Saturday, January 31, 2009

Predators Over Matched by Flames

Tootoo Injured by Bertuzzi from

The Nashville Predators travel to Edmonton on Sunday to take on the Oilers in a special 1:00 Central start time in order to avoid a conflict with the Super Bowl.

The Predators disparately need a win versus the Oilers in order to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. After Friday's action, Edmonton is tied with four teams for 5th place with 53 points, eight points ahead of the 14th place Preds. Nashville needs to take advantage of every opportunity they have to beat the teams in front of them in the tightly bunched Western conference.

In Friday night's game against the Northwest Division leading Calgary, the Predators were slow getting out of the box and fell behind 2-0 before they were able to mount a good effort. During the first half of the game they were clearly outplayed by the Flames. J P Dumont brought the Predators within a goal at 7:57 in the second period off of a Calgary turnover at their blue line. Mikka Kiprusoff made his only mistake of the night when Dumont's shot slipped away from him and allowed J P to tuck the rebound into the net behind him.

The Predators seemed to play more inspired hockey from this point through the end of the game but Kiprusoff was at his best stopping everything that was sent his way. The Pred's comeback effort was hindered by five penalties in the third period. Adrian Aucoin made the most of a five on three advantage for the Flames and put them ahead 3-1 at 12:30 in the third.

Shea Weber led the Predators with six shots on goal, followed by Ryan Jones with five. Jones played one of the best games of his career and actually almost tied the game in the third period on a shot where Kiprusoff made a dramatic save with his stick in front of an open net. The Predators power play unit continued it's improved play but had no goals to show for their efforts.

Pekka Rinne was solid in goal once again stopping 29 of 32 Calgary shots and was the only reason the game remained close early on.

Agitator Jordan Tootoo was injured in a fight with Todd Bertuzzi at the 13:44 mark in the second and did not return. It was later described as an upper body injury which appeared to have happened during the takedown when Bertuzzi fell somewhat awkwardly on top of Tootoo.

One troubling aspect of the game was the increased playing time of the top two defensive lines. Coach Barry Trotz clearly has lost confidence in Ville Koistinen as he played half the number of shifts of the top four defensemen. Over the long haul having four defensemen playing the extra minutes in a busy schedule could lead to fatigue and less than inspired play. Greg deVris's eminent return is probably not an answer either. Losing Alexander Sulzer to injury on Thursday seems to have lessened Trotz's options. I will not be surprised if Cody Franzon or Teemu Lasko receives a call-up from Milwaukee of the AHL in the near future.

After Sunday's matinee The Predators return home Tuesday to the Sommet Center for a match with Wayne Gretzsky's Phoenix Coyotes. This game starts a run where the Predators play 14 of their next 19 games on home ice and should tell the tale of whether they will have a serious shot at the playoffs this year.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Predators on a Mission?

The Nashville Predators came back from the All-Star break with the look of a team on a mission for the postseason. Further evidence of whether the Preds are a pretender or contender will be gathered Friday night when they take on the Northwest division leading Calgary Flames at 8:00 Central at the Saddledome.

In late night action Wednesday, the Predators took advantage of a “perfect storm” situation against the Vancouver Canucks to win 5-3. Coming into the game, the Preds had lost four straight and were on life support for a chance at a playoff position. The Canucks had lost seven straight at home and only had one win in their last ten so between the two struggling teams something had to give.

The Predators jumped out to a 1-0 lead at the first period while out shooting Vancouver 12-4. As we have seen many times recently, the Preds came out flat in the second period after a strong opening stanza. Vancouver scored three quick goals in a five and one half minute span, two of which were on Predator turnovers.

The Predators showed remarkable resiliency and continued to play strong defense and kept firing the puck in spite of the 3-1 deficit, out shooting the Canucks 19-10 in the second period. They found lightning in a bottle as the period waned and scored power play goals by Marty Erat and Jason Arnott in the last four minutes, Arnott’s coming with eleven seconds left.

The comeback continued with a J P Dumont power play goal 2:01 into the final period. This was the first time the Predators had scored three power play goals in a game since March 2007. The icing on the cake was an empty netter by David Legwand at the 19:05 mark which was a proper reward for his season high eight shots in the game.

Not to be overlooked in the unusual offensive outburst by the Predators was the outstanding play of goalie Pekka Rinne. After an almost aerobic display at the Young Stars game, Rinne followed with an equally dazzling display of flexibility stopping 24 of 27 Canuck shots. It was not the number of shots that was impressive but the quality of game saving opportunities Rinne made during second half of the contest that paved the way for the Preds comeback. For his efforts, Rinne received first star of the game honors.

The victory was even more impressive in light of the Predators losing defenseman Alexander Sulzer on his second shift. A huge hit on Sulzer near the boards behind the net by former Predator Darcy Hordichuk left the Preds with only five defensemen to juggle for most of the game. Hopefully, Sulzer’s injury will be short lived as it appeared that he was being given the chance to make the jump to the NHL on a permanent basis. Prior to the injury he had played one other game with the Predators.

From this point, with the Predators playoff hopes hanging by a thread, each game takes on critical importance. After Friday’s game with Calgary, the Preds play an early game Sunday at Edmonton before returning home to the Sommet Center where they play 14 of their next 19 games starting with the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.

Buddy Oakes for Preds on the Glass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Recipe for a Predators Playoff Run

As the Nashville Predators head west to Vancouver to begin a three game swing to open the post All-Star game portion of the season, I propose six needed ingredients that must occur in order for the team to have a chance at a Western Conference playoff berth.

1. Put Pekka Rinne in goal and ride him as hard as they can. If Rinne doesn’t start 30 of the final 36 games, the Preds don’t stand a chance of playing past the second week in April. Pekka has been the most consistent goalie and the team plays better in front of him than they do Dan Ellis.

2. Play the kids. The Predators appear snake bit in this area since playing Jones and Hornqvist at the beginning of the season did not pay immediate dividends. While still rough around the edges, Ryan Jones adds toughness to the team in front of the net that is sorely needed. Mike Santorelli has shined in Milwaukee, winning the AHL Player of the Month in December and he hasn’t slowed down since. For a team starving for offense, there is no reason to let him produce a point a game in the minors.

3. Stick with line combinations that work and make sense. The lines in the last several games have been all over the map and have not produced the needed offense. I propose Arnott-Dumont-Santorelli, Sullivan-Legwand-Erat, Tootoo-Fiddler-Jones, and Bonk-Philstrom and whoever else is ready to play on a given night.

