Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blackhawks escape Nashville with dramatic victory



The Chicago Blackhawks were able to hold on for a huge 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. Chicago held a 4-0 lead in the second period, but the Predators battled back to tie the game at four. However, Brent Seabrook scored the game-winning goal for the Blackhawks at 8:19 of the third period to clinch their fourth straight playoff berth.

After Viktor Stalberg scored the fourth goal of the game for the Blackhawks in the second period, it looked like the Predators were down and out. However, as they have proven on several occasions already this season, the Predators are never out of a game. Nashville didn't get the two points, but they did prove to the rest of the NHL that they are never out of a game.

"It was good to come back, but then we have to shut down the game and really focus in on details. We don't have to go for 5-4 right away. We have to play detailed and we didn't do that, and they came back and scored the fifth goal. It ended up being the game-winner," Predators forward Patric Hornqvist said.

Chicago got on the board just 3:25 into the first period while on the power play. Patrick Sharp scored his 32nd goal of the season to put the Blackhawks up 1-0, which sent the well-represented Chicago faithful inside Bridgestone Arena into a frenzy. Corey Crawford was sensational in net for the Blackhawks for the remainder of the first period, stopping several point blank chances by Nashville.

"It was nice to have that goal to start the game, especially with the crowd. It was a fun crowd to play in front of, probably 50-50 fans, a lot of red jerseys. So it was pretty fun," said Chicago forward Patrick Kane.

Dave Bolland, Patrick Kane and Stalberg all added goals for the Blackhawks less than 10 minutes into the second period to give them a commanding 4-0 lead. Nashville regrouped and finally got one past Crawford when Martin Erat sniped a quick wrist shot from the top of the circle. Shea Weber added another goal just 49 seconds later to bring the Predators within two heading into the third period.

At 4:38 of the third period, Alexander Radulov brought the Predators within one goal on a jaw-dropping goal that made the Chicago defense look silly. He dangled his way past two Chicago defenders and was able to backhand the puck past Crawford for the highlight-reel goal.

Weber added his second goal of the game on a bomb from the point while on the power play at 7:10 of the third period to tie the game for the Predators. However, Seabrook would score 1:09 later to give the Blackhawks the lead they wouldn't relinquish. Nashville put forth a good effort to get back in the game, but the Blackhawks prevailed in the end.

Special teams was key tonight. The Predators took six penalties in the game, and Chicago was able to capitalize with two power play goals.

"Sometimes you take some penalties and sometimes you don't. We know we have a good PK, but they were strong on the power play and that was the difference tonight," Hornqvist said.

The atmosphere inside of Bridgestone Arena was electric. Chicago fans were all over the place, and that energy added to the game. Things got chippy throughout the game, and Hornqvist often found himself lying on his back after a play was over. It's something he's become accustomed to seeing.

"It's just a part of the game. I'm going to the hard areas, and you have to get used to getting hit after the whistle. Sometimes the ref calls it and sometimes not. You have to keep doing it and hopefully I can score some goals," Hornqvist said.

After playing nine road games in the month of March, the Predators will be home for their next two games. Nashville will get a little time to rest their bodies without having to get on a plane until Friday. The Predators will host the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.

"It's great to be home. We know we have probably one of the best fans in the league right now. They're crazy, and they're really supporting us so it's great to be home. We have to win some games here at home," Hornqvist said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Brent Seabrook(CHI)
3. Ryan Suter(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Brent Seabrook(CHI)
2. Shea Weber(NSH)
3. Ryan Suter(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow us on Twitter @hockeynightNSH

Radulov line hopes to continue clicking as Preds take on Blackhawks



The Nashville Predators will host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville is coming off of a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings last night, and will be looking to reach the 100 point mark on the season with a victory tonight.

These two teams met last Sunday in Chicago in a similar situation. Nashville was coming off of a win against the Winnipeg Jets the previous night, and was on the second half of a back-to-back when they traveled to Chicago. Tonight, the Predators will once again playing against Chicago in the second half of a back-to-back set.

Last Sunday, the Predators blasted the Blackhawks by a 6-1 score at the United Center. Pekka Rinne made key saves, and the Predators got timely goals throughout their lineup en route to the lopsided victory. They hope to have similar success tonight.

Chicago is coming off of a 4-3 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. They will be looking for revenge against a Nashville team that has had their number all season long. The Predators have posted a 4-0-1 record against the Blackhawks so far this season.

Since making his return to Nashville, Alexander Radulov has posted five points(2g, 3a) in five games. Radulov had his first multi-point game since returning to the NHL on Friday night against Detroit. He has made an immediate impact and seems to be fitting in to the locker room just fine.

"I knew half of the guys on the team so it was easy for me to come and fit in because it's a good group of guys and they're all working hard. It's easy. I just have to come and do my best and I know they'll help me," Radulov said.

Radulov has been on a line with David Legwand and mostly Patric Hornqvist since making his return. However, Andrei Kostitsyn has also spent time on a line with Radulov and Legwand.

"They're good players. They score a lot, and I just need to go out there and do my best and everything is going to be alright. The main thing is that we have to play in the playoffs. We have to be much better in the playoffs also because the playoffs is a different game," Radulov said.

(Photo Credit: Nashville Predators)

Follow us on Twitter @hockeynightNSH

Friday, March 30, 2012

Nashville beats Detroit in playoff-style game



The Nashville Predators were able to defeat the Detroit Red Wings by a 4-1 score on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. With the win, the Predators have once again overtaken the Red Wings for fourth in the Western Conference.

In the first period, both teams got a few chances in a back and forth period of hockey. Pekka Rinne and Jimmy Howard both played solid opening periods for their respective clubs in goal, and the game was scoreless after the first 20 minutes of play.

Nashville was opportunistic in the second period. The Predators took a 1-0 lead 13:05 of the second period when Gabriel Bourque fired a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Howard over the shoulder on the blocker side. Jordin Tootoo carried the puck in the zone and was able to deliver a pass to Bourque, who got the puck past Howard with a quick release.

With 3:01 remaining in the second period, Rinne made arguably the save of the year on Henrik Zetterberg from right on the doorstep. Zetterberg corralled the puck at the side of the net and had a seemingly wide open net to shoot. Rinne made a sprawling attempt to make the save, and was able to completely glove the puck without giving up a rebound. After that, the momentum was on Nashville's side.

Francis Bouillon gave the Predators a 2-0 lead when he was able to score on a mad scrum in front of the Detroit net. It was Bouillon's third goal in the past 10 games after not scoring a goal all season prior to that.

Alexander Radulov gave the Predators a commanding 3-0 lead just 2:40 into the third period off of a great feed from Andrei Kostitsyn. It was Radulov's second goal since making his return to the NHL. After that goal, the Red Wings started to make a push.

Jiri Hudler finally got Detroit on the scoreboard with 3:03 remaining in the third period. However, that would be as close as they would get. Shea Weber added an empty-net goal to ice the game away for the Predators.

Nashville played a terrific, playoff-style game to walk away with the win. They have no time to celebrate, however. The Predators will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Alexander Radulov(NSH)
3. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Henrik Zetterberg(DET)

Follow us on Twitter @hockeynightNSH

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Preds rivalry with Red Wings just getting started



Since the beginning of the 1998-99 season, the Nashville Predators have always been chasing the Detroit Red Wings. In fact, the Predators have never finished ahead of the Red Wings in the Central Division standings since coming into the NHL.

Detroit has always been Nashville's biggest rival, both on the ice and from a Nashville fan's perspective. However, the rivalry with the Predators just hasn't been that big of a deal from a Detroit perspective in years past.

"The Wings have always been the measuring stick for the Nashville franchise since the beginning. Since Detroit won the Cup the previous year, they were the team to beat. The fact that there were so many Detroit natives in town made those games that much more important," said Phillip Reid, a Predators fan since 1998.

With the strong likelihood of another first round matchup between Detroit and Nashville in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the rivalry is about to be taken to a new level. Given the intensity of the games between these two teams in years past, that is good news for the NHL.

