Game 2: Pregame Breakdown

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Six and a half hours until puck drop, my friends. Are you ready? More importantly, are the Predators ready? No one is unaware of the “you-know-what” the second period has been and Wednesday night’s game solidified the fact this issue needs to be addressed pronto – as in right now – if the Predators want to hold that big shiny Cup at the end of the season. Instead of going into rant-mode, I’ll keep this post on the informational side. Here’s the breakdown of what should be expected before tonight’s puck drop:

  • Did I say six and a half hours? Add about 12 minutes onto that time. Per Thomas Willis, the official puck drop is 8:42PM. Thank goodness tomorrow is Saturday or I’d really have to double-down on the coffee.
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  • No surprise, Mike Fisher was not at practice this morning. Nor was Eric Nystrom, but that’s really, really no surprise.
  • Someone who was there was Cody Franson… And he will be playing tonight.
  • So will Santorelli.

  • Laviolette finally addressed that second period issue (or at least, the first time I’ve seen him address it):

  • Corey Crawford will start in net tonight for Chicago, despite being chased out in the first period in Game 1 AND being overshadowed by Darling’s performance. We have not seen the last of Scott Darling, mind you.
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  • Pregame meal? Eat at the Bridgestone. Or, at least, not downtown. Not only will there be tons of Chicago fans on top of the already insane amount of tourists (and that it’s Friday), some restaurants and bars are marketing to the enemy:
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    Courtesy: Robby Stanley — Boycott this shameful establishment.

    How embarrassing is this? No, seriously. As someone who controls a major part of the Marketing for her company, there would be no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks I’d make this big of a risk. First off, I have a team that would’ve gone, “Uh Beks, you’ve lost your mind.” I get it; money is the name of the game, especially if you are on tourist row (A.K.A. Broadway), but you are essentially ostracizing your city for a quick buck. Yes, revenue will definitely soar and you’ll make a hefty profit, but you are banking on this to get swept under the rug and forgotten about after the hockey season is over. Here’s the thing about hockey fans, Tequila Cowboy; once you’ve crossed them, it’s done. Why do you think we hate Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim, Vancouver so much? They pissed us off. Be loyal to your audience, my friend; yes, you get more tourists than residents, but those residents have a power called “reference” and nobody is going to speak highly of your business to visiting friends after you’ve done this. Will it affect you that much? Probably not, but you’ve crossed the line and shunned your hometown. Also, how many times are the Blackhawks in town during any given season? Not nearly close to the 41 home games the Predators have. How truly embarrassing and downright shameful. There is no way any bar or restaurant in Chicago will throw “pep rallies” for visiting Nashville fans. How absolutely asinine and an awful marketing “strategy” to begin with.

Though Wednesday featured more mustard than ketchup, I have a feeling – being it a Friday – there will be twice the number of Blackhawks fans tonight than Wednesday. So, if you are attending tonight’s game, meditate or do whatever calms your nerves and be prepared. Good vibes and decent officiating are welcomed.

Only a Day Away…

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As the image above suggests, tomorrow begins the pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup and on the agenda? Ottawa at Montreal, Islanders at Washington, Calgary at Vancouver, and Chicago at Nashville.

It’s been two years since the Predators and Nashville have seen playoff hockey and there are a ton of new faces (both player and fan-wise) that will see an entirely new side of the game they’ve come to love. Here’s a few things that have been happening around the rink & then some:

  • The World is a Stage –
    Despite many claiming that the Predators will be “twisting” the National Anthem to thwart Blackhawks fans, they actually have been doing this for quite a few games now; nothing new, guys. What will they be doing, you ask? Simply having the crowd sing the National Anthem instead of a performer; that’s it. No “God Bless America” or what have you, just some good ole mono a mono American harmonizing… or lack thereof. So, if you are coming to Game 1 tomorrow, gargle some salt water and practice your “Do, Re, Mi”, because there’s good chance you’ll have to drown out some obnoxious hollering.
  • Return of the Kane –
    After suffering a broken clavicle back on February 24th, Patrick Kane has announced he will be suiting up for Game 1 tomorrow night. Chicago didn’t suffer as badly as many fans would’ve thought during Kane’s absence as they finished 10-4-1 without him. However, though Kane’s return really doesn’t scathe the Nashville bench, it will pose a bit of a threat.
  • Bring ‘Em On [Up] –
    With injuries starting to increase, Nashville has had to make a few recalls from the Milwaukee Admirals to adjust. Two players to make the recall list just in time for the playoffs are defenseman Joe Piskula and forward-favorite, Kevin Fiala. Piskula, who was signed on a one-year contract over the summer, has one game under his belt this season for Nashville, and likewise for Fiala (who was drafted this season). This could be a turning point for both men, as strength and tenacity shown during key battles (like the playoffs) always strike a [good] cord. Update – Piskula will not have a chance at the NHL playoffs, as he has just been reassigned to Milwaukee. What a bummer, man. So, here’s to you, Kevin Fiala!
  • Not quite IR Level –
    Let’s see… Mike Fisher (lower-body), Cody Franson (upper-body), and Eric Nystrom (lower-body). So the count isn’t as high as it has been in the recent past, but we’re beginning to wonder at least about Nystrom and his injury. Of course, Ellis’s recovery was never discussed when he was out for that extended period of time, so nothing to see here; just still day-to-day. Both Fisher and Franson were at practice today, though Franson donned a “no contact” white jersey. There’s a good chance Fisher may be back for tomorrow’s game, or at the least Friday.
  • Peks (and so forth) on Point –
    It’s hard to argue against Pekka Rinne’s excellence in goaltending, but all things must come to an end eventually. No, I am not saying Rinne is in the downside of his career by any means, but it is no secret the rest of the team (and fans) rely on the Finnish Phenom a little too heavily at times & Lord knows he isn’t perfect. With the defense on the slide as of late (and Pekka still recovering from the effects of – you know – e. coli in his reconstructed hip),  Rinne has let a few escape by him that he’d otherwise put a stop to before it could even leave the stick. In order to push the Blackhawks aside and move forward in the playoffs, both the defense and Rinne are going to need to be on point. With Patrick Kane’s return, there’s even smaller room for error as that kid is known for pinpointing weaknesses – be it on the goaltender or some other blunder – and he will eat well beyond his fill.

Surprise! The whole world is against the Predators… again. Of course, after a lovely six-game losing streak to end the season & completely letting the Central Division slip through their hands, it’s easy to see why the hype over the team we’ve held dear to has come crashing down. That’s fine – let those who follow the bandwagon push on elsewhere. As the national treasure Tracy Lawrence once (probably continues to) sang:

“Everybody wants to slap your back,
Wants to shake your hand
When you’re up on top of that mountain.
But let one of those rocks give way,
Then you slide back down,
Look up and see who’s around then”

Yea, that’s how it usually goes with the Predators and Nashville needs to feed off of that and put some momentum behind their skates. They are the perpetual underdogs who had an outstanding season and kind of sort of blew it in the latter half. All teams go through ruts, right? Ah, but Nashville’s ruts always seem to be a little more heavier than say, Pittsburgh or Chicago. It’s a stigma they’ll probably carry for the rest of their existence as an organization – a non-traditional team on the march to contend with the big boys. And, for those who are not native to Tennessee reading this post, uh… just as a head’s up: Pretty sure Calgary says “yee-haw” about 100% more times than we ever would. In fact, no one says it here so… stop. Ask Dallas about that saying; it’s more of a Texas thing anyway.

So, cheers to the first round of the playoffs and may the best team move onward to Lord Stanley’s silver Cup. And by best team, I mean the Predators.

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Preds Recall Kevin Fiala

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

After recalling defenseman Joe Piskula on Friday, the Predators announced that fellow Admiral, Kevin Fiala would be making the trip to Nashville. Fiala joined the team for today’s practice, along with recently injured Mike Fisher. All players were accounted for during practice except for both Cody Franson and Eric Nystrom.

The Predators and Blackhawks begin the battle for the Stanley Cup this Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena. Though Nashville has taken as many steps as possible to avoid an overflow of “red” in the arena, methinks it’ll still be pretty… ugly in there.

Ugly OT Win breaks Preds 6-Game Losing Streak

Source: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Source: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Call it what you will: ugly, gritty, rough, etc., but the Predators pulled out the two-points over the Arizona Coyotes to end their six-game losing streak last night.

SCRATCHED: Victor Bartley, Calle Jarnkrok, Eric Nystrom, Anton Volchenkov

FIRST PERIOD:

  • The Predators came out with a little more fire under their belts, but goaltender Louis Domingue interrupted all 13 SOG that Nashville mustered. For someone who has only tended NHL ice once previously to this match, Domingue brought his A-game; a testament to his solid abilities.
  • Pekka was on point, too, last night, blocking all nine shots-on-goal from the Coyotes in the first period.

