the team today in Detroit.

“Hal Gill brings our team a number of elements – size, penalty-killing ability, depth on defense and playoff experience,” Poile said. “He has won a Stanley Cup and played a combined 69 playoff games over the last four years, experience that significantly benefits our team.”

Gill, 36 (4/6/75), has suited up for 1,047 regular-season games (36g-143a-179pts, 940 PIMs) and 105 playoff contests (0g-6a-6pts, 68 PIMs) since 1997-98 – more than any player currently on the Predators roster. He appeared in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009 with Pittsburgh, winning the Cup in 2009. One of the League’s tallest players at 6-7, 240 pounds, Gill has eight points (1g-7a) and 29 penalty minutes thus far in 2011-12 playing in his third season with the Canadiens.

The Concord, Mass., native was drafted 207th overall (eighth round) by Boston in the 1993 Entry Draft, and played eight seasons with the Bruins (1997-2006) before stints in Toronto and (2006-08) Pittsburgh (2007-09).

The Predators now have eight draft picks for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to be held June 22-23, 2012 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. – their own picks in the first, and fourth through seventh rounds, in addition Toronto’s third-round pick, Phoenix’s fourth rounder and the New York Rangers’ sixth-round selection.


(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds look to crash party in Detroit



The Nashville Predators will travel into hostile territory to take on the Central Division leading Detroit Red Wings on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit has won 21 consecutive games on home ice, which is an NHL record. The Predators will be looking to snap that streak.

Nashville is coming off of a hard-fought 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night. With the win, the Predators improved to a 13-2-2 record against the Central Division this year. The two regulation losses have come against the Red Wings.

Detroit will be without the services of Henrik Zetterberg on Friday night due to a lower-body injury. Tomas Tatar will make his NHL debut against Nashville due to Zetterberg's injury. The Predators will likely be without the services of Patric Hornqvist.

With a regulation win, the Predators would pull within six points of the Red Wings. Nashville also has one game in hand on Detroit, so this game is huge for both teams. It will be interesting to see how the Red Wings respond after all of the hoopla on Tuesday night when they broke the NHL record for most consecutive home wins.

The Predators have come out on top in three of their last five trips to Joe Louis Arena, but the Red Wings decisively won the first meeting in Detroit this season by a 4-1 score. Detroit has won two of the first three games between these two teams in the 2011-2012 season. Nashville will look to tie the season series, and getting out to a fast start will be pivotal for the Predators. If they are able to take the crowd out of the game early, the Predators will be in good position to win the game.

My player to watch for the Red Wings is Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk is a magician with the hockey puck, and is arguably the best all-around player in the game today. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter will have to contain his line for the Predators to win the game.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Pekka Rinne. Rinne has been remarkably good for the Predators as of late, and he gives them a chance to win on a nightly basis. He will have to be his usual self against the Red Wings and weather the storms that Detroit will throw his way.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Press Release: Preds extend affiliation with Ads



The Nashville Predators have agreed to extend their affiliation with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League through the 2013-2014 season with a mutual option for the 2014-2015 season. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 16, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has extended its affiliation agreement with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League through the 2013-14 season. The agreement also has a mutual option for the 2014-15 season.

“Our organization has been philosophically committed to an affiliation in which the road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee,” Poile said. Our current roster supports this philosophy. The Milwaukee Admirals have cultivated a winning tradition, as evidenced by their nine consecutive trips to the playoffs – including a Calder Cup Championship in 2004 and another appearance in the Calder Cup Finals in 2006. Led by Harris Turer, the Milwaukee ownership group has assembled a bright and dedicated staff headed by President Jon Greenberg, that has created a major league environment for our prospects.

“With the Milwaukee organization working together with ours, led by Paul Fenton [Milwaukee’s general manager and Nashville’s assistant GM], this has been and will continue to be a partnership that rewards both teams, and most importantly, the hockey fans in both cities.”

The Predators and Admirals have functioned as affiliates since Nashville’s inception in 1998-99, and more than 120 players have played at least one game for both teams in the past 14 season. Additionally, Predators associate coach Peter Horachek served as the head coach of the Admirals in 2002-03 and Predators first-year assistant Lane Lambert was the bench boss in Milwaukee for four season from 2007-11.

This season alone, forwards Chris Mueller, Kyle Wilson, Ryan Thang, Gabriel Bourque, Zack Stortini, and Blake Geoffrion; defensemen Ryan Ellis, Teemu Laakso, Jonathon Blum and Roman Josi; and goaltender Anders Lindback have appeared in games for both Nashville and Milwaukee.