Some of the most memorable games in Predators' history have come against the Red Wings. In 2004, the Predators squared off with the Red Wings in their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nashville got their first playoff win in franchise history against the Red Wings on April 11, 2004. Detroit won the President's Trophy that year for finishing the regular season with the most points in the NHL, but Nashville was able to take them to six games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

In the 2006-07 season, the Predators were able to get a dramatic overtime victory over the Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena on February 24, 2007. Detroit held a 3-2 lead with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, but Paul Kariya would tie the game at three for the Predators at 18:56 of the third period to send the game to overtime. That overtime period produced Peter Forsberg's magical moment with the Predators. Kariya made a gorgeous backhand pass to Forsberg, who was able to tap in the game-winning goal that sent Bridgestone Arena into a frenzy.

The two teams would meet again in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was a year of turmoil for the Predators. In the summer of 2007, the future of the franchise in Nashville was uncertain. Attendance wasn't strong, and several key figures of the team that had made Nashville successful in the 2006-07 season were gone. However, the Predators were still able to claw their way into postseason play. Nashville forced a six-game series once again, but the Red Wings were just too much. Detroit won the series and ultimately won the Stanley Cup that same season.

If these two teams meet again this year in the playoffs, as most expect they will, it will be the third time that Nashville will have faced Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. If Nashville is able to win that series, this rivalry will take off.

The one thing that has always been missing in this rivalry is Nashville finishing ahead of Detroit in the regular season or knocking them out of the playoffs. This year, the Predators have a chance to do both.

"The Predators are now a viable threat to the Wings' throne. The Preds now have a solid team, serious scoring lines and stronger defense and goaltending than Detroit has. The fact that the Preds have been on the precipice for so many years and are now a serious contender will make this rivalry that much better. This rivalry is maturing," Reid said.

Friday night's game in the Motor City carries massive importance. Home ice advantage is going to be crucial if these two teams end up playing each other in the first round of the playoffs. However, games between Nashville and Detroit are always intense, regardless of the venue. Buckle up, Preds fans. These next few weeks are going to be a fun ride.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Preds clinch playoff berth for seventh time in eight seasons



With the San Jose Sharks losing in regulation to the Anaheim Ducks by a 3-1 score on Wednesday night, the Nashville Predators have officially clinched their seventh playoff berth in the past eight seasons.

Nashville will look to build on last year's playoff run. The Predators were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks, but they did defeat the Anaheim Ducks in the first round to capture their first playoff series victory in franchise history.

Now that the Predators will officially be in the playoffs, they will focus their attention on trying to pass the Detroit Red Wings for the fourth seed in the Western Conference, which would give them home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Predators have five games remaining in the regular season before they gear up for the playoff push. The last game of the regular season for Nashville will be on April 7th in Colorado.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Preds Pride Day set for Friday



With tickets going on sale for the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the Nashville Predators are calling on fans to show their support this Friday for Preds Pride Day.

On Friday, fans are called upon to wear their favorite Preds gear throughout the day. Anything from painting your face or car to showing off your pre-playoff beard is encouraged.

Also, be sure to keep your eye out around Nashville for larger-than-life cut-outs of Pekka Rinne. By now, mostly everyone has heard of "Tebowing." On Friday, the world will be introduced to the newest phenomenon that is sure to sweep the nation(or at least the Middle Tennessee area). "Pekka-ing" will take the Nashville area by storm on Friday. If you see a cut-out of Rinne on Friday, be sure to stop and take a picture next to it with your best attempt at "Pekka-ing"(shown in the picture above).

Blues suffocate Preds in shutout victory



The Nashville Predators fell to the St. Louis Blues by a 3-0 score on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center. The loss dropped the Predators record against St. Louis to 4-1-1 on the year, and it was the first time this season that Nashville has lost to St. Louis on the road.

Neither team took many chances in the first period. Nashville got a few scoring chances off of the creativity of Alexander Radulov, but weren't able to get anything by Brian Elliott. St. Louis was able to generate stellar scoring opportunities on the power play, but Pekka Rinne made key saves to weather the Blues' storm.

St. Louis was finally able to get on the board in the second period when Jamie Langenbrunner converted on a wide open net after a brilliant pass from former Predators' captain Jason Arnott. Arnott came across the slot and drew the defense with him, which allowed an easy pass to Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner had lots of room to put the puck, and was able to put the Blues up 1-0 on the easy goal.

After that, the Blues played shutdown, conservative hockey. Elliott was able to make some key saves, and the St. Louis defense corps came up with timely blocks. Nashville wasn't able to get to the rebounds that Elliot was giving up. The Blues defense corps did a good job of boxing out the Nashville forwards.

In the third period, the Blues took a 2-0 lead on a fantastic goal by David Perron. Perron was able to slip around Kevin Klein to receive the pass from David Backes right in front of Rinne. Perron made a nifty backhand move and slid the puck past a sprawling Rinne to give the Blues a two-goal lead.

St. Louis would add a third goal at 16:00 of the third period when T.J. Oshie backhanded a puck past Rinne after coming out from behind the Nashville net. St. Louis played suffocating defense throughout the entire night, and Elliott picked up his third consecutive shutout for the Blues.

Nashville had several good opportunties to score in this game but weren't able to capitalize. Elliott has been sensational for the Blues in goal all season long, and Tuesday night was no different. The Predators will try to put this loss behind them and focus on the Detroit Red Wings. With the Predators failing to clinch a playoff berth Tuesday night, they will be gearing up to do so on Friday night in Detroit.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Brian Elliott(STL)
2. T.J. Oshie(STL)
3. David Perron(STL)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Brian Elliott(STL)
2. Jamie Langenbrunner(STL)
3. Alexander Steen(STL)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds look to clinch playoff berth in St. Louis



The Nashville Predators will travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues for the final time in the 2011-2012 regular season tonight. Nashville has posted a 4-0-1 record against the Blues so far this season, and will be looking to win their third game at Scottrade Center this season. If the Predators are able to pick up at least one point tonight, they will clinch a playoff berth for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

St. Louis leads the NHL in points with 103 and are primed to win their first President's Trophy since 2000. The Blues got a 4-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday night. Brian Elliott stopped all 20 shots he faced to pick up his league-leading eighth shutout of the season. Elliott will be in goal tonight against the Predators.

Nashville is coming off of a 6-1 beatdown of the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. Pekka Rinne seems to have regained his usual dominant form after struggling against Edmonton and Pittsburgh last week. Alexander Radulov has three points(1g, 2a) in his first three games back in the NHL.

Martin Erat missed Sunday night's game with an upper-body injury and it's unclear whether or not he will play tonight. According to Josh Cooper of The Tennessean, Trotz listed both Erat and Jordin Tootoo as questionable for tonight's game.

Nashville's primary focus isn't just on clinching a playoff berth tonight. If the Predators are able to get a win, they will be one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. It's looking more and more like the Predators and Red Wings will be squaring off in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Predators win tonight, Barry Trotz will post his 500th victory as an NHL head coach. All of those wins have come with the Predators. Standing in the way is Ken Hitchcock, who Trotz has historically dominated.

My player to watch for St. Louis is David Backes. He leads the Blues in goals with 23, and has been the most consistent offensive option for St. Louis all season. At 6'3", 225 lbs, Backes is a power forward that is hard to push around.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Andrei Kostitsyn. If Erat isn't able to play tonight, expect Kostitsyn to take his place on the top line like he did on Sunday night against Chicago.

(Photo Credit: Nashville Predators)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Preds annihilate 'Hawks on national stage



The Nashville Predators were able to get a convincing 6-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night in front a national stage on the NBC Sports Network. With the victory, the Predators have moved ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

Matt Halischuk got things going for the Predators in the first period. He was able to just get enough of the puck on a one-timer from the slot to put it past Corey Crawford and into the net. After a great backcheck by Gabriel Bourque, Andrei Kostitsyn gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 15:28 of the first period on a blistering wrist shot from left faceoff circle.

In the second period, the Predators added a third goal when Patric Hornqvist scored on the power play. Shea Weber made the initial shot from the point, and the puck bounced off of Alexander Radulov's skate and Hornqvist's skate to sneak by Crawford. After that goal, Chicago put a lot of offensive pressure on Rinne, but he was able to keep the puck out of his net for the entire period.

Nashville jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third period when Francis Bouillon cranked a slapshot from the point that beat Crawford high on the glove side. That would be the end of Crawford's night. Ray Emery was called in to relieve Crawford after the goal and would remain in net for the Blackhawks for the rest of the game.