SECOND PERIOD:

  • At 3:26 into the second period, Paul Gaustad collected his third goal of the season with assistance from Taylor Beck (7).
  • Both Arizona and Nashville were given two power play opportunities, but neither could capitalize on the advantage.
  • The Coyotes out-shot the Predators eleven to eight.

THIRD PERIOD:

  • At 7:27 into the third, the Coyotes set the game with a tip-in from Kyle Chipchura, his 4th goal of the season.
  • Nashville was awarded three power play chances in the third, including one that would follow up to the end of regulation, but they were unable to connect.
  • The Predators out-shot the Coyotes twelve to eight in the third period.

OVERTIME:

  • James Neal came to the rescue, scoring his 22nd goal of the season just 2:45 in overtime. Seth Jones (17) and Cody Franson (29) tallied the assists on Neal’s game-winning-goal.

POST GAME NOTES:

  • The Predators are now 8-0-1 when Paul Gaustad notches a point during the span of a game.
  • Nashville is also 9-1-2 when Viktor Stalberg is in the lineup.
  • Gaustad’s goal ends another poignant streak; the eleven-straight games without tallying the first goal. Reminder: six of those eleven resulted in losses.
  • Cody Franson tallied his first point with the Predators since being traded to the team back in February (and, if we want to get really technical, his first points with the Preds since the 2010-11 season).
  • With two points, the Predators jump the Anaheim Ducks to reclaim first in the Western Conference and league. That’s an amazing stat in its own, that Nashville was able to lose six-straight and still bounce back into the lead with one win.
  • Pekka Rinne now has 199 career wins and the Predators franchise now has their 599th win.

The Predators aren’t out of hot water just yet; oh no. Nashville heads further west, taking on all three teams in California before making it back home on Tuesday to face the Minnesota Wild. The Sharks, who Nashville plays Thursday night at 9:30PM, will be desperately looking for a win as they are sitting in fifth in the Pacific Division and just one point behind the Kings.

NSH notches 40th Win in SO against BUF 2-1

Source: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Source: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, this isn’t the road trip the Predators expected to have, now is it? After taking a loss Thursday 5-2 from the New York Islanders, then limping away with a point yesterday afternoon against the Flyers, the Predators were hoping to shake off this excruciating road trip with a win against the 17-38-4 (ouch) Buffalo Sabres before returning home on Tuesday.

SCRATCHES: Victor Bartley, Calle Jarnkrok

FIRST PERIOD:

  • A rather uneventful period, Nashville managed to out-shoot Buffalo eleven to three, but Michal Neuvirth was there to block the Preds.

SECOND PERIOD:

  • What looked like another quiet period, Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis (15) was able to sink a wrister on Carter Hutton at 19:46, giving the Sabres a late second period 1-0 lead. Zemgus Girgensons (14) and Matt Moulson (17) tallied the assists.
  • Nashville once again out-shot Buffalo, this time fifteen to four, but it was Ennis who found the sweet spot.

THIRD PERIOD:

  • Relief for the Predators came at 15:43 on the powerplay as Mike Ribeiro (12) deflected a shot to tie the game at one. Cody Franson (27) and Seth Jones (16) notch the assists.
  • The Predators only managed ten shots-on-goal during the third, but again, out-shot the Sabres by four.

OVERTIME:

  • The Predators were given a late overtime powerplay chance, but nothing could be accomplished by either team in OT, so onward to the shootout…

SHOOTOUT:

  • BUF – Matt Moulson – MISS
  • NSH – Mike Santorelli – GOAL
  • BUF – Tyler Ennis – GOAL
  • NSH – Craig Smith – MISS
  • BUF – Zemgus Girgensons – MISS
  • NSH – Matt Cullen – MISS
  • BUF – Brian Gionta – MISS
  • NSH – Filip Forsberg – GOAL

POST GAME NOTES:

  • The Predators are the first team in the NHL to reach 40 wins with this shootout victory and set a franchise record.
  • Both Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli help secure this win tonight, with Franson collecting an assist and Santorelli sinking a goal in the shootout.

Inhale slowly through the nose, exhale slowly through the mouth; the Predators walk away with the two points. Okay, but let’s discuss how outrageous Michal Neuvirth was in net tonight. Nashville was doing everything right; you can see that from the amount of shots-on-goal. Unfortunately, Neuvirth was doing everything right, too. The kid blocked 37 of the 38 SOG; that’s Pekka-esque and pretty darn good.