Nearly all of Nashville’s core players spent time with the Admirals: three-time All-Star, 2011 Norris Trophy Runner-up and Predators captain Shea Weber started his pro career with Milwaukee in 2005-06; 2012 All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter played the 2004-05 season with the Admirals; and 2011 Vezina Trophy runner-up Pekka Rinne spent his first three seasons in North America with the Ads from 2005-08. Other Nashville Predators that spent time developing in Milwaukee include forwards Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist, Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo, Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk and Colin Wilson and defenseman Kevin Klein.

The Admirals are the only team in the AHL to finish with at least 40 wins and 90 points in eight consecutive seasons (2003-11), finishing with 100-plus points and winning four West Division titles in that span. They entered the 2011-12 season with the second-most points in the AHL since joining in 2001-02 after 24 seasons in the International Hockey League.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yip gets power play time in critical Preds victory



The Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by a 3-2 score in front of 16,592 at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night to increase Chicago's winless streak to nine games.

Nashville got on the board in the first period when Ryan Suter snapped a one-timer past Ray Emery. Sergei Kostitsyn had a good opportunity to shoot, but opted to make a pass to Suter who was able to fit the puck under the crossbar for the goal.

Chicago responded less than a minute later when Bryan Bickell fired a wrist shot from the slot that beat Pekka Rinne on the stick side. Bickell had lots of room and lots of time to shoot, and he was able to tie the game for Chicago.

At 17:21 of the second period, Nick Spaling gave the Predators a 2-1 lead when he deflected a Ryan Ellis shot past Emery for the goal. Nashville took that lead into the third period.

Marian Hossa would make things interesting at 6:05 of the third period when he was able to fire a shot past Rinne to tie the game for the Blackhawks. Chicago had really been pressing hard, and Hossa's goal seemed to be inevitable. However, the Predators would respond at 14:18 of the third period with a goal by Ellis. Nashville held on for their first victory in four games.

Patric Hornqvist missed the game with an upper-body injury, which left an opening in the power play. Brandon Yip was called upon to fill that power play role for the Predators, and he logged 2:44 seconds of power play time. Barry Trotz felt comfortable with Yip filling that role in Hornqvist's absence.

"(Yip) has done that in the past, plus he's a big body," Trotz said. "We just wanted to get some net presence without (Hornqvist) in the lineup."

The power play opportunity was a big step in providing Yip with more chances to be productive. Yip was acquired by the Predators from waivers on January 19, and has been battling for ice time ever since. He was happy to see the confidence that Nashville's coaching staff had in him to put him on the power play.

"Yeah, that's nice. We're going to miss (Hornqvist) in front of the net there. He does a great job. He's one of the best in the league. I've been working with him in practice, and working on tips and trying to be strong in front so hopefully I can fulfill that role," Yip said.

Bridgestone Arena had a bit of a playoff atmosphere in this game. The fans were provided with gold rally towels, which really added to the traditional T.V. timeout standing ovation that Nashville has become known for.

"It's always a great atmosphere here. Every game I've played in it seems like they're sold out, but it was nice to see those yellow towels flying around. It was pretty cool," Yip said.

With the win, the Predators sit in fifth place in the Western Conference with a seven point lead on the Blackhawks. With St. Louis losing to Columbus, the Predators have pulled within three points of the Blues.

"It was a huge four-point game. Any division game is huge, but especially with them creeping on our backs here. It gives us a little bit of a cushion, so we're just looking to catch St. Louis," Yip said.

The Predators have a tough challenge on Friday night when they travel to Detroit to take on the red-hot Red Wings. Detroit won their 21st consecutive game on home ice on Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars. Nashville will try to break that winning streak at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night.

"We've just got to play our game and do all of the small things. Sometimes we get away from getting pucks deep and little things like that, little turnovers. Detroit capitalizes on that. If we stick to our gameplan, I think we'll end their streak, hopefully," Yip said.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Ryan Ellis(NSH)
2. Ryan Suter(NSH)
3. Marian Hossa(CHI)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds host struggling Blackhawks in Valentine's Day matchup



The Nashville Predators will take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night at Bridgesone Arena in a Valentine's Day showdown. Both teams have been on a slide as of late. Nashville has lost their past three games, but only one of the losses has come in regulation. Chicago has gone winless in their last eight games, and have lost seven of those eight in regulation.