Chicago was finally able to get on the scoreboard at 5:58 of the third period when Viktor Stalberg fired a wrist shot through traffic that got past Rinne. However, Nashville would squash any momentum gained by Chicago just 36 seconds later when Weber fired a slapshot off of a faceoff win by Fisher that Emery never saw.

Fisher would add another goal for the Predators on a 2-on-1 rush with Andrei Kostitsyn at 17:33 of the third period on a quick wrist shot. Nashville walked away from the Windy City with a dominating 6-1 effort.

Martin Erat did not play in Sunday night's game due to an upper-body injury. Andrei Kostitsyn replaced him on the top line, joining Fisher and his brother Sergei Kostitsyn. After being scratched in Saturday night's game against Winnipeg, Jordin Tootoo found his way back into the lineup on Sunday night for a limited time. Early in the first period, Tootoo squared off with Brandon Bollig in a fight that left Tootoo bloodied and battered. Tootoo suffered an upper-body injury, and did not return for the remainder of the game.

Nashville will take on the Western Conference leading St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center. Nashville will be looking to try to stay ahead of the Red Wings and Blackhawks in the standings in order to have the home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Shea Weber(NSH)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rinne rebounds in Preds 3-1 win over Jets



During his past three starts before Saturday night's game against the Winnipeg Jets, Pekka Rinne had struggled. In those three games, Rinne had allowed 12 goals on a combined 57 shots. On Saturday night against the Jets, Rinne answered the bell with a stellar bounce-back effort.

Rinne stopped 24 shots for the Nashville Predators en route to a 3-1 victory over Winnipeg. The Jets did not pepper Rinne with a lot of high quality chances, but Rinne was able to make key saves at key times when called upon.

Nashville controlled the play early in the first period. The Predators had several opportunities to score, but Ondrej Pavelec came up big for the Jets. He was able to make big saves on quality shots to keep Winnipeg afloat.

Winnipeg was almost able to score the first goal of the game at 12:26 of the opening frame. Rinne was able to make the initial pad save on Andrew Ladd, but left the net wide open for Bryan Little in what would have been an easy goal if it weren't for the stellar block by Kevin Klein. Little released the puck from the slot, and Klein was able to get his body in front of it in the crease to make the save.

"It was just a scramble play. They just threw the puck at the net, and it went straight to the back-door guy. I was able to make the first save and then (Klein) bailed me out at the goal line and made a huge save," Rinne said.

Over the last few games, the Predators have given up the momentum in the first period. If Winnipeg scores on that play, the entire out look of the game may have changed. However, Rinne and Klein were able to come up big for the Predators.

"We've given up first goals the last few games. It's never easy to play like that. That was a really big moment," Rinne said.

In the second period, Nashville was finally able to take the lead after having several prime scoring opportunities. Alexander Radulov made a nifty pass to Matt Halischuk to send him breaking into the zone with no defenders near him. Halischuk cranked a slapshot past Pavelec to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Gabriel Bourque put the Predators up by two goals at 10:01 of the second period. Nick Spaling fired a turn-around shot on goal from the point, and Bourque was able to connect with the loose puck on the rebound to slide it past Pavelec.

Winnipeg would pull within one of Nashville at 12:53 of the third period when Tim Stapleton converted on a one-timer from right in front of Rinne. However, Rinne and the Predators would shut the door after that. Shea Weber added an empty-net power play goal with 9.9 seconds remaining to ice the game away for the Predators. Rinne, and Nashville's defensive effort, were much better on Saturday night than they had been in the previous two games, which propelled them to the 3-1 victory.

"It was a better game. Obviously, it's frustrating when you give up a lot of goals in those game. Big rebound and just a solid game," Rinne said.

Nashville will travel to Chicago to take on the Central Division rival Blackhawks on Sunday night. Chicago is just two points behind Nashville in the Western Conference standings.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)
3. Alexander Radulov(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Alexander Radulov(NSH)
3. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Preds try to lay aside distractions as Jets come to Nashville



Over the past week, the Nashville Predators have been the focus of the hockey world. Alexander Radulov made his return to Music City, and the epicenter of hockey talk throughout the NHL has been centered around the Predators. During this circus-like atmosphere, the Predators have been out-scored by an 11-4 margin in their last two games.

The Predators will try to get back on the winning track on Saturday night as they host the Winnipeg Jets for the first time this year in the regular season. Radulov will be playing in front of the home crowd for the first time this season, and the expectations for this Nashville team is higher than it ever has been before. However, high expectations don't automatically mean that a team is going to win.

Since the All-Star break, the Predators have posted a 12-8-4 record. They have been keeping pace with most of the Western Conference, but haven't been playing their best hockey. As the end of the regular season quickly approaches, now is the time for the Predators to start gearing up for their best hockey.

Winnipeg is coming off of a dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night. The Jets were down 3-0 at one point during the game, but battled back to get a critical victory. With the win, the Jets are only four points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, they will be on the back half of a back-to-back set when they visit Nashville on Saturday night.

Saturday night is the biggest game of the season so far for the Predators. They have only one win in their past five games, and need to collect as many points as they can. Next week, the Predators will undergo a week full of Central Division contests that will be hotly contested. Collecting two points against Winnipeg is crucial for Nashville's confidence heading into next week.

With Pekka Rinne struggling in his last three starts, combined with the fact that Nashville will travel to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on Sunday, don't be surprised if Anders Lindback gets the start on Saturday night against Winnipeg. Lindback has played well in his starts as of late, and was finally rewarded with a win last Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks.

My player to watch for the Jets is Evander Kane. At only 20 years of age, Kane is arguably the most dynamic offensive option for Winnipeg. He leads the Jets in goals scored this year with 28, and is emerging as one of the bright young stars in the NHL.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Nick Spaling. Spaling hasn't scored a goal for the Predators in his last 12 games. His longest streak without a goal so far this season has been 12 games on two seperate occasions. He's due.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Press Release: Preds ink Rask for entry-level contract

The Nashville Predators have announced that they have signed 2010 draft pick Joonas Rask to a two-year entry-level contract. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (March 23, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed 2010 draft pick Joonas Rask (YOH-nuhs RASK) to a two-year entry-level contract.

Rask, 21 (3/24/90), recently completed his fourth season with Ilves of the Finnish League (SM-Liiga), posting 15 points (4g-11a) in 29 games. In 156 SM-Liiga games since 2008, the 5-10, 176-pound center has 62 points (29g-33a) and 70 penalty minutes. Rask represented Finland at both the 2009 and 2010 World Junior Championships, and captained his homeland’s club at the 2008 Under-18 World Championships, being named one of team’s three best players.

The Savonlinna, Finland native was Nashville’s seventh choice, 198th overall (seventh round), in 2010 Entry Draft, and is the younger brother of Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Penguins obliterate Preds in Radulov's season debut



The Pittsburgh Penguins have been the hottest team in the NHL over the past few weeks. That trend didn't change on Thursday night as the Penguins blasted the Predators by a 5-1 score.

Pittsburgh came out flying in this game. Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead just 1:23 into the first period. He fired a slapshot that went off of Pekka Rinne's glove and into the net. It was definitely a shot that Rinne would like to have back.

The Penguins went onto score the next three goals of the game to take a 4-0 lead despite being outshot in every period of the game by the Predators. While Rinne didn't get a lot of help defensively, he did not play well in this game.

At 12:01 of the second period, Nashville finally got on the board. Alexander Radulov scored his first NHL goal in four years to spoil Pittsburgh's shutout hopes. He was able to gather the rebound of a shot from the point by Hal Gill and fire it into the net. It was very apparent that Radulov still needs to find a comfort level with playing an NHL-style game, but he still has the goal-scoring touch.

In the third period, Malkin added an insurance goal for the Penguins. It was a play that was very similar to his goal in the first period, only this time Rinne didn't get a piece of it. Malkin fired a slapshot with ridiculous accuracy that barely made it under the crossbar to give the Penguins a 5-1 lead that would never be relinquished. Pittsburgh clinched a playoff berth with the victory over the Predators.

Thursday night's game was the second game in a row that Nashville had outshot an opponent but lost by a wide margin. Defensively, the Predators have not been good over the past two games. Turnovers in their own zone have cost them, and Rinne has been average at best in between the pipes. With only eight games remaining to secure a playoff spot, the Predators have to start playing better.