4. Pick up a sniper soon. This team has been short a goal scorer since Radulov bolted for the KHL. Move Greg deVris, Ville Koistinen and draft picks for a proven scorer. Both D-Men need a change of scenery and the Preds are stocked with blue liners. Alexander Sulzer has been recalled to play and Cody Franson may not be far behind.

5. Dominate at home and break even on the road. The Predators have a history of winning at home that has gone by the wayside in the last month. They have also done well in streaks on the road and need to do so for the remainder of the schedule. Realistically, the Preds need 48 points in the last 36 games. There can be no off nights at home or away to pick up points at this pace.

6. Consistency on Special Teams. The Predators penalty kill is sixth in the league while the power play ranks twenty-ninth despite scoring in four of the last five games. Continuation of this disparity will lead to a long summer break.

These ingredients for success are much easier to to propose than to put in action. The Predators need to start with a solid effort tonight against the Vancouver Canucks at 9:30 Central televised locally on FS Tennessee.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and the Columbia Daily Herald

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Predators Mid-Season Evaluation

With the Nashville Predators off for a few days for the All-Star break we have a chance to look back at the season and evaluate their on- ice performance through the first forty- six games.

The Predators are currently in fourteenth place in the Western Conference with 43 points. While they stand only eight points out of a three way tie for sixth and a playoff position, they also lie one point ahead of last place St. Louis.

The Western conference of the NHL, where only three of fifteen teams are below .500 for the season, offers the Predators no opportunity for a night off against a weak opponent. The Predators are 13-18-2 versus the West and 7-5-1 against the weaker Eastern Conference opposition.

The consensus that the Predators have not performed up to expectations is widely accepted. Realistically, the preseason projections that the Predators would either be in the playoffs or competing for the final spot through the last week of the season may have been too high.

Much of the thought that the Preds would make the playoffs was based on the track record of Coach Barry Trotz and his ability to work magic on the young Predators. Last year he took a group of under-talented players and pushed them past all expectations and forced the eventual Stanley Cup Champs to six games in the first round of the playoffs.

Barry has not been able to produce any magic this year. The Preds downfall started during the summer when rising star and 25-goal scorer Alexander Radulov unexpectedly jumped ship and went to Russia to play while still under contract with the Predators. This occurred after the top free agents had already signed, leaving the Preds with few options.

As opposed to signing a second tiered free agent, the Predators chose to try to replace the missing goals with youngsters Ryan Jones and Patric Hornqvist. After 20 games it became clear that both needed more seasoning in the AHL where they were dispatched to play for the Milwaukee Admirals.

As expected, scoring goals has been the dominant issue with this year’s version of the Predators. They are currently in 29th place with 111 goals in 46 games, an average of 2.46 goals per game.

The problem has gotten worse as the year has progressed. During the pre-Thanksgiving weekend portion of the schedule the Predators were averaging a respectable 3.05 goals per game. Since Thanksgiving, the Predators have become anemic, scoring an average of 1.87 goals per game. That figure would be considerably worse except for a nine goal in two game outburst a couple of weeks ago.

The defense had a slow start early in the season but has improved in the last 20 games. Still, turnovers have left the Predator goalies in far too many odd man situations recently leading to more goals than the paltry offense can overcome.

The Predators specialty teams have been a mixed blessing. The power play, in spite of scoring in five of the last six games, ranks 29th in the league with a 13.7% success rate. The penalty kill, which has been ranked in the league's top five for several years, has played well, currently ranking sixth with a 84% kill rate.

Individually, there have also been positives and negatives for the Predators. Shea Weber has become the dominant Norris Trophy candidate defenseman, which has been projected for him since he first burst on the scene. Pekka Rinne has proven that he has a future as a top level NHL goalie and was named the replacement starter for the rookie team at the NHL young Stars game. Captain Jason Arnott, despite several injuries, has been solid, leading the team with 15 goals.

The list of players not meeting expectations is much longer. Goalie Dan Ellis no longer can be considered the team's number one goalkeeper after losing in his last five starts. J P Dumont has scored only eight goals and has looked out of sync since a big hit by Alex Burrows on December 9th. David Legwand still has not produced at a level that fans have been waiting for since he was the second overall draft pick eleven years ago. The poster child for underperformance has been veteran defenseman Greg deVris who is currently injured and more than likely has few days left in the organization.

The jury is still out on the return of Steve Sullivan, a career point per game guy during his tenure with the Predators. After missing over 600 days due to injury, his return is one of the league's best “feel good” stories of the year. Sully has shown signs of his traditional abilities but has also been beaten at times while running the point on the power play. He still has a way to go in his recovery to be a consistent contributor.

The Predators are by no means in a position to give up. Barry Trotz pointed out after the last game that the team has only five points less this year after 46 games than in last year’s playoff season. However, with 36 games left, the Predators will need to win the vast majority to get back in position to vie for a playoff spot.

The Predators return to action Wednesday with a game at Vancouver, the first game in a three game road swing before returning to play Phoenix at home on February 3rd. It should become obvious in the first few games after the break whether the Preds will be staying home during the playoffs as they have little room for error remaining.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pekka Rinne Leads Rookie Stars to 9-5 Win

Photo Courtesy of Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

Nashville Predator goaltender Pekka Rinne got his first taste of the NHL All-Star weekend when he held his own against the best second year players in hockey and led the Rookie team to a 9-5 victory in the Young Stars game in Montreal.

In a three on three non-stop action format reminiscent of a child’s pond hockey game that is set up for offensive numbers, the NHL’s best rookies were matched against last year’s top newcomers as part of the Skills Competition.

Rinne clearly outplayed hometown favorite, Montreal goalie Carey Price, in leading the rookies to the win. He repeatedly stood on his head and blocked and deflected the sophomore shot onslaught. For many in the stands and in the Versus Network audience it was the first time they had seen the talented Predator rookie in action. Rinne was most impressive during the third period when he held the second year players to a single goal.

Rinne started this season as the Predators backup, but with Dan Ellis' struggles in goal he has gotten the bulk of the starts recently. The 6' 5”, 206 pound, Finnish rookie goaltender is having a tremendous season with a 2.33 goals against average, a .916 save percentage, and a record of 10-7-0. He has also had four shutouts this season, ranking him fifth in the league.

The highlight of the skills contest was the Breakaway Challenge, which was judged by fans voting by text messages. Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin stole the show when he had Russian rival Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh dress him in sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat donned with a Canadian flag prior to making a run with two sticks in an impressive stunt. Ovechkin received 42.8% of the total text votes.