Chicago's flabbergasting slide began the last time they visited Bridgestone Arena when the Predators dealt the Blackhawks a 5-2 loss in dominating fashion. Since that game, the Blackhawks have been outscored by a 30-15 margin.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins in a game where they were fortunate to get a point. Boston dominated the game from start to finish, but the Predators were able to get key saves from Pekka Rinne to keep them in the game.

The biggest key for both teams in Tuesday night's game is to get out to a fast start. Both Nashville and Chicago have been struggling as of late, so a good start will really inflate the confidence of the team that is able to grab the momentum out of the gate.

Ray Emery will likely be starting in net for the Blackhawks on Tuesday night. The Predators have had a significant amount of success against Emery over the past calendar year. Emery was the goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Nashville defeated Anaheim in six games. Rinne will almost certainly be getting the call for the Predators on Tuesday night.

Tuesday night's showdown in Smashville is a crucial game for both Nashville and Chicago. If the Predators win in regulation, they will increase their lead in the standings over the Blackhawks to seven points. If Chicago is able to get the regulation win, they move within three points of the Predators in the Western Conference standings.

My player to watch for the Blackhawks is Patrick Sharp. Sharp hasn't been in the lineup for the Blackhawks in their last to matchups with the Predators, and both of those games resulted in Nashville victories. Sharp always seems to be a big difference-maker in games against Nashville.

For the Predators, my player to watch is Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo has been in a dry spell offensively as of late, posting only one point in his last 12 games. He has already put up a career high in points with 22 on the season. The third line could be the difference in this game, and Tootoo has been the consistent all-around player on the third line so far this year.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Critical week upcoming for Nashville



This past week was a rough one for the Nashville Predators. They lost twice in the shootout to Vancouver and Boston, and had a regulation loss against the Ottawa Senators last Thursday night. Since coming back from the All-Star break, the Predators have posted a 2-2-2 record. That record has obviously got to improve if the Predators hope to have any shot of winning the Central Division.

While there are only two games on the schedule for the Predators this week, Nashville has an opportunity to correct the slide that they are currently riding. Also, the Predators have an opportunity to further separate themselves from the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night and to gain ground on the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Nashville has to get back to what made them successful heading into the All-Star break. While their offense has been fairly productive all year, the Predators are not a team that will blow anyone away offensively. Nashville's formula for winning is to outwork the opposition and to capitalize on their mistakes.

In the last two games against Ottawa and Boston, the Predators have spent a lot of time in their own zone. They haven't been defensively reliable in front of Pekka Rinne, and they have really left their goaltender out to dry on certain occasions.

Every team goes through slumps like this in the regular season. However, this upcoming weeks presents a big opportunity for the Predators to bounce out of their lackluster play of late and make a run for their first Central Division title in franchise history.

As the page turns from last week to this upcoming week, the trade deadline is now only a little over two weeks away. It will be interesting to see what sort of moves are made by teams around the NHL over the next few weeks. Will Nashville General Manager David Poile be able to make a move to strengthen the Predators' roster heading into the playoff push, or will Nashville keep the team as it's currently constructed? Either way, there will be no shortage of things for hockey fans to talk about over the next few weeks.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nashville drops second consecutive game in loss to Ottawa



The Ottawa Senators defeated the Nashville Predators by a 4-3 score on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place. With the loss, the Predators have lost two consecutive games for the first time since December 23 against Dallas and December 26 against Detroit.

Jason Spezza got the scoring started in this game when he smoothly fired a snap shot that beat Pekka Rinne on the glove side. Gabriel Bourque would respond for the Predators 14 minutes later when he fired a snap shot of his own past Ottawa goaltender Alex Auld.

Chris Phillips, who was playing in his 1,000th career NHL game, scored his first goal of the season at 7:50 of the second period while on the rush. Nashville would respond again, however, when Patric Hornqvist deflected a shot from the point on the power play by Ryan Suter past Auld to tie the game at two.

Spezza scored his second goal of the night for Ottawa at 18:55 of the second period on the power play on a scrum in front of the net. There was a lot of traffic in front of Rinne, and Spezza was able to tap the puck past Rinne to give the Senators the lead.

In the third period, Ottawa would add to their lead on the power play at 13:35 of the third period when Phillips scored his second goal of the night. Nashville would add another goal at 19:50 of the third period by Martin Erat, but it was too little too late. After posting a 0-6-1 record in their last seven games, the Senators were finally able to come away with a victory.

Francis Bouillon was hit by a puck late in the third period and left the ice. He did not return to the ice for the remainder of the game.

Mike Fisher received a standing ovation from the Ottawa crowd in his first game back in Ottawa in a visiting uniform. Fisher spent the first 11 years of his career in the Canadian capital city.