Nashville will head back home for a brief visit to Music City when they take on the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. It will be the first game of a back-to-back set. After the game against Winnipeg on Saturday night, the Predators will travel to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on Sunday. The Predators have a tough schedule coming up. Points aren't going to be easy to come by, so they will need a solid team effort on Saturday night.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Evgeni Malkin(PIT)
2. James Neal(PIT)
3. Chris Kunitz(PIT)

Official 3 Stars:
1. James Neal(PIT)
2. Evgeni Malkin(PIT)
3. Chris Kunitz(PIT)

Preds to take on Penguins in regular season showdown



The Nashville Predators travel to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in perhaps the most anticipated game of the regular season so far. Alexander Radulov will potentially be making his season debut tonight against the Penguins.

Pittsburgh has been the hottest team in the NHL over the past few weeks. They have not lost a game in regulation in their last 13 games, going 12-0-1 during that span. With the exceptional play of Evgeni Malkin throughout the entire year, along with the return of Sidney Crosby, the Penguins are perhaps the scariest team in the NHL.

In their last game, Pittsburgh defeated the Winnipeg Jets by an 8-4 score. Crosby posted four assists, bringing his point total to nine in the four games since returning to the lineup. Malkin leads the NHL in points with 93, and is the favorite for the Hart Trophy at season's end. James Neal recorded a hat trick against Winnipeg on Tuesday night, which brought his goal total to 35 on the season. Pittsburgh is simply full of offensive talent.

Nashville is coming off of a 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. The Predators really controlled the play for the majority of the game, despite the lopsided score. With the potential of Radulov making his season debut for the Predators tonight, along with playing against a high-powered team like the Penguins, Nashville will likely have a lot of jump to start this game.

Steve Sullivan will be playing against his former team tonight for the first time since he and the Predators parted ways last offseason. In a classy move, the entire Penguins team will be wearing the Wade Belak decals on the back of their helmets for tonight's game. Sullivan, has been wearing the decal for the entire season, after the tragic passing of Belak over the summer. Tonight, his teammates will join him. Every player on the ice in tonight's game will have the decal on their helmet.

Some have built tonight's game as a potential preview of the Stanley Cup Final. The addition of Radulov to the Predators has provided a unique set of circumstances leading up to this game, which has only done more to add to the hype. The game will be televised on the NHL Network at 6 p.m. central time.

My player to watch for the Penguins is Jordan Staal. Pittsburgh's depth at the center ice position is simply sensational. Staal is a terrific NHL player that has spent most of his career in Pittsburgh on the third line due to having Crosby and Malkin in front of him. Look for him to make a difference in tonight's game.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. With the possibility of playing on a line with Radulov, it will be interesting to see how quickly the line develops chemistry. Legwand's veteran presence will be key in making that line work if Radulov does make his season debut tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Radulov happy to be back with Nashville



Alexander Radulov has rejoined the Nashville Predators, and will remain with them for at least the rest of the regular season and the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Radulov, along with Predators General Manager David Poile, held a press conference on Wednesday morning at Bridgestone Arena.

“It was a very complicated process to bring him back, but that is all behind us now. We are certainly looking forward to the future,” Poile said.

Radulov seemed to be eager to play in the NHL again. He seems to have been readily welcomed by his Nashville teammates so far, and is ready to get things going on the ice.

“I played here two years, and I remember all of the moments. It’s good to be back here. I feel good, and I’m looking forward to helping the team be better,” Radulov said.

There has been a lot of talk over the last week about Radulov having a KHL contract, and being forced to go back to Russia to play in the KHL next year. He quickly squashed those rumors.

“I didn’t say anything. I didn’t promise anything to anybody,” Radulov said.

“As I understand, just from talking to Alex, is that he doesn’t have contract. He doesn’t have a promise to go back and play there. I think this is an open-ended situation,” Poile said.

Now that Radulov has returned to the Predators, and his suspension by the team has been lifted, he will focus his attention on the on-ice aspect of returning to the Predators. Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, David Legwand, Martin Erat, Kevin Klein, Jordin Tootoo and Pekka Rinne have all been around Radulov before. Radulov still kept up with what was going on with the Predators while he was in the KHL.

“(Suter) and (Weber) are the top defense in the league. (Rinne) is unbelievable and playing well for the Preds. (Legwand) and (Erat) are having a good year. They’re all good players. I think they are much better than before because they’ve gotten a little bit older,” Radulov said.

Radulov didn’t just have contact with Poile while he was in the KHL. He had several conversations with Weber over the past four years as well.

“I talked to (Weber). Not a lot, but we had some conversations. I saw him in the Olympics, in the World Championships and we talked on the phone. He was always telling me like ‘Hey C’mon, you’ve got to come back.’ I came back and saw him. I’m really happy to see guys that I played with,” Radulov said.

Radulov will travel with the team to Pittsburgh. There is no word to whether or not he will officially make his debut on Thursday night, but Barry Trotz said he will be in the lineup on Saturday night. Now, Radulov will try to get comfortable playing in the NHL again over the last nine games of the regular season.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oilers rout Preds despite being heavily outshot



The Edmonton Oilers always seem to play well against the Nashville Predators. Thursday night was no different. The talented young Oilers team defeated the Predators by a 6-3 score in front of the record-breaking 21st sellout of the season at Bridgestone Arena.

Edmonton only had 20 shots on goal in the game, but were able to hang up six goals on the scoreboard. Ales Hemsky recorded a hat trick on the night, in what was easily his best game of the season.

Nashville had 44 shots on goal in the game, but were unable to keep pace with the Oilers on the scoreboard. Devan Dubnyk was sensational for the Oilers. He made key saves throughout the game to maintain the lead for the Oilers.

One of the biggest bright spots for the Predators on the night was the play of the second line. Gabriel Bourque, David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist were sensational. Legwand picked up two goals on the evening to lead the offensive charge for the Predators. For a line that's only been together for the last couple of days, they seemed to have a lot of chemistry.

"It was pretty fun. I like it. They talk a lot and help me on the ice, so it was pretty awesome," Bourque said.

In the second period, with the Predators trailing 4-1, Hornqvist apparently brought the Predators within two with a goal from right in front of Dubnyk. However, the goal was waved off by the officials. Hornqvist, along with the entire crowd at Bridgestone Arena, were absolutely livid.

"He hit the goalie on the screen, so I don't know if it was a goal or not. The ref said no, so it's probably not a goal," Bourque said.

Even though the score didn't indicate it, the Predators played a pretty solid game. They controlled the play for the majority of the game, but weren't defensively sound. Edmonton was opportunistic, and the Predators were not. That ended up being the difference in the game.

"I think we played well. We shot a lot but we need more traffic in front of the net, especially in front of a big goalie like that. We have to learn from it and just keep going. We have a big week," Bourque said.

With the six-goal outburst, the Oilers scored a combined 12 goals in their two trips to Bridgestone Arena this year. Over the past few seasons, the Oilers have just seemed to have Nashville's number on the road.

"They're a pretty fast team, a young team and they want to win. I think that's why they were so good," Bourque said.

Nashville will try to move on from this game as they travel to take on Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the rest of the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins in a huge showdown on Thursday night. Alexander Radulov is expected to make his debut for the Predators this season on Thursday night.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Ales Hemsky(EDM)
2. David Legwand(NSH)
3. Devan Dubnyk(EDM)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Ales Hemsky(EDM)
2. David Legwand(NSH)
3. Devan Dubnyk(EDM)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Preds hope to change fortune against Oilers



The Nashville Predators will take on the Edmonton Oilers for the final time this season on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena with an opportunity to break the all-time franchise record for regular season sellouts. With a sellout on Tuesday night, the Predators would have 21 sellouts on the season.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-1 comeback victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. The Predators posted a 2-1-1 record on their road-trip, and will now turn their attention to a young and talented Oilers team.

Edmonton also played on Sunday night, losing to the Phoenix Coyotes in a shootout. The Oilers have posted a 3-5-2 record in their last 10 games, and currently sit in 14th place in the Western Conference. However, they have had pretty good success against Nashville so far this season.

In the three previous meetings between these two teams this season, the Oilers have won two games. Edmonton has outscored Nashville by a 10-5 margin in those three games, including a 6-2 rout over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena on November 22.

Alexander Radulov, who has been cleared to come play for the Predators by the KHL for the remainder of this season, will most likely not be playing in this game. Judging from several reports, Thursday night seems to be the consensus view of when Radulov will play his first NHL game since leaving the Predators in 2008.