Take a deep breath, my friends. The Predators are back home Tuesday to take on the Colorado Avalanche, who are currently sitting at the bottom of the Central Division. Then it’s a bout with Ryan Suter and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

Fans brave Ice & Preds Win 5-1

Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

How’s everyone doing during the #ICESTORM2015? What was supposed to be ideal, beautiful snow turned into hazardous, just-plain-evil ice across the entire state. In fact, it has been so bad, Tennessee officials declared a State of Emergency. Needless to say, the attendance for tonight’s game against the 29-21-8 San Jose Sharks wasn’t expected to be a sellout. However, the fear of being stranded somewhere along one of the deserted interstates tonight didn’t stop the Loyal Legion from turning out.

NOTEWORTHY (PRE-GAME):

  • As mentioned in the previous post, Anthony Bitetto was recalled last minute by Nashville to fill a void in the defense (Anton Volchenkov was placed on IR).
  • However, where Bitetto made the flight to Nashville, his equipment bad did not. This left Nashville with a ton more forwards than defensemen.
  • Nashville’s solution? During warmups, Viktor Stalberg – who just cleared waivers not even 24-hours ago – was paired on the defense with Seth Jones…
  • Just before puck drop, Viktor Stalberg was declared the healthy scratch and Anthony Bitetto was given the green light.
  • But… the team was down to just five d-men for a few minutes, as Bitetto’s bag arrived a little after game start.
  • Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli did not make their return tonight due to issues with their work visas. So… they don’t already have those?

SCRATCHES:

  • Viktor Stalberg, Cody Franson, and Mike Santorelli

FIRST PERIOD:

  • San Jose’s Matt Irwin (5) drew the first blood at 5:26, sending a wrister past Pekka Rinne.
  • Shea Weber quickly tied it up at 13:42 with his signature slapshot, his 14th goal of the season. Mike Fisher (15) picked up the assist.
  • Craig Smith took a chunk of Alex Stalock at 16:02, collecting his 17th goal of the season with a wrister. Mattias Ekholm (9) and Mike Ribeiro (36) tally the assists.
  • Preds end the first period up 2-1 on the Sharks, though San Jose out-shoots Nashville 17 to 15.

SECOND PERIOD:

  • Just 52 seconds into the period, Craig Smith notched his second goal of the season (18) on the powerplay. Colin Wilson (20) and Seth Jones (15) punch the assists.
  • Paul Gaustad wanted a piece of the pie and got his at 1:43, his second goal of the season. Gabriel Bourque (6) and Shea Weber (28) pick up the assists on Gaustad’s wrister.
  • James Neal would finish off the second period with his 20th goal of the season at 10:31. Mike Ribeiro (37) collects the lone assist.
  • San Jose out-shot Nashville 15 to 13.

THIRD PERIOD:

  • No goals in the third.
  • San Jose out-shot Nashville in each period, this time 11 to 9.

NOTEWORTHY (POST GAME):

  • Pekka Rinne is a beast indeed (not that you needed any convincing). You know he’s doing big things when NHL takes notice:

  • James Neal is the first on the roster to reach 20 goals and he now has 7-straight 20-goal seasons.
  • Both Shea Weber and Mike Fisher are now on three-game point streaks.
  • Another reminder of how great Rinne is:
  • Pekka stopped 42 of 43 shots-on-goal tonight. Tell me he isn’t Vezina worthy.
  • The Predators now hold a six-point lead over the entire NHL.

With this win, the Predators are just seven wins away from clinching a playoff spot (and it isn’t even March yet) and are now 39-12-6. Wowza. The Preds take off for a three-game road trip to the East, starting with the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Preds Recall Bitetto; Volchenkov on IR

Source: The Tennessean

Source: The Tennessean

In a last minute decision, the Predators recalled Anthony Bitetto to Nashville and placed Anton Volchenkov on the Injured Reserve. Due to the ice storm that hit yesterday, it was questionable if Bitetto’s flight from Milwaukee would make it (as many flights have been cancelled to and from the Music City). Bitetto’s recall was the answer to the fact that Cody Franson would not be playing tonight and that Ryan Ellis is not ready to return, either. Also, because Viktor Stalberg (who cleared waivers yesterday) has not been sent down to the Admirals as planned, Mike Santorelli is not playing in tonight’s lineup, either.

There’s a good chance it’ll be a ghost town in the Bridgestone Arena tonight due to the dangerous ice surrounding Nashville. The Predators have offered a ticket exchange for tonight’s game for Season Ticket Holders and, for those who are braving the ice, special discounts will be available at the game.

For me, I’ll be watching from the couch. If you do go out tonight, please be cautious and have a plan when traveling home tonight. Nobody wants to get stranded in the cold after dark.

Preds Trade Updates

PicMonkey Collage

Now that the dust has settled any many folks have weened themselves off the trade deadline oxygen (keep it close by, it isn’t March 2nd yet), let’s go back and see what all has happened today.

Besides the all important news of David Poile trading Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic, and a 2015 first round draft pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for former Preds Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, there was other news abound within the Predators organization. For one, Anthony Bitetto was reassigned to Milwaukee this morning. This comes as no surprise as Mattias Ekholm has returned to the lineup. Second, Viktor Stalberg was placed on waivers… again.

Viktor Stalberg has had one heck of a ride this season, I guess you could say. Placed on waivers back on December 18th, Stalberg was cleared and enjoyed a nice conditioning stint with the Admirals. He has been collecting frequent flier miles ever since. Now it’s looking like – if he clears – Stalberg could be used in a trade scenario. Though you would think if a team wanted him, they’d snag him off of waivers; however, because this is coming down to the deadline, many teams will want to see if they can strike up a trade and get something else with him in tow.

So, back to the initial trade, how do Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli feel about returning to Nashville?

Also, it looks like the last pieces of Martin Erat’s legacy are officially gone:

…And what are others saying about the trade?

…And lastly, here’s what David Poile has to say on his trade:

So what are your thoughts on the trade? Do you think Poile should end it here or keep stirring the pot?

NSH acquires Franson/Santorelli from TOR

Toronto

Well, hope no one had their heart set to meet Olli Jokinen tonight at the GnashVegas Gala, for he, Brendan Leipsic, and a future first round draft pick have been traded over to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Cody Franson (my personal choice) and Mike Santorelli.

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Sunday that the team has acquired defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nashville’s first-round selection in the 2015 Draft, and forwards Brendan Leipsic and Olli Jokinen.

Franson, 27 (8/8/87), was selected by the Predators 78th overall (third round) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and was a member of the 2010-11 Nashville club along with current Preds Shea Weber, Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher and Pekka Rinne, that won the first playoff series in franchise history. Hailing from the same hometown as Weber – Sicamous, British Columbia – Franson has amassed 32 points (6g-26a) in 55 games this season for the Maple Leafs, and 165 points (34g-131a) in 377 career NHL games. From 2007-09, he played with Nashville’s primary developmental affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, and from 2009-11, he posted 50 points (14g-36a) in 141 regular-season games and seven points (1g-6a) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Predators.

Santorelli, 29 (12/14/85), was selected 178th overall (sixth round) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, 80 picks and two rounds before the Predators selected Rinne. The 6-0, 190-pound forward posted a 20-goal, 41-point season with the Florida Panthers in 2010-11, and has 29 points (11g-18a) and a +7 rating in 57 games for Toronto in 2014-15. In 314 career NHL games, the Vancouver native has 116 points (54g-62a). Santorelli posted three points (2g-1a) in 32 games with the Predators from 2008-10, in addition to amassing 74 goals and 171 points in 207 AHL games with the Milwaukee Admirals from 2007-10.

Yes, David Poile sought out two former Nashville Predators to trade for, which is great since all the organization lost was A.) Olli Jokinen (who was bound to be worked into a trade somehow), B.) Brendan Leipsic (a forward for the Admirals who has been stuck in a limbo), and C.) a first round draft pick (the only true stab in this trade).

Nashville adds power to their defense with the addition of Cody Franson, who currently has 32 points this season with the Maple Leafs. Santorelli will add some spice to the offense, with 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) this season. Unfortunately, the future for Olli Jokinen is looking pretty bleak:

Yes, Olli Jokinen’s career may be shot, but you can’t blame him for being disgruntled. He just lost his shot at winning the cup (no offense, Toronto). Brendan Leipsic, on the other hand, may have just gotten the deal of a lifetime. A bit small, but certainly feisty, Leipsic brings a lot to the table and just hasn’t had the opportunity to move up to the NHL level in Nashville. Honestly, we wish both of these men well in their careers (and that first rounder without a name yet). However, Jokinen’s wife has a different outlook on this move:

Ouch, but that’s the business, babe.