The Predators will travel to Boston on Saturday to take on the defending Stanley Cup champions. The game will have a special start time of 12 p.m. central time.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Jason Spezza(OTT)
2. Chris Phillips(OTT)
3. Martin Erat(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Chris Phillips(OTT)
2. Jason Spezza(OTT)
3. Bobby Butler(OTT)

Senators desperate for win as they host Nashville



The Nashville Predators will take on the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place tonight at 6:30 p.m. central time. In their last two trips to Ottawa, the Predators have come out of Scotiabank Place with a win.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night. The Predators haven't lost two consecutive games since they lost to the Dallas Stars on December 23 and the Detroit Red Wings on December 26.

Ottawa has been struggling as of late, posting a 2-7-1 record in their last 10 games. The Senators have gone 0-6-1 in their past seven games, so they will be desperate for a win against the Predators tonight.

The Predators are still right in the thick of things in the Central Division. They need to win as many games as possible to catch up with St. Louis and Detroit. While tonight's game is against an Eastern Conference opponent, two big points in the standings are still on the line.

Reports from morning skate indicate that Alex Auld will be staring in goal for Ottawa. Auld has posted a 1-3-2 record on the season so far. Pekka Rinne will be starting in goal for the Predators, and will look to bounce back from his first loss of any sort in 12 games on Tuesday night.

My player to watch for the Senators is Jason Spezza. The All-Star centerman leads the Senators in points on the season with 51, and has one of the best shots in the game. His quick release and his breakaway speed make him a very dangerous player.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Mike Fisher. Fisher will be making his first trip to Scotiabank Place while wearing an opposing team's jersey. Fisher spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Ottawa, so tonight will be a special night for him.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Luongo's brilliant save propels Vancouver to shootout victory



The Vancouver Canucks came into Nashville and got a 4-3 shootout win over the Predators on Tuesday night in front of 16,232 at Bridgestone Arena. Alexander Edler scored the game-winning shootout goal in the sixth round to propel the Canucks to their 33rd win of the season.

Vancouver got out to a 1-0 lead at 11:42 of the first period when Ryan Kesler, a thorn in Nashville's side since last season's Western Conference Semi Final playoff series, tallied on a one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Colin Wilson responded for Nashville a little over two minutes later when he was able to fire a shot that snuck through Roberto Luongo for the goal.

"(Legwand) did a good job keeping the puck in the zone. I came in from a wide angle and kind of let a shot go. Fortunately enough, it went in the five-hole on Luongo," Wilson said.

Byron Bitz gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead when he fired a one-timer from the slot while on the rush with Henrik Sedin. Just 23 seconds later, Daniel Sedin gave Vancouver a two-goal lead when he converted from right in front of Pekka Rinne on a pass from Bitz. Even though the Predators had out-shot Vancouver by a 16 to 11 margin, they found themselves down 3-1 after the first period of play.

However, as they have done with regularity so far this season, the Predators came back. Sergei Kostitsyn cut the deficit to one goal when he was able to angle his skate and redirect a shot from the point by Kevin Klein past Luongo. The play was reviewed, but it was ultimately upheld for a good goal.

"If they had called that back, I probably would've had a heart attack right there," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

Just over a minute later, Mike Fisher tied the game for the Predators when he deflected a Shea Weber snapshot from the point. It bounced through Luongo's five-hole and slowly trickled into the net to tie the game a three.

It looked like the Predators would take the lead in the second period when Wilson found himself with the puck in the slot and a wide open net to shoot. He fired a high wrist shot, but Luongo was somehow able throw his pad up and make an incredible save.

"Luongo made one of those saves that we should've scored on there. That's why your best penalty killer is always your goaltender," Trotz said.

Shortly after that sequence, Wilson got hit with a shot and seemed to be really shaken up on the bench. He was hunched over and seemed to be in a considerable amount of pain. He was able to return to the ice after the pain subsided, however.

"I got hit with a shot. It wasn't too bad, though. It's just one of those things that you had to wait for the pain to go down so after that I was good to go," Wilson said.

During the shootout, Alex Burrows scored for the Canucks in the third round to put the pressure on David Legwand. Legwand responded with a beautiful backhand goal on Luongo that pushed the shootout forward. However, Edler was able to score in the sixth round, and Wilson wasn't able to put one past Luongo. Nashville was able to collect one point in the comeback effort, and will take on the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Canada's capital city.