Edmonton has some of the best young talent in the NHL. They are capable of scoring a lot of goals on any given night, so the Predators defense will have to be on their best game. The Oilers have had some success against the Predators so far this season and will be a confident team coming into Bridgestone Arena. Nashville will have to score early to plant the seed of doubt in their heads.

For Edmonton, my player to watch is Sam Gagner. Gagner has 42 points on the season. Eight of those points came in one game. He has the ability to be an offensive force when things are going his way. He has been an effective player against Nashville so far this season.

My player to watch for the Predators is Kevin Klein. Klein returned to the Nashville lineup on Sunday night after being out with an upper-body injury. It will be interesting to see how sharp he is against a speedy team like Edmonton.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nashville continues dominance over Ducks



The Nashville Predators battled back from an early 1-0 deficit to get a 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night to close out the West Coast road-trip with a 2-1-1 record.

Things looked troublesome for Nashville when Devante Smith-Pelly scored a shorthanded goal for the Ducks at 7:32 of the first period. Anaheim had several scoring chances leading up to their shorthanded goal, and Smith-Pelly was able to capitalize on a great pass from Ryan Getzlaf.

Anders Lindback kept the Predators in the game. He made several key saves throughout the remainder of the first period and second period to keep the Ducks from adding more goals. Because of Lindback's stellar effort, Nashville entered the third period down by just one goal.

In the third period, Nashville came out with a much stronger effort. Patric Hornqvist tied the game at one for the Predators at 1:19 of the first period. Once Nashville got that first goal past Jonas Hiller, they were able to capitalize at critical times.

Mike Fisher gave the Predators their first lead of the game at 10:27 of the third period. Fisher was able to find the puck in the midst of a scrum in front of the Anaheim net and squeak it past Hiller. Anaheim would make a push as the game went along, but Lindback was there to make the key saves. David Legwand added and empty-net goal at 19:43 of the third period to secure the 3-1 victory for the Predators.

Nashville will head back to the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena for a brief visit. They will take on the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night at home and then will hit the road again to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Anders Lindback(NSH)
2. Devante Smith-Pelly(ANA)
3. Lubomir Visnovsky(ANA)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds look to complete season sweep of Ducks



After a lackluster performance last night, the Nashville Predators will try to get back to their winning ways against the Anaheim Ducks tonight at 7 p.m. at the Honda Center. Nashville has won all three meetings between the two teams so far this year, and will be looking to complete the regular season sweep tonight.

The Ducks have played like two different teams this season. Since the calendar turned to 2012, the Ducks have posted a 20-10-5 record. Before that, the Ducks posted a dreadful 10-21-6 record.

Nashville is coming off of a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings last night in a game that saw them make several key mistakes in the third period. The Predators will try to correct those mistakes as they take on a team in the Ducks that would love nothing more than to beat Nashville.

Pekka Rinne got the start last night in Los Angeles, so one would assume that Anders Lindback would get the starting nod today to finish out the back-to-back sequence. If the Predators are able to come away with a win tonight, they will have collected five of a possible eight points in the West Coast road-trip.

Nashville has outscored the Ducks by a 10-4 margin in the three previous games this year, so Anaheim will be looking to generate more offense. These two teams aren't very fond of each other, so there will likely be lots of physicality in this game.

My player to watch for the Ducks is Teemu Selanne. The ageless wonder continues to dazzle. He leads Anaheim in scoring this year, posting 62 points at 41 years of age. He has also played in every game for the Ducks so far this season. Selanne is one of the greatest players of this generation.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Shea Weber. Weber, along with his defense partner Ryan Suter, had arguably their worst game of the season last night in Los Angeles. Expect them to rebound with a solid effort tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Mistakes in third period cost Preds against Kings



The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Nashville Predators by a 4-2 score in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center on Saturday night. The Kings out-worked the Predators, and were able to capitalize on critical errors by Nashville in the third period en route to the victory.

Anze Kopitar got Los Angeles on the board at 7:53 of the first period when he fired a blazing wrist shot over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne. Kopitar's quick release stunned Rinne, who was unable to see the puck because of the traffic in front.

After being dominated in the first period, the Predators played a strong second period. Nashville was able to tie the game at one when Martin Erat scored on the power play. Patric Hornqvist was screening Jonathan Bernier, which allowed Erat's slapshot to find its way into the net.

In the third period, Nashville made three critical errors that ended up in the back of their own net. Ryan Suter wasn't able to get in front of the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, and it led to a goal by Dustin Penner at 8:04 of the period after an incredible pass from Trevor Lewis.

Later on, Gabriel Bourque fired a pass into the skates of Jordin Tootoo, which led to a turnover. Dwight King was able to finish the play on a breakaway to put the Kings up 3-1. At 16:19 of the third period, Kyle Clifford was able to get around Kevin Klein and Tootoo for a breakaway goal.

Mike Fisher brought the Predators within two goals at 17:18 of the third period, but that would be as close as Nashville would get. Los Angeles walked away with the 4-2 win, and ended the regular season series with a 3-1-0 record against the Predators.

After the lackluster play in the third period, expect to see some lineup changes for the

Predators when they take on the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night. It will be the final game of the west coast road-trip.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Dustin Penner(LAK)
2. Trevor Lewis(LAK)
3. Martin Erat(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Trevor Lewis(LAK)
2. Jonathan Bernier(LAK)
3. Dustin Penner(LAK)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nashville looks to even season series with Kings



The Nashville Predators will take on Los Angeles Kings tonight at Staples Center in the third game of a four-game Western road swing. The Predators are 1-0-1 on their road-trip so far, and will look to even the season series against Los Angeles.

Nashville will also take on the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, which means that Anders Lindback will likely start either tonight or Sunday against the Ducks. Given Rinne's success against the Ducks this year, Lindback is probably the likely starter against the Kings.

Los Angeles is coming off of a 4-2 victory over the Ducks on Friday night. Tonight's game will be the second game of a back-to-back set for the Kings. Nashville will try to push the pace early on to try and build a lead.

On Thursday night, the Predators struggled to maintain a consistent offensive push, and eventually lost to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout. They will have to be more offensively effective tonight against the Kings. If Nashville is able to execute their cycle game, they should have a lot of scoring chances.

Paul Gaustad will not be available for the Predators tonight, so the lineup will look a little bit different than it did on Thursday night. The faceoffs tonight will be critical. Nashville's other centermen will have to step up and win timely faceoffs in Gaustad's absence.

My player to watch for the Kings is Jeff Carter. Carter has three goals in his last four games, and seems to have found a comfort zone in Los Angeles. He's always been a dangerous offensive forward, and the Predators will have to limit his time and space tonight.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Patric Hornqvist. On Thursday night, Hornqvist scored his 22nd goal of the season. He has been a pest for opposing goaltenders throughout his career. Hornqvist has four goals against the Kings so far this year.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Preds lose shootout, Gaustad in San Jose



The San Jose Sharks were able to get a 2-1 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night at HP Pavilion. However, Nashville lost more than just the game.

In the third period, Paul Gaustad landed awkwardly on his wrist after being shoved from behind. He left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. If he's out for any extended period of time, it could be a huge loss for the Predators.

As for the game itself, it was a goaltending duel. San Jose had the advantage in scoring chances, but Pekka Rinne was able to keep the Predators in the game. The Sharks had a 35-33 shot advantage, but had a lot of quality scoring chances. Both Rinne and Antii Niemi were sensational in net.

Nashville got on the board in the first period when Patric Hornqvist scored one of the easiest power play goals of his career. Usually, Hornqvist scores by redirecting a puck or from the bottom of a pile. This time, he had all kinds of time and space to force the puck past Niemi. Mike Fisher made a great pass to Hornqvist, who was standing all alone in front of the net. The Sharks left him standing there and Hornqvist made them pay.

The Predators would hold on to the 1-0 lead until 55 seconds into the third period. Joe Thornton was able to corral a rebound on the doorstep and put the puck past Rinne for the power play goal.

In the overtime period, both teams had a few good chances to come away with the win. However, as had been the case for the entire game, both goalies came up big. Neither team was able to convert in the overtime period, and the game went to a shootout.

Ryan Clowe scored the lone goal in the shootout to give the Sharks a much-needed victory. With the point gained, Nashville reached the 90-point mark on the season. Last season, the Predators didn't reach the 90-point mark until March 25.