Nashville’s Shea Weber competed in the hardest shot contest finishing second to favorite Boston’s Zdeno Chara who set the all-time record with a 105.4 MPH shot.

The NHL All-Star Weekend continues Sunday night when the main All-Star event gets underway at 5:00 CST shown on the Versus Network. Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber of the Predators will play for the Western Conference squad.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pekka Rinne Named to Young Stars Game

Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators was name starting goaltender for the Rookie Team in this Saturday's Young Stars game which is a part of the NHL All-Star weekend in Montreal. He replaced Columbus Blue Jacket's goaltender, Steve Mason, who announced on Tuesday that he will not play due to back spasms.

The 26 Year old Rinne was drafted 258th overall by Nashville in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the same draft in which the Predators picked up Alexander Radulov and Mike Santorelli. Following the draft Rinne continued to play with Kärpät, in the Finnish Elite League, going undefeated for the 2004-2005 season, and leading the team to the league Championship.

The next three seasons Rinne played with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League leading them to the Calder Cup Finals in 2006. Rinne made a cameo appearance with the Predators for two games in 2005, winning his first NHL game on December 15 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks.

After his breakout AHL season in 2005-2006 Rinne was slowed by a non-hockey related shoulder injury delaying his ascent to the NHL. Last season after a full recovery, he led the AHL in victories with 36. His solid play gave the Predators enough confidence to be able to trade veteran Chris Mason during the off season allowing Rinne to earn an NHL roster spot.

Rinne started this season as the Predators backup, but with Dan Ellis' struggles in goal he has gotten the bulk of the starts recently. After a rough start to the season, Pekka Rinne has turned out to be an outstanding player. The 6' 5”, 206 pound, Finnish rookie goaltender is having a tremendous season with a 2.33 goals against average, a .916 save percentage, and a record of 10-7-0. He has also had four shutouts this season, ranking him fifth in the league.

The format of this year's Young Stars game pits a team of rookies against the best of last year's rookie crop. It can be seen locally on Versus Network (Channel 38) on Saturday at 6:00 PM as part of the NHL Super Skills presentation. Rinne will travel to Montreal with Predator Defensive star Shea Weber who will play in the NHL All-Star game on Sunday at 5:00 also televised on Versus Network.

Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shanahan Kills Predators in Return

The New Jersey Devils defeated the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1 in the return of Brendan Shanahan to his original NHL Team.

With the way the Predators played last night, there seems to be no end in sight for the scoring slump. No one is producing like they should be. If we don't pick anyone up before the trade deadline, I think it's safe to say we will not make the playoffs.

The Devils struck first on a 5-on-3 advantage early in the second period, with Brendan Shanahan scoring his first goal as a Devil. A couple of minutes later, a shot from the point and a tip from David Clarkson converted to a goal. The Preds finally got a goal late in the third from Radek Bonk. To seal the deal, Zack Parise scores on the empty net for his 27th of the season.

The dominating factor in the game was fore checking. New Jersey tied up any offensive chance we ever got.

Despite the two goals scored against him, Pekka Rinne had a fantastic game. This game could've easily been a blowout.

Brendan Shanahan had a spectacular debut, scoring a goal and posting six shots on goal.

Wade Belak and Mike Rupp dropped the gloves last night. This was the first decent fight that I've seen Belak in. His style of fighting isn't as showy as Darcy Hordichuk's or Jordin Tootoo's, but it gets the job done.

The next game is after the all-star break in Vancouver.

After the game, they had a segment in the Fox Sports Zone with Terry Crisp and a couple of fans. One of the questions a fan asked Terry was if he thought Trotz was the right coach for this team. Terry said “Yes.” Nashville has always been a very loyal team. There have never been any big changes. I think Trotz is going to keep his job.

Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Monday, January 19, 2009

Predators, Trotz Face Crucial Test

The Nashville Predators close out the pre-All Star game portion of their schedule against the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Sommet Center. This may be the most crucial game Nashville Coach Barry Trotz has faced in his eleven year career.

The Predators as a team played one of the worst games before the home crowd in the last several years on Saturday night as they lost to the lowly Atlanta Thrashers 7-2 on Saturday night. The team was booed off the ice at the end of each period and more than half of the sellout crowd had hit the doors by the final horn.

In his post game comments, Trotz was almost surreal in his humility as he spoke directly to the Nashville fans saying “I think the number one message was that I want to apologize to our fans for that performance. That was not a good performance. We all take responsibility, myself and the team, and I think that we’re embarrassed."

The players were equally outspoken. After a 15 minute closed door players only meeting, Captain Jason Arnott confessed “It’s embarrassing when you have a sell-out crowd and we put on a performance like that. I’m surprised they didn’t leave after the first period. We had a talk after the game and we know what has to happen, and now is the time to do it."

Trotz is the only coach in the Predators franchise history and has withstood four straight first round playoff exits. This situation is different since the Preds have sunk to 13th place and are showing no signs of a turn around that will get them back into the playoff picture.

With an eight day break after Monday’s game there will be plenty of time for GM David Poile and his staff to meet and acess the team’s current state. A strong performance against a talented New Jersey team tonight may be what it takes for Barry Trotz to survive as the Predators coach for the rest of the season.

Shanahan Returns… Predator killer Brendan Shanahan is slated to play his first game for the Devils tonight. He is the all time goal scoring leader against the Predators, mostly from his time spent with the Detroit Red Wings

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Predators Thrashed by Atlanta

Post Game Comments by Jason Arnott and Barry Trotz

In a game where there was nothing good to be said for the home team, the Atlanta Thrashers mauled the Nashville Predators by a score of 7-2 at the Sommet Center on Saturday night.

The seven goals allowed by the Predators were the most since a 7-6 loss at Calgary on November 6th and one short of the franchise record of eight last done on February 26, 2008 at Buffalo. In terms of the competitiveness of both teams the game probably wasn't as close as the final score. Atlanta came in on a high after an overtime come from behing victory Friday night in at Phillips Arena. The Predators were flat right from the start and seemed to have little left by the time they were down 3-0 halfway through the first period. Coach Barry Trotz apologized to the fans for the poor performance in his post game remarks.

Ex-Predator Rich Peverly, who was picked up on waivers by Atlanta earlier this week, centered a line that doomed the Predators right from the start of the game. Peverly's line includes sniper Ilya Kovalchuk giving him many opportunities to be a playmaker. Peverly assisted on three goals and was +3 on the evening. Peverly now has 6 points in two games including the overtime game winning goal on Friday night.