"You never want to lose two games in a row. I think we're going to work on that. We want to get that win in Ottawa and keep rolling against the Bruins," Wilson said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Byron Bitz(VAN)
2. Henrik Sedin(VAN)
3. Colin Wilson(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:

1. Henrik Sedin(VAN)
2. Colin Wilson(NSH)
3. Byron Bitz(VAN)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rivalry renewed in Smashville



The Nashville Predators will host the Vancouver Canucks for the first time since Game 6 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. With the battle for the top spot in the Western Conference still in full swing, Tuesday night's game is sure to have a high level of intensity.

Vancouver sits atop the Northwest Division with 69 points, and have posted a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games. The Canucks are once again being led by the stellar offensive play of the Sedin twins. Henrik and Daniel Sedin are both over the 50 point plateau on the season, and the Predators will have to contain them if they hope to win Tuesday night's contest.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. Martin Erat continued to produce offensively as he has done all season, recording three points against the Blues on Saturday night. Erat has 12 points in his last 10 games.

Tuesday night's game figures to be an electric atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena. Although it has been almost nine months since the Canucks last set foot in Smashville, Predators fans still have a great deal of malevolence toward Vancouver.

In the first two games between these two teams this year in Vancouver, the Canucks have scored a combined 10 goals against the Predators. Vancouver handily won the first meeting by a 5-1 score on October 20, but the Predators responded with a dramatic 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the Canucks on December 1st.

My player to watch for the Canucks is Ryan Kesler. He always seems to play well against the Predators, and he had a lot of success at Bridgestone Arena in last season's playoff series. He was the difference in that series. Look for the Predators to try to play a physical game with him to limit his time and space.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Ryan Ellis. Ellis could be an X-factor in this game. It will be interesting to see how he handles the speed of Vancouver's forwards, and how he performs on the power play. The Canucks and Predators have the top two power plays in the NHL. Ellis will play a key role on Nashville's power play on Tuesday night.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Preds best Blues for fourth time this season



The Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues by a 3-1 score on Saturday night in front of the 16th sellout crowd of the season at Bridgestone Arena. Martin Erat had three points in the game, and Pekka Rinne made several incredible saves to help Nashville collect two crucial points from their Central Division rival.

St. Louis came out flying to start the game in the first period. They were in complete control of the puck for the first few minutes of the first period, but that changed when David Perron took hooking penalty to put the Predators on the power play.

Erat was able to give the Predators a 1-0 lead on the power play when he fired a slapshot from the point that beat Jaroslav Halak. It was an uncharacteristic shot from Erat. He's not known for his slapshot, but he unleashed a bomb that found its way into the back of the net.

"He's usually a playmaker, but he's got a good shot. Maybe he should use it a little more," said Predators forward Patric Hornqvist.

Mike Fisher added another goal for the Predators at 12:30 of the first period from right in front of the net. Sergei Kostitsyn made a great play to get around T.J. Oshie in the corner. Oshie took a hooking penalty on the play, but Fisher scored on the delayed penalty to put Nashville up 2-0.

In the third period, St. Louis pulled within one goal when Chris Porter beat Rinne on a great individual play. Porter was able to steal the puck away from Roman Josi in Nashville's defensive zone, and he fired the shot past Rinne before the Finnish goalie could react. That would be as close as the Blues would get, however. Kostitsyn added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to secure the win for the Predators.

Rinne and Halak put on a show for the 17,113 fans in attendance at Bridgestone Arena. Both goaltenders made save after save, some of which were of the highlight-reel variety. If it weren't for the stellar play of Halak in the second period, the Predators could have easily blown the game wide open.

"He was great, but (Rinne) is better. I don't want to change (Rinne) for Halak, but he was good too. It was just two teams going after it. (Rinne) made some unbelievable saves and Halak did too. It was a great game. It was probably one of the best games we've played this season," Hornqvist said.

One of the easiest ways to create offense when a goaltender is playing exceptionally well is to throw pucks on net. Hornqvist did that for the Predators on Saturday night, firing a total of eight shots on goal throughout the game.

"If you shoot eight shots every night, you probably have a pretty good chance to score every night. When you shoot pucks, you create those second and third chances. Then you can create some cycles," Hornqvist said.

With the win, Nashville improved to 4-0-0 against the Blues this season. Each game between these two teams this season have been really close, but the Predators have somehow found a way to come out on top in each contest so far this year.

"They have a great team and we have a great team. It's always a great battle out there, so it's fun to play. You can't really tell why we win the games. We might have a better goalie," Hornqvist said.

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. Jaroslav Halak(STL)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)