Nashville will take on the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night at Staples Center. Gaustad will likely be out for Saturday night's game, so other players will have to step up for Nashville in the faceoff circle.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Antii Niemi(SJS)
3. Ryan Clowe(SJS)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Antii Niemi(SJS)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Justin Braun(SJS)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How long can Nashville wait on Radulov?



Earlier today, Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo! Sports reported that Alexander Radulov is ready to make the move to come back to the Nashville Predators. The only problem is that Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Radulov's KHL team, has not yet granted him permission to leave.

This process certainly isn't over. Radulov is reportedly meeting with KHL President Alexander Medvedev tomorrow, and will try to find a way that will allow him to make his return to Music City. However, as this process continues to drag along, one would think the Predators would have to impose a deadline to Radulov returning this season.

With the playoffs right around the corner, Radulov would need to have enough time to incorporate himself into the locker room and lineup before the playoffs began. If he were to come back in the next few days, that probably wouldn't be a huge issue. However, if this process drags out for another week or two, suddenly you have just a handful of games left before the postseason begins.

If Radulov comes back with five games or less remaining in the season, there would be hardly any time for him to develop chemistry with his linemates. Remember, Radulov hasn't played with the majority of the Predators' roster, and the ones that he did play with haven't played with him in four years.

It's certainly going to be an interesting saga to follow going forward. If Radulov is able to resolve his differences with the KHL in an efficient manner, then it's a non-issue. He's a gifted player that would provide an immediate boost to the Predators lineup. However, if they are unable to come to an agreement soon that would allow him to return to the Predators this season, when should the Predators close the door? Or should they close the door at all? Sound off in the comments below.

Preds look to catch Detroit in San Jose



The Nashville Predators will take on the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at HP Pavilion for the final time in the 2011-2012 regular season. Nashville is two points behind the Detroit Red Wings with two games in hand coming into this game, and will tie their point total with a win tonight.

Nashville is coming off of a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night. The Predators held a 4-2 lead in that game, but allowed the Coyotes to come back and force the game to go to an overtime period and a shootout. Andrei Kostitsyn scored the lone goal of the shootout to give the Predators a victory.

San Jose, who are usually a perennial powerhouse in the Western Conference, currently sit in ninth place in the conference standings. They have battled through injuries this year, and will have to make their push now if they hope to get back into playoff position. Martin Havlat will make his return to the lineup tonight for the Sharks.

In the last meeting between these two teams, the Predators annihilated the Sharks by a 6-2 score. Expect the game to be a lot close this time around. San Jose still has a lot of offensive talent, and they are going to be playing like a desperate hockey team.

My player to watch for the Sharks is Havlat. He has been a consistent threat against Nashville throughout his career, accumulating 37 points in 30 career games against the Predators. It will be his first game back since December 17th against the Edmonton Oilers.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Paul Gaustad. He will be called upon to take several key faceoffs tonight. For the most part, he's come up big in the faceoff circle for the Predators since being acquired at the trade deadline. Expect him to get the critical draws tonight.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scouting Report: Alexander Radulov



While it is by no means certain at this point that Alexander Radulov will be making his return to the Nashville Predators, it does seem to be getting more and more likely as the days go on.

Given the drastic growth of hockey in the Nashville area over the past few years, it's likely that many current Predators fans never saw Radulov play live at Bridgestone Arena before he bolted to the Kontinental Hockey League. Given that he hasn't been anywhere near Nashville since the end of the 2007-2008 season, new Preds fans might want to know what all of the fuss is about with this Radulov guy. Here is a Hockey Night in Nashville scouting report on Radulov:

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES

Radulov has pretty good size. During the last year he was with the Predators in 2008, he was listed a 6'1", 188 pounds. One can only guess that he's added some strength weight during his time in the KHL.

OFFENSIVE SKILLSET

As far as pure talent is concerned, Radulov is arguably the most gifted player to ever wear a Nashville uniform. His offensive skills are world-class, especially his ability to create something out of nothing. Radulov has a bomb for a wrist shot, and is really good a picking the corners.

Radulov also has pretty good speed, which allows him to be even more dangerous in odd-man rush situations. Offensively, Radulov is the complete package. He can skate well, deke, dangle, shoot and he's a pretty good passer in his own right. One of the biggest weapons that Radulov has is his ability to show great patience with the puck. He waits until he has the perfect opportunity to score and unloads.

DEFENSE


One of the biggest questions about Radulov's game is his defense. During his two years in Nashville, Radulov was defensively irresponsible. Most reports out of Russia suggest that his defensive game has improved, and that he's a much more complete player now than he was four years ago. Still, he hasn't proven to be a good defensive forward at the NHL level.

PASSION FOR THE GAME


If Radulov scores a goal, there's not a person in the building that won't know it was him. He's known for his drawn-out goal celebrations, which are simply hilarious. He got a lot of flack for that while in the NHL, but it does show that he is really passionate about the game.

DIFFERENCE MAKER

Since he left Nashville, the Predators have been in search for that superstar forward who can be a true difference maker. Radulov is that guy. He's a guy that can score a big goal when his team needs it. He's not afraid of the big moments. Even during the younger days of his NHL career, Radulov racked up five playoff goals in just 10 games played.

The bottom line is that if Radulov decides to return to the Predators for the remainder of this season, Nashville instantly becomes a very serious Stanley Cup contender. His offensive skills are something that Nashville has needed for the past few years. If and when Radulov returns, the sky is the limit for this Nashville hockey team.

Here is a link to a YouTube video that really highlights the points made above.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Preds hold on to get crucial two points in Glendale



The Nashville Predators were able to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes in a shootout by a 5-4 score on Monday night. Games between these two teams are normally low-scoring, tight-checking games. This one was not.

Martin Erat got the ball rolling for the Predators in the first period when he was able to squeeze one past Mike Smith to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. Sergei Kostitsyn made a nifty drop pass to give Erat time and space. Erat threw a shot on goal that Smith was unable to corral. The Predators led 1-0 after the first period.

Phoenix would respond just 49 seconds into the second period when Daymond Langkow redirected a shot past Pekka Rinne to tie the game at one goal. The Predators would retake the lead at 11:04 of the second period, however, when Mike Fisher converted on a great pass from Sergei Kostitsyn after a flurry of chances for both teams. However, the Coyotes weren't going to go away.

Keith Yandle tied the game at two for Phoenix on a great individual play. He got the puck at the point and made a few moves to create time and space. Yandle fired a quick wrist shot through traffic past Rinne on the glove side. Nashville would retake the lead once again, however, when Francis Bouillon scored his first goal of the year. Bouillon led the rush and fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Smith. Bouillon got his own rebound, however, and was able to fire it past Smith on the second shot. Nashville had a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.

Craig Smith gave the Predators a two-goal lead on a beautiful breakaway move at 2:36 of the third period. Paul Gaustad made a beautiful pass through two Coyote defenders, and Smith was able to score on a beautiful backhand move.

Phoenix was able to battle back. Oliver Ekman-Larsson pulled the Coyotes within one when he fired a simple wrist shot from the point that snuck past Rinne. After that goal, Phoenix really controlled the play for the remainder of the third period. They were able to get the equalizer once again when Raffi Torres scored in a scrum in front of Rinne.

In overtime, both teams had several chances to win the game. Yandle found himself wide open in the slot with a wide open net but wasn't able to convert. After a back and forth overtime frame, the game moved to the shootout.

Rinne starred for the Predators in the shootout. He stopped all three Phoenix attempts, while Andrei Kostitsyn was able to score the lone goal in the shootout for the Predators. Nashville got away with a 5-4 win despite playing sloppy for the majority of the game.

With the win, the Predators improve to a 41-21-7 record for 89 points, and are now just two points behind the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference standings. The road team won each game in the regular season series between the Coyotes and Predators this year.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Martin Erat(NSH)
2. Daymond Langkow(PHX)
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson(PHX)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson(PHX)
2. Daymond Langkow(PHX)
3. Martin Erat(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds look to grab two points in the desert



The Nashville Predators will begin their final regular season West Coast swing tonight at 9 p.m. central time against the Phoenix Coyotes. So far this season, the road team has won every game between these two teams. Phoenix walked away with two wins at Bridgestone Arena earlier and the year, and Pekka Rinne led the Predators to a 3-0 shutout victory over the Coyotes on November 3rd in the desert. The Predators hope that trend holds true tonight.