Neither starter Dan Ellis or Pekka Rinne was up to par in goal versus the Thrashers. Every one of the seven goals allowed were set up by defensive miscues by the Preds, including several one on one breakaway situations where the goalie wasn't able to make the big save. Ellis allowed 3 goals on 4 shots while Rinne did somewhat better in relief stopping 24 of 28 Thrasher shots. Ellis was asked by coach Barry Trotz if he wanted to go back in to get some more work late in the third period but he declined the offer.

If there was something good to be said about the Predators play it would be that they continued their home penalty kill success holding Atlanta scoreless on two attempts extending their streak to nine games. During that time they have gone 30 for 30 in short man situations. The power play unit scored a goal in a 5 on 3 situation late in the game. Steve Sullivan and Jason Arnott set up Shea Weber for the goal. Unfortunately, the PP unit also gave up a short-handed goal earlier in the period. Jordan Tootoo scored his first goal since Thanksgiving week for the other Predator tally.

The Predators close out their Pre-All Star game portion of the schedule on Monday night against the New Jersey Devils at the Sommet Center. The Devils will feature the newly acquired Brendan Shanahan who signed last week to play for the remainder of the year. The Predators are in dire need of all the points that can get as they remain in 13th place, four points out of eighth and a playoff spot.

Pekka a Young Star... Pekka Rinne was added to the roster for next Saturday's Rookie vs Sophomore NHL "Young Stars" game in Montreal. Rinne has played in the AHL All-star game twice and will join Shea Weber as a Predator representative to the All-Star weekend activities.

Bye for now... After the game Ryan Jones and Mike Santorelli were returned to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. With only one more game before an eight day break they will be able to continue playing as Milwaukee continues it's strong season with the league second best record. It is likely that Defenseman Alexander Sulzer will also be returned after Monday's game.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Predators Out-manned in Loss to Montreal

The Nashville Predators gave all they had but it wasn't enough as they fell to the Montreal Canadians 3-2. Playing without top scorers Jason Arnott and Shea Weber the Predators did not have the firepower to keep up on the scoreboard. Several other Preds were slowed by the flu but were able to play through the symptoms.

Coming into the game, there was concern that they would be able to have six defensemen to suit up. In spite of calling up Alexander Sulzer (pictured above left) to replace Greg deVris who was placed on injury reserve, the Preds were still on the verge of being short-handed on the blue line. Kevin Klien was a game time decision and there was consideration given to Wade Belak on defense but Kline did play and Belak was a healthy scratch.

Defense was not the problem in this match as the Predators held Montreal to 20 shots. Once again the ongoing inability to find the back of the net was what felled the Preds once again as the Preds have scored 2 or less goals in 11 of the last 14 games. The Predators managed 25 shots against Canadian goalie Jaroslav Halak but only those of J P Dumont and Vern Fiddler found the net. The Predators had several other chances to hit a partially empty net but were unable to convert. One of the best opportunities to tie the game came at the 10:00 mark in the third when Mike Santorelli could not get a handle on a loose puck in front of a net emptied by a diving Halak.

Pekka Rinne was strong once again in goal. While he only faced 20 shots, he made several key saves on Canadian scoring chances to keep the Preds in the game.

Steve Sullivan increased his ice time substantially breaking the 18:00 minute mark and skating 23 shifts. He had 3 shots and was -2 on the evening. He appeared more comfortable and did not seem to be moving away from the action as much as in previous games.

The Predators return home Saturday night for the return match with the Atlanta Thrashers. The Preds won the first meeting with the Thrashers 4-3 in Atlanta on November 28th.

Shameless Self Promotion... During last Monday's PredsOnTheGlass BlogTalkRadio show , special guest and Tampa correspondent Mark Manning clearly stated that Vinnie Lecavalier was not on the trade block and that there was no truth to the rumors running rampant in the press. His source was none other than Vinnie's dad who even explained that his girlfriend was moving to Tampa to set up residence there. Lightning GM Brian Lawton tried to put an end to all the rumors today in a special press conference in which he stated that Vinnie was going anywhere. Thanks Brian for backing up what PredsOnTheGlass radio reported four days ago.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Predators Win Crucial Game in Toronto

The Nashville Predators went into the center of the hockey world in dire need of a win and came away with a 2-0 victory. Fighting for their lives in the Western Conference playoff race the Preds took advantage of the struggling Maple Leafs, a team they rarely see.

The game was a defensive battle for the first two periods with the Predators out-shooting the Leafs 16-13 and neither goalie giving an inch. At 5:33 in the third Steve Sullivan made a nifty move crossing the ice near the Toronto blue line skating past two Maple Leafs and wristing a snap shot off Radek Bonk's pants into the net. Initially it was announced as Sully's first goal since February 22, 2007 but was later corrected to credit Bonk with the goal off the deflection. The Predators were really playing well at this point and David Legwand followed with another goal at off the pipes 13:03. Leggy has now gotten 6 points in his last four games.

Pekka Rinne was stellar in goal once again, further laying claim to his argument for being the number one goalie. He stopped all 17 Toronto shots as the Predator defense did a good job of keeping the puck away from the net blocking an additional 13 shots including 4 by Greg Zanon. The shutout was Rinne's fourth of the year in 15 starts.

Steve Sullivan made further strides in his return to his former self taking 19 shifts and logging 11:50 in ice time both numbers similar to his first game last Saturday against the Blackhawks. In addition to his first point he also received a 2:00 minor in the second for tripping. Sully looked a little more comfortable but still didn't receive his first bone jarring hit which appears to be what is lacking in giving him the confidence to dig in and play the brand of hockey that he was known for in the past.

The win moved the Predators back to the .500 mark and into a tie for 11th place in the West, 3 points behind 8th place Columbus. The Predators have now won three of the last four and broke a seven game road losing streak. The Predators three game road trip continues Thursday night with a game in Montreal before returning home for games against Atlanta and New Jersey to close out the pre all-star game part of the season.

Injury Updates... Captain Jason Arnott again was a scratch with an unknown lower body injury. The Preds have indicated that he may be able to return on Thursday. Greg deVris is still out with some form of illness that has left him with a "lack of energy" and is not traveling with the team. Jordan Tootoo was a healthy scratch.

Peverly's New Diggs... Rich Peverly has reported to the Atlanta Thrashers and the articles in the Atlanta press have made him out to be somewhat of a savior for a team going nowhere. Granted he rarely played center with the Preds which is his natural position but there is little to indicate a return to his AHL point a game production on the NHL level. We wish Rich the best with his new team but hope that he waits until after the Thrasher's game with the Preds on Saturday to start making a big impact.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Non-Traditional Hockey

Over the last forty years the National Hockey League has expanded into what has been called "non-traditional" markets. Nashville, which historically has been focused on football, baseball, and motor sports could be the "poster child" for markets fitting this description. Many hockey traditionalists still cringe when the NHL and cities like Tampa, Phoenix, and Raleigh are mentioned in the same sentence.

The Nashville Predators have been "non-traditional" in every respect. When the team first came to town in 1998 there was a focus on making hockey more of an event, attractive to non-hockey fans as well as those who were already avid fans of the sport. Live music, videos, contests, giveaways and other oddities were staple attractions to get marginally interested people into the building to have a chance to get hooked on a sport that sports fans fall in love with once they see speed like auto racing and hitting that would make most linebackers squeamish.

While the Predators have had their well documented financial struggles through the years, as a franchise their strength has been to incorporate "non-traditional" values into the way they run their operation. From the very beginning, the Preds have had one general manager, David Poile, and one coach, Barry Trotz. While most NHL teams change coaches every time the team hits a dry spell, Trotz's 779 games as the Preds head coach ranks ninth all-time in coaching longevity with a single team and with each game he extends his own record for games coached from the beginning of a franchise. Very few coaches in the NHL could have survived four straight seasons of losing in the first round of the playoffs or the recent goal drought that the Predators have endured.

As an organization the Predators have stressed loyalty and commitment with a emphasis on team play and cohesiveness. Barry Trotz has coached his teams like a father with a mix of encouragement and discipline. David Poile and team ownership has seen the value of the team setting a long term course and sticking with it. The Predators total of 149 wins over the last three and one half seasons ranks sixth in the NHL proving the success of their strategy. Free agents and current players find the Predator values attractive when choosing where to play, sometimes for less money than they could make elsewhere.

A prime example of the loyalty and long term commitment by the Predators is the patience and support shown with fan favorite Steve Sullivan. Sully was injured on February 22, 2007 and has since undergone two back surgeries and missed 153 games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau Sullivan is only the third player to return to the same team after missing over 600 days and 150 games. Mario Lemieux was one and Jim Pepilinski was the other playing six games for Calgary in 1994 after missing four seasons. The Predators never lost faith in Sullivan and allowed him to recover and strengthen at a pace that would result in his eventual return Saturday night against the Blackhawks.

For one night, Steve Sullivan had climbed to the top of a seemingly insurmountable mountain and lived to play hockey at the highest level. Most teams after a year or so would have simply cut the player and moved on never giving them the chance to return. That's not the way things are done in Nashville. Whether Sullivan returns to his pre-injury form or is unable to continue is a story for another day. The key point to be made is that the Predators have redefined "non-traditional" in a way that reflects the values of it's fans where family, commitment, and a since of loyalty are the key to long term on ice success.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Special Thanks to Mark Manning for his guest appearance on PredsOnTheGlass radio Episode 2 on Monday night. Click the BlogTalkRadio button on this page to hear the podcast.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Predators Go Quietly in Chicago

Dave Bolland gets the game winner for the Blackhawks

Playing the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time in twenty four hours, the Nashville Predators went quietly into the Chicago night losing by a score of 3-1. Playing without Captain Jason Arnott and the resurrected Steve Sullivan the Predators returned to their recent ways and generated limited offense in the first game of a three game road swing that will carry them to Toronto and Montreal before returning home against the Thrashers on Saturday.

The Blackhawks scored first halfway through the opening period on a hard slap shot from near the blue line by Dustin Byfuglien that sailed by Dan Ellis. I wasn't sure why Ellis was unable to get a glove on it. Marty Erat responded a minute later for the Preds, tieing the game at one. The Predators had an oportunity to go ahead early in the second when Jordan Tootoo couldn't execute on a loose puck in front of an empty net. After that missed opportunity, Dave Bolland picked up a short rebound off of Ellis and flipped it in the net to make it 2-1. That was all the Hawks needed for the win. Martin Havlat added the exclamation point to the victory with an empty netter in the closing seconds. The game was very similar to the one on Saturday with opposite results.

The paring of Marty Erat and David Legwand continued to be productive. In addition to the goal Erat made with an assist from Leggy they each had scoring chances to tie the game in the third. The Preds were outshot by the Hawks 33-27 and suffered a rare loss in the face off circle converting only 41% of 51 chances. Dan Ellis played adequately in goal stopping several breakaways that resulted from defensive miscues in the third period.

After the game Predators Coach Barry Trotz stated, “Chicago had the better effort. They capitalized on their chances and we didn’t. Both teams had their chances though. The game might have been a bit different had Tootoo scored. The Blackhawks came right back the next play and took it to us.”

Hopefully this loss was a result of Chicago's good play and season long home ice advantage (they have a 13-2-4 home record which includes their Winter Classic loss to Detroit) and not a return to the Preds offensive drought. Steve Sullivan is expected to return on Tuesday in Toronto. Jason Arnott is listed as day to day and may also be ready to play. With four games left before the all-star break the Predators need all the points they can muster.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Re-energized Predators Down Hawks

Steve Sullivan's First Shift in over 22 months

The Nashville Predators returned to the ice Saturday night with renewed energy and handily beat the Chicago Black Hawks 4-1. With a later than normal start due to the Tennessee Titans playoff game, the the Sommet Center crowd arrived early and were ready for action long before the first puck drop.

Before the game was underway, the star of the night was already pegged by the Pred faithful. When Steve Sullivan first exited the tunnel during warm-ups a loud roar went up in the half filled arena. By the second change of shifts when Sully's skates touched the NHL game ice for the first time in 22 1/2 months the crowd was fit to be tied. The cry of "Sully, Sully, Sully..." rang through building.

For the remainder of the game Sullivan played a regular shift on a line with Jordan Tootoo and Vern Fiddler. Surprisingly he saw time on both the second power play unit as well as the penalty kill in logging 12:30 minutes of play on 20 shifts. Although he didn't gather any points for the game he did have three shots and almost scored on what would have been a story book play when he grabbed a puck in neutral ice and matched up one on one with Christobal Huet but was unable to convert. After the game he indicated that his legs were giving out and that he needed one more stride to make the play. The one thing that was missing in Sully's return was a good contact play to give him the confidence to play his old game. He made a little contact with a Blackhawk player on his second shift but was understandably somewhat tentative when getting too close to another player.

The scoring star of the game was David Legwand who scored the Predators first goal and then an empty netter at the end. The Preds also got goals out of All-Star Shea Weber and Radek Bonk who had not scored in over a month. Joel Ward and Ryan Suter both had two assist for the game.

Pekka Rinne further bolstered his claim for the number one goalie position for the Predators. He was solid from start to finish, stopping 34 of 35 Chicago shot attempts. Rinne came up with big saves repeatedly to keep the Hawks out of his net. The one goal that he allowed was on a broken play and there was little he could have done to stop it.

Of some concern to Predator fans was a lower body injury to Captain Jason Arnott who did not return to the bench for the third period. After the game Barry Trotz indicated that it was precautionary move to keep him out and that they were running a few tests but that it did not appear to be something that would be long term. Arnott was not expected to leave with the team after the game but Trotz would not rule out that he would travel on Sunday to rejoin the team.

The Predators return to action Sunday night at 6:00 at the United Center in Chicago to complete the home and home series against Blackhawks. The rematch should prove to be a bit chippier than the first game as tempers were warming up at the end coming to a head in a brief skirmish between Marty Erat and Duncan Keith. The Preds will bring a tougher line up with Wade Belak and Ryan Jones probably playing in the place of Arnott and Sullivan who most likely will rest after his first game action. Sunday's game will be televised by the NHL Network.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Predators Post Game Press Conference

Friday, January 9, 2009

Predators Return from the Dead and Beat Pens 5-3

Mike Santorelli made his NHL debut against the Pens

The Nashville Predators found themselves in another situation where they could have easily thrown in the towel and given up Thursday night playing against the star studded Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pred's persistence and solid goaltending by Pekka Rinne turned things around for them as they scored five consecutive goals to come back from a 3-0 deficit, to a 5-3 win breaking the Pred's five game losing streak.

Nashville's defense hit the ground running Thursday night. Pittsburgh's first shot on goal did not come until 13:14 into the game. However, Pittsburgh struck first at 14:18 in the first when Sidney Crosby passed it to the wide-open Petr Sykora, who one-timed it past Dan Ellis. I don't think this was a confidence breaker because we had been playing so well.

In the second period at 3:29 seconds Jordan Staal got a pass from Tyler Kennedy on a two on one rush to score to make it 2-0. After this goal, Barry Trotz replaced Dan Ellis with Pekka Rinne. Trotz mentioned later in the post-game interview that he wasn't mad at Ellis but was just trying to change the luck. Just 21 seconds later, Maxime Talbot got a lucky bounce which went off Jason Arnott's leg and made it 3-0. There really was nothing Rinne could have done and the recent gloom in the crowd seemed to return.

Jason Arnott did his job as captain and gave his line a bit of a pep talk which apparently turned out well. A little over four minutes later, a loose puck right by the Pittsburgh net was picked up by Marty Erat, who blasted the puck top shelf. This really got the momentum going in the building. At 13:32 into the period, Marty Erat and David Legwand were breaking in on a two on one opportunity, and got a shorty to make things 3-2. The crowd was going wild. With 55 seconds remaining in the second period, a hard fought battle in the corner and a lucky deflection, Jerred Smithson scored to tie it up, 3-3. The period ended with a standing ovation for the team that had been the recent victum of jeers that have never been hear in the franchise's 11 year history.

The Penguins really tried to bring on the heat in the third period out shooting Nashville 15-5. At 9:04 Ryan Suter scored the first power play goal in what has seemed like forever to put the Preds on top. To finish it off, Greg Zanon scored the empty netter at 19:37.

After replacing Dan Ellis early in the second period, Pekka Rinne played another unreal game tonight. I'm counting the days before my prediction comes true and Pekka gets the number one role.

It was an overall amazing effort by the players tonight. A lot of the younger guys were generating opportunities and injecting energy into the game. This is the kind of momentum we need right now. Hopefully we can continue doing this and get ourselves out of the current funk we're in. We will have plenty of opportunity this weekend with a home and home series with Chicago starting Saturday night at the Sommet Center.

NHL Debut for Santorelli Mike Santorelli played in his first NHL game tonight. After winning the AHL Player of the Month for December and Leading Milwaukee to a 12-2 record for the month he deserved a shot at the next level. On paper it doesn't look like he did much, but he was definitely a factor in tonight's game. He played quality minutes and even spent time on the power play. He played on a line paired with recent Milwaukee linemate Ryan Jones and J P Dumont, a combination that worked well.

Temporary end to the Scoring Drought The Predators have not scored more that three goals in a game since American Thanksgiving week and are one of only four teams in the NHL not to have scored 100 goals this year. This was the first time this season the Preds have come from 3 goals down to win. Coming in to Thursdays game the Preds were 3-9-1 in the last 13 games scoring only 18 goals in their last 12 games.

2009 vs 2008 At the forty game point in 2008, the Predators were 20-18-2 and were in a position similar to this year where they were still trying to find their identity. The 2009 Preds are now 18-19-3 and in 14th place in the west but still only 2 points out of 10th and 4 points behinda playoff position and the 8th place Minnesota Wild. In spite of the recent 5 game slide, the Preds are a short winning streak away from being back in the top eight.

Jason Arnott Honored Jason Arnott received numerous awards and accolades in pre-game ceremonies commemorating his 1000th NHL game.

New Day for the D-Men For the first time this year someone other than Kevin Klein or Villie Koistinen sat out as the seventh D-man. Greg deVris got a well deserved visit to the pine pony for the game. Koistinen did not have his best game but played as well, if not better, than deVris has of late.

Roster Jam Something will have to give on Saturday if Steve Sullivan indeed makes his long awaited return. The Preds are maxed out at 23 on the roster and the only players not having to clear waivers are recent callups Jones and Santorelli and Antti Philstrom who has played hard every minute he has been with the team for 20 games. I don't see the Preds taking a chance with any current players on waivers so Philstrom unfortunately looks to be the odd man out.

Three Star Slight There is no way, Pekka Rinne was not worthy of a three star selection, especially ahead of Sidney Crosby. After the fluke goal off od Jason Arnott seconds after entering the game, Rinne stopped 17 straight Pens shots many of which were quality scoring chances.

All Star Preview It was neat getting to see some of the biggest names in the NHL in person on Thursday. Malkin was bigger in person than I realized. Crosby's "crotch punching" incident really did a lot to take the shine off his star in my book. With the new schedule we won't see them again for quite a while.

Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass


Update Friday Afternoon: The Preds announced that Rich Peverly was placed on waivers to make room for Steve Sullivan's Saturday return. I would be surprised if he actually makes it through the waiver process and makes it to Milwaukee. Peverly has been a solid contibutor for the Predators over the last year and a half playing mostly on the third of fourth line. I am assuming that the Preds feel that Perverly was the most expendable option and has less long-term upside than others in the organization.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Congratulations to Shea Weber on His First NHL All Star Team Selection

The Nashville Predators top defensemen, Shea Weber was named to the NHL Western Conference All Star team on Wednesday.

The 6’4’, 230 pound Weber has been having a break out season and is a contender for this year’s Norris trophy which goes to the leagues best defenseman. Currently, he is ranked fifth in scoring among defensemen with 28 points. He has scored a league leading 12 goals (among D-men) and has added 16 assists. Weber also leads the Predators in Plus/ Minus with a +8 Rating.

Weber, who is 23, was originally drafted 49th overall by the Predators in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, which was held in Nashville. This was the same draft that included current teammates Ryan Suter and Kevin Klein. Weber spent his first two years as a Predator prospect in the Western Hockey League playing for the Kelowna Rockets. In 2005, he led the Rockets to their second championship in three seasons. He was also named the MVP of the 2005 WHL playoffs and was the runner-up for the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy which is given to the league’s best defense man. Weber, who hails from Sicamous, BC, also played for Team Canada in the 2005 World Junior Championship that took Gold in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The following season, Weber started the season with Milwaukee in the American Hockey League and on January 6th, 2006, he appeared in his first NHL game playing against the Detroit Red Wings. He also made his first NHL play off appearance in 2006, playing in four games and scoring two goals.

Over the last three seasons with the Predators Weber has grown and matured into one of the NHL's best defenseman.

This year’s NHL All Star game will be held on January 25th in Montreal as part of their 100 years of hockey year long celebration.

Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

The Avalanche Bury The Predators, Extending Their Losing Streak To Five Games

Pred Killer Wojtek Wolski

Tonight, the Nashville Predators extended their losing streak to five games with a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Eventually something has got to give. In Barry Trotz's post-game interview, he seemed optimistic about the future and how the team is going to handle this slump claiming "A slump like this can either make or break a team".

The return of the rookie Ryan Jones gave the team, what it seemed like, an extra spark. Ryan Jones marked the first and last goal of the game for the Preds at 7:30 into the game. Jones jammed the puck into the net off of a rebound from a J.P. Dumont's shot for the game's first score. At 14:25 into the first, a defensive meltdown led to the Avalanche's first goal of the night. A odd chain of events in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 break in the Nashville zone. Milan Hedjuk came storming into the Nashville zone and centered the puck for Wojtek Wolski, who snapped it passed Pekka Rinne.

The tie was broken late in the second period, with 4:13 remaining. Another sloppy defensive mistake in the Nashville zone led to Wolski getting his second goal of the night and what ended up being, the game winning goal. The goal was very similar to the Avs first goal with Hedjuk breaking up the left side and centering a pass to Wolski who backhanded it in.

We had so many opportunities all throughout the game. Colorado's defense was really solid all game long. We had a total od 70 shots that were official shots, blocked or missed. We just could not find the back of the net tonight.

The Predators have only scored seven goals in the past five outings. The Preds have never had a scoring drought of this magnitude in the 10 years of existence. We can't just wait around praying that Steve Sullivan will come in and take the wheel from here on out. We need to look at people like Jason Arnott, Martin Erat, J.P. Dumont, and David Legwand, who haven't been producing like they should be. We need to get our money's worth out of these guys. The vets need to pick it up.

I know that I have expressed my dislike towards Greg deVries in the past, but I've decided to throw in the towel on that whole deal. Greg has been around the league a long time and I need to give him a break every once in a while. I still believe that he will be be traded.

Our next game is on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens snapped their four game losing streak Tuesday with a win over Atlanta.

Jackson Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Predators in Desperate Need of a Win Tonight

The Nashville Predators return to action tonight at the Sommet Center against the Colorado Avalanche. The Predators are in dire need of a victory as they have found several creative ways to lose the last four games. The Preds now stand with a 17-18-3 record which is the first time they have been below the .500 mark since early November.

The Predators are 3-8-1 in their last 12 games and have only scored 17 goals in their last 11 outings, six of which were in two games. In the 11 year history of the Predators they have not undergone a scoring drought of this magnitude. Their lack of production has been reflected in their free fall from seventh to fourteenth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference. Entering Monday’s action the Predators had 37 points and were four points behind eight place Minnesota who currently is hanging on to the last playoff spot.

It has been obvious that the Predators have been short one or two quality scorers at the forward position since preseason camp. Shea Weber’s break-out year as a standout defenseman somewhat masked the lack of scoring early in the year but his scoring has also fallen off during the recent slide.

The most stunning news to come out of the Predators camp recently was the announcement Monday that Steve Sullivan may be able to suit up as early as this weekend. Sullivan has not played in almost two years and has undergone two separate back surgeries for the same degenerative back condition. Prior to being sidelined Sully was the most consistent Predator scorer in the teams history averaging more than a point a game for the three years that he played in Nashville. I have said for over a year that he will never play another NHL game. I really like Sully so I hope that I wrong.

Aside from the potential return of Steve Sullivan, a possible source of immediate offensive help would be to recall Rookie Ryan Jones from Milwaukee. Jones stared the year in Nashville playing 16 games, scoring three goals and picking up three assists. In Milwaukee, Jones has played 20 games and produced at a point a game clip. Jones's game is similar to that of Detroit's Thomas Holmstrom placing himself in front of the net, causing problems for the goalie, and trying to punch rebounds into the net.

Another option would be to bring up Mike Santorelli who was named the AHL player of the month for December. Santorelli, who has never played at the NHL level, led the Admirals to a 12-2 mark for the month scoring eight goals and adding 15 assists. While both players are doing well on the AHL level, neither appears to bring enough experience to the table to rescue the Predators from their tenuous position.

Predator fans and players alike have been frustrated with the teams recent slide. The Predators have reached the point that without a complete turn around in the next few games anything that they are able to accomplish later may be too little too late.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Added Note: The Predators did indeed call up Ryan Jones today and he should be available for tonight's game. No word was given on any other moves. Since they have only been carrying 22 on the roster, they are not obligated to clear a roster spot at this time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Predators Find New Way to Lose

Jerod Smithson's shot gets behind Miikka Kiprusoff for the first score of the game

The Nashville Predators played another quality hockey game Saturday afternoon at the Sommet Center but lost to the Calgary Flames 3-2. The Predators either led or were tied for all but 23.4 seconds of the game. Unfortunately for the Pred Nation it was the last few ticks of the clock when they were behind.

Todd Bertuzzi scored the winning goal from point blank range after stripping Pred defenseman Dan Hamhuis of the puck as he tried to clear the Predator defensive zone. After the Preds raised the hopes of the crowd with solid play and many scoring opportunities, Bertuzzi's goal cast a silence like nothing I have experienced in the Sommet Center. As the final seconds ticked down, the stunned silence turned into hostile jeers which has been unheard of from Pred fans in years past.

The Predators scored first in the game when Jared Smithson scored a rare goal halfway into the first. Curtis Glencross answered with a goal for Calgary near the end of the period. Jason Arnot put the Preds ahead in the second on a beautiful textbook tic-tac-toe pass play from Erat to Dumont to Arnot on three sides of the Calgary net. It brought memories of how the Preds used to play before the recent slide. Daymond Langkow tied the game a second time at the 12:46 mark in the third on another defensive turnover. As the clock ticked down the Predators continued their agressive play, not willing to settle for an overtime point. That desparate pursuit of a win backfired when Burtuzzi drove the nail in the Preds coffin.

In a desparate measure, Barry Trotz tried a variety of line combinations througout the game in an effort to infuse some offense into a team that has averaged less than a goal and a half a game over the last 11 games. The Arnott, Dumont, Erat combo looked good and created several chances but left the remaining groups looking more like third or fourth lines with no real second scoring line in sight.

Dan Ellis returned in goal for the first time in three games as he had been suffering from a severe cold. He played well enough stopping 23 of 26 Calgary shots. Defensive lapses and turnovers were his primary demise giving him several chances for big saves and one big goal at an inopportune time. After the game Ellis explained his view, "We did play well defensively; it’s just the little key errors that are really costing us. We play a second and third period like we did and then we have one little bad play that turns out to be the game-winning goal. Those are the little things that we really need to bear down on—those errors—because that is what is costing us. The D was outstanding, we played a great team game and we came up short."

The Predator's penalty kill was perfect against the potent Calgary power play and were anemic on their own power play including failing on one double minor in the first period when Eric Nystom caught Kevin Klein in the face with a high stick.

The snake-bitten Predators have now lost four in a row and are 3-7-1 since the game agaisnt Vancouver on December 9th when the current malaise seems to have set in. They have two days of practice before the Colorado Avalanche pays a visit Tuesday night. I fully expect to see some new faces from Milwaukee in uniform by then.

Preds at the World Juniors
With the US loss to Slovakia on Friday, Colin Wilson and Jonathon Blum will be down to their last game, a fifth place bout with the Czechs on Sunday. In Friday's loss Blum got a goal and an assist and Wilson picked up an assist. Canada goalie Chet Pickard appears to have completed his play as Team Canada appears ready to ride the hot hand of Dustin Tokarshi through Canada's gold medal game vs the Swedes on Monday.

Scotty Nichol Update
Scotty Nichol who has not played since December 9th when he was dealt a concussion. Nichol has been one of my favorite players over the last couple of years, representing the heart and soul of the Predator psyche. While he is not a big point producer, he does all the little things that makes players around him more succesful. Word is that he may be able to return to practice sometime within the next week or so. The Preds would receive a big boost from his return to the lineup.

Sully Update While I hold little hope that Sully will ever contribute again at the NHL level, the company line is that if he does not have any setbacks at practice before Monday, he will then meet with David Poile to establish a target date for a return. I can't imagine why he would want to risk permanent paralysis if he were to receive an open ice blow like the one J P Dumont got from Alex Burrows that he still hasn't recovered from.

Non Traditional Market Fans I didn't hear one negative remark or see any signs related to what Sean Avery said about Dion Phaneuf. I'm sure Phaneuf has hear that phrase repeatedly in some of the markets known for tougher fans,

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Friday, January 2, 2009

Predators Play Well in Loss to Vancouver

The Fight Everyone Expected

The Nashville Predators returned to the friendly confines of the Sommet Center on New Year's night and played the best game they have played in since their win over the Red Wings last week. Unfortunately they lost to Vancouver 2-1.

It is becoming increasingly frustrating for the players and fans of the Predators when the team plays solid defense, gets good goaltending, and does all the other things you have to do to win a hockey game and still lose because the puck can't seem to find the back of the net. The Preds had plenty of scoring chances but could not produce the needed scoring that has eluded them recently.

The last meeting with the Canucks on December 9th seems to have been the start of the current goal drought which has become a major issue for the Predators. Including that game, the Predators have scored 14 goals in ten games, 6 of which came in wins over Dallas and Detroit. It is a miracle that their record has been 3-6-1 during that stretch. The wins were only on the stength of stellar goaltending efforts.

The game provided plenty of excitement starting with Jordan Tootoo picking a fight with fellow pest Alex Burrows at the opening face off, finally stopping play 22 seconds into the first period. The open ice hit Burrows laid on J P Dumont that many considered worthy of a suspension coincides with Dumont's total lack of production in the 9 games since with only one assist during that span. The Predators have never said anything but after watching the game last night, I feel sure that Dumont is physically hurting and not capable of playing his usual game.

Pekka Rinne got the call in goal against Vancouver and played as well as you could ever want stopping 30 of 32 shots. The first goal is one he would like to have back but the second was on a tip that he claimed to be screened on. This is not a game where any blame can be placed on Rinne. In the NHL if you are at home and your keeper holds the opposition to two goals, you should be able to win the vast majority of the time.

Jason Labarbara seemed to find new life playing for Vancouver. Suffering from lack of sleep and muscle cramps at the end of the game, he was able to stop all but Rich Perverly's nifty goal off a backhanded between the legs pass from Radek Bonk in the second period. In spite of his stellar play, a jeer from the crowd provided one of the better laughs of the game when a Pred fan yelled "Hey Labarbara, how does it feel to be traded for a seventh round pick?" Ouch!

In post game questioning, Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that personnel moves were in the offing. With the no movement period over and David Poile at the World Juniors, I am sure extensive discussions are underway. Unfortunately, the Predators needs have become so acute that a good deal will be hard to come by. The most likely move would be either the recall of Ryan Jones who has 17 points in 17 games since being sent to Milwaukee or the NHL debut of Mike Santorelli who is tied for second in the AHL in points with 13 goals and 27 assists in 33 games.

The Predators remain at home for a rare afternoon game on Saturday against the Calgary Flames. The Preds are almost in a must win situation for the remaining four home games which also includes the Avs, Pens and Hawks. If the current scoring drought and resulting free-fall in the standings continues Nashville won't have to be concerned about a fifth straight first round loss in the playoffs.

Pred Prospects at the World Juniors... Colin Wilson continued his strong play in