Phoenix is coming off of a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. The Coyotes currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference with 78 points, and are right in the thick of things in the battle for the Pacific Division. Phoenix has posted a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 games.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. The Predators have posted a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games, and are trying to keep pace with Detroit and St. Louis and the Central Division.

As will be the theme for most of the remainder of the regular season, the Predators will have to match the intensity of the Coyotes tonight. Nashville has a little more breathing room in playoff positioning than Phoenix does, but they can't allow that to affect their effort on the ice.

My player to watch for the Coyotes is Mike Smith. He's coming off of a shutout performance on Saturday night, and has been the main reason for his team's success so far this season.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Francis Bouillon. He had a great week defensively last week for the Predators, and his physicality will be key in tonight's game in Phoenix.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Erat's puck possession critical for Preds offense



If a casual hockey fan watches a Nashville Predators game, there are several different things that may stand out to them from afar. Pekka Rinne is usually lights out in goal, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are perhaps the most talented defensive pairing in the NHL and yes, Mike Fisher is married to Carrie Underwood.

Martin Erat, however, often goes unnoticed. He leads the Predators in scoring with 49 points in 60 games played on the year so far, and is a consistent force on a team that ranks ninth in the NHL in goals for. He also has a special gift that allows him to consistently produce year in and year out.

At 201 pounds, Erat’s body type and balance on his skates allow him to be a master of puck possession. His strength on the puck is something that has been a stable factor in his game for several years now, and it’s a big reason for his consistent offensive production for Nashville.

“It’s what he does. He’s a puck possession kind of guy. His legs and core are really strong, and it’s tough to knock him off the puck. Obviously, playing against him in practice, guys in here compete with each other and challenge so you get to see for yourself how sturdy he is,” Weber said.

The Czech Republic native grew up playing a European style of hockey that has been traditionally known for being fast-paced and friendly toward offensively-centered players. In a hockey environment that relies heavily on puck possession, Erat has been used to focusing on his puck control since he began playing hockey.

“I grew up with it. That’s just how I play. That’s my style of game,” Erat said. “When you’ve got the puck, the opposition can’t score goals.”

Being strong on the puck is one of the most underrated attributes in the NHL. Part of the reason that players like Erat and Pavel Datsyuk have success in the league is because they are so hard to separate from the puck, which allows them to create more chances offensively.

Puck protection takes a combination of skill and being physically gifted. It’s one thing to have the hands to be able to dangle past a defender to create space, but it takes a certain amount of strength to be in full control of the play while two or three defenders are whacking away at the puck. Like anything else in hockey, puck possession is something that can be improved upon, but having the physical strength is imperative.

“I guess it’s something you could work on. It certainly helps being heavy on the puck if you know how to protect yourself. I think it just comes down to if you want to win the battle more and if you’re strong enough. It’s just having that competitive edge as well as strength,” said Predators forward Colin Wilson.

Puck possession plays a major role in the makeup of any hockey game. Having control of the puck for the majority of the game limits the opposition from being able to sustain any consistent offense. Without that strength on the puck in the offensive zone, things can quickly go haywire. Erat brings that reliability to the Predators on a nightly basis.

“Strength on the puck is important to anybody in the game because there’s a lot of tight gaps, there’s people around you. You can’t expose the puck. That’s a recipe for turnovers. That’s a recipe for transitional plays. That’s a recipe for no forecheck or flow,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

Nashville’s top line of Erat, Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn has been the most reliable offensive option for the Predators this season. That productivity all starts with being able to control the puck in the offensive zone, which is an area where Erat thrives. His strength on the puck, combined with his great passing ability, open up lanes for Fisher and Kostitsyn to work with.

“He’s a guy that’s got great speed and he’s really shifty, makes great plays and works real hard. He’s really smart, and he’s hard to get the puck off of. That kind of slows things down at times and allows us to get in position for him. He usually seems to find us,” Fisher said.

With the time that Erat, Fisher and Kostitsyn have spent together on a line so far this season, they have become very comfortable playing with each other. With the ability to wear the opposition down with their puck control, they have been a reliable offensive group for the Predators on almost a nightly basis.

“I think we’ve managed to get a little bit better and get comfortable with each other,” Fisher said. “Those guys bring a lot of skill and speed and can make some great plays. We’ve managed to have a lot of fun out there, and we’ve just got to make sure we keep it going,”

“It’s been great. We are controlling the puck and trying not to give the puck up for free. Both guys are playing well, and we’re just trying to complement each other on the ice. We are doing a pretty good job with that, and we have to keep going and play strong for the team,” Erat said.

Erat is having one of the best seasons of his career this year from a statistical standpoint, but he does so many things for Nashville besides racking up the goals and assists. His ability to maintain possession of the puck is just one of those things, and it’s been absolutely critical for them so far this season.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kostitsyn brothers shine in Preds win over Detroit



The Nashville Predators defeated the Detroit Red Wings by a 3-2 score on Saturday night in front of the 20th sellout crowd of the season at Bridgestone Arena. The Kostitsyn brothers led the way for the Predators on the power play to guide them to the victory.

In the first period, Nashville got on the board on when Patric Hornqvist was able to convert on the 2-on-1 rush on a great feed from David Legwand. Detroit responded just 13 seconds later when Drew Miller put one past Pekka Rinne to kill the Nashville momentum.

Andrei Kostitsyn gave the Predators a 2-1 lead on the power play after a great feed from Sergei Kostitsyn. Legwand found Sergei in the slot to set up the prime scoring opportunity. Sergei fed Andrei from the slot, and Andrei was able to spin around and slide the puck past Joey MacDonald.

The two Central Division rivals battled back and forth in the second period, but were unable to convert on their chances. The score remained 2-1 heading into the third period.

In the third, the Kostitsyn brothers hooked up again on the power play 4:34 into the period. Legwand once again found Sergei down low, and Sergei was able to sneak a pass through traffic to Andrei for the back-door goal.

"(Legwand) sees the ice very well. On the first goal, I got open in the middle and he saw the ice very well, and just passed it to me. I redirected it to Andrei and Andrei scored. On the second one, it was the same thing. I was down low. Like I said, (Legwand) sees the ice well and just passed it to me down low. I fed Andrei back door," Sergei said.

Detroit made a furious push for the remainder of the third period to try and tie the game. Justin Abdelkader was finally able to sneak one past Rinne at 14:35 of the final frame to bring the Red Wings within one goal. Rinne would shut the door from there, however. The Predators were able to hold on for a key divisional win to bring them within four points of Detroit with a game in hand.

"We're chasing those guys, and we knew they were going to come hard and play their best game. They're missing some guys, but they played very good. We were six points behind them, so that was a huge win for us," Sergei said.

Nashville will now head on the road for another West Coast trip. They will take on the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night in Glendale. The Coyotes are in a fight for their playoff lives, and will be playing desperate hockey on Monday night. The Predators will have to match their intensity.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Andrei Kostitysn(NSH)
2. David Legwand(NSH)
3. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Press Release: Preds sign Maclellan

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed free-agent Jack Maclellan to a one-year entry-level contract. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (March 10, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed free-agent forward Jack Maclellan to a one-year entry-level contract.

Maclellan, 23 (6/5/88), recently completed his senior season at Brown University where he led the Bears in points (15g-15a-30pts), goals and assists in 30 games played. The 5-11, 175-pound left wing also ranked sixth in the ECAC in power-play goals (8), tied for second in shorthanded goals (2) and tied for fourth in the conference in game-winning goals (4). Brown’s team captain for the 2011-12 season, Maclellan was recently named a 2011-12 All-Ivy First-Team Selection and finalist for the 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. He finished his collegiate career last weekend as just the 23rd player in school history to record 100 points, registering 101 points (46g-55a) in 121 games.

The Calgary, Alta., native attended Nashville Predators Development Camp in the summer of 2011.

Preds look to take down Red Wings on Saturday night



The Nashville Predators will host the Detroit Red Wings for the final time in the 2011-2012 regular season tonight at Bridgestone Arena. In the four games that the two teams have played against each other so far this season, the Red Wings have come out on the winning side in three of them.

This game is a big one for both teams. If the Predators are able to win, they will be only four points behind Detroit with one game in hand. If Detroit wins, they will be eight points ahead of Nashville. The Predators have to make good use of the home ice advantage tonight.

"We've played them pretty good at home. They are a team that we're trying to catch right now. They're a bit banged up, which probably doesn't mean anything because they're deep. We've got to make sure we're ready to play like we did on Thursday night. This is a huge game for us. With this one, we're right on their tails," said Predators forward Mike Fisher.

Detroit is coming off of a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night. The Kings held a 3-2 lead in the third period, but the Red Wings wouldn't go away. Darren Helm scored the game-winning goal at 18:47 of the third period to complete the comeback effort for the Red Wings.

My player to watch for the Red Wings is Henrik Zetterberg. With Pavel Datsyuk out of the lineup, Zetterberg will be the primary threat for the Red Wings. He's coming off of a two-goal effort over the Kings last night.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. Legwand always seems to elevate his game against Detroit. The play of the Predators second line will be critical in tonight's game.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bouillon's defensive sequence preserves Preds' lead en route to 4-2 win



After Tuesday night's loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators really focused on trying to match the desperation level of the opposition. On Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche, they were able to do just that.

Nashville was able to get a 4-2 win over the Avalanche in front of the 19th sellout crowd of the season at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators had a lot of scoring chances in this game, and could have easily scored nine goals if not for the stellar goaltending of Semyon Varlamov. Even though the fell behind 1-0 just 1:14 into the game, the Predators looked like the more desperate team. That desperation allowed them to battle back and win the game.

"Every game throughout the season is going to be hard, and you've got to play some desperate teams like that. We've got to match the effort, and that's what we did tonight for 60 minutes. That's why we came out of here with the two points," said Predators defenseman Francis Bouillon.

After a goal by Jamie McGinn that put the Avalanche up 1-0, the Predators responded at 2:54 of the first period with a goal from Mike Fisher to tie the game at one. Brandon Yip, who was put on waivers by Colorado earlier in the year, made his former team pay when he was able to redirect a shot from the point by Roman Josi past Varlamov to give Nashville a 2-1 lead.

Colorado had a couple of really good chances to tie the game in the second period. Ryan Suter made a good defensive play to steer the puck away when the Avalanche had a wide open net. Shortly after that, Bouillon broke up and odd-man rush and laid a gigantic hit on David Jones in the following sequence to preserve the 2-1 lead.

"We had the lead 2-1, and I think that was a great play. You never know what you're going to do on a 2-on-1, but I was in good position. I just read the play and cut it. After that, I was able to get a good hit too. It was a good play," Bouillon said.

Sergei Kostitsyn gave the Predators a 3-1 lead when he scored with 31.6 seconds remaining in the second period, and gave all fans in attendance a voucher for a free Goo Goo cluster. Gabriel Landeskog's breakout pass was deflected by Matt Halischuk, and the puck found its way onto Kostitsyn's stick and into the back of the net.

Colorado brought the game within one on a goal from Paul Stastny in the third period, but that would be as close as they would get. Martin Erat added an empty-net goal to ice the game away for the Predators. Each member of Nashville's top line scored a goal in the game.

"We are pretty lucky to have players like that. They show up every game. They always give a good effort even if they don't have points," Bouillon said.

Things got a bit chippy in this game. Jordin Tootoo and Cody McLeod squared off in the second period, and there were several scrums after the whistle throughout the game. It almost had a playoff-like feel to it.

"It was kind of like the playoffs. It's going to be hard until the end. If we're going to keep moving up, that's the kind of game we have to play," Bouillon said.

With the win, Pekka Rinne set the single season franchise record for wins with 37 on the year. It wasn't his best game, but he made the saves at crucial times to keep the Avalanche from clawing their way back into the game.

The Predators will take on the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena in a Central Division showdown. Nashville has only beaten Detroit one time this year in the four games they have played, so they will have something to prove on Saturday night.

"It's never easy against a team like that. It's a rivalry against them and it's going to be hard. The building is going to be sold-out, and this is the type of game we have to play against Detroit too," Bouillon said.

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

Official 3 Stars:
1. Ryan Suter(NSH)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn(NSH)
3. Paul Stastny(COL)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shift after goal crucial for maintaining momentum



Momentum in sports really has a way of affecting the outcome of the game. The team that grabs the momentum and is able to maintain it has a high likelihood of coming away with the victory.

At times so far this season, the Nashville Predators have had trouble maintaining their momentum after scoring a goal. It's become a point of emphasis for the Predators, and it will be a crucial lesson to master heading into playoff time.

"That's what we talk about all the time. The start of periods, the end of periods and the shift right after a goal are big momentum shifts. They're key. If you want to get anything rolling on your side, you have to keep the momentum. There are certain moments in a game that are more important than others," said Predators Captain Shea Weber.

So far this season, the opposition has scored eight goals against the Predators less than a minute after a Nashville goal. The Predators are 2-5-1 in those games. That's eight times that the Predators have let the momentum of the game slip away.

On Tuesday night's game against Los Angeles, the Predators fell victim to this problem again. Patric Hornqvist scored a goal at 18:41 of the first period to tie the game at one for Nashville. On the very next shift, the Kings responded with a goal that once again gave them control of the game.

"If you score a goal, you get the momentum. The crowd is into the game. They want to be a part of helping you have some success, and before they announce the goal, they're announcing their goal. That's not how to take momentum and go forward with it," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

Shifts like that are deflating no matter when it happens, but it seems to have an even great effect on the bench at home. It takes the crowd out of the game, which is makes the road team's job a lot easier.

"The fans are getting into it, and they get so excited when you score that goal. You want to keep that momentum going. To lose it, it deflates your team a little bit," said Predators forward Colin Wilson.

This Nashville squad is perhaps as complete of a team as the franchise has ever seen, but the shift after a goal is an area that Trotz and his coaching staff will have to hammer home. It's absolutely crucial for maintaining momentum.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kings' offense ignites in 5-4 victory over Preds



The Los Angeles Kings walked away from Bridgestone Arena with a 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night in front of the 18th sellout crowd of the season. Justin Williams led the Kings to victory with two goals on the night in what was a bit of a quirky game.

Los Angeles got on the board 6:16 into the first period when Williams scored from the corner to put the Kings up 1-0. Pekka Rinne misplayed the puck behind the net and the puck went in off of his skate. It was just the beginning of what was a forgettable night for the Finnish netminder.

Patric Hornqvist tied the game at one for the Predators with just over a minute remaining in the first period, but Williams would respond again for Los Angeles to give the Kings a 2-1 lead heading into the second period.

"We scored to get it tied up, and they didn't even finish announcing our goal and they score. To me, that's not acceptable," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

The second period would prove to be a wild one. Nashville tied the game at two on a beautiful snipe from Martin Erat. Los Angeles responded just three minutes later, however, with a one-timer from the slot. Sergei Kostitsyn would tie the game once again for Nashville at 14:05 of the second period on a simple wrist shot that beat Jonathan Quick low on the blocker side.

Los Angeles would come out firing in the third period. They scored two quick goals to take a 5-3 lead. Hornqvist would add another goal for the Predators at 14:42 of the third to pull the Predators within one, but that would be as close as they would get. The Kings got a much-needed 5-4 win to pull within one point of the Pacific Division lead.

"It was tough for us, especially starting the third. We've got to be better. Five goals against isn't good enough. That's not going to win hockey games, and we know that," said Predators centerman Paul Gaustad.

Jordin Tootoo was given a game misconduct at 13:19 of the third period for making contact with an official. It is unclear whether or not he will receive any additional discipline from the NHL.

After giving up his fifth goal of the night, Rinne was pulled from the game in favor of Anders Lindback. It was the fifth time this season that Rinne has been pulled from a game.

"It just wasn't (Rinne's) night. We weren't helping him a whole lot. You've got to help him in the crease area better. You've got to clear pucks, have your man a little firmer. Four is usually my limit with (Rinne) and I thought we still had a lot of game to go with, and I thought I'd give him one more," Trotz said.

Nashville will try to move on from this game and rebound against Colorado on Thursday night. The Avalanche defeated the Minnesota Wild by a 7-1 score on Tuesday night to continue their push toward playoff positioning.

"We have to bounce back and do what we can do to win the game," Gaustad said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Justin Williams(LAK)
2. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)
3. Trevor Lewis(LAK)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Justin Williams(LAK)
2. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)
3. Trevor Lewis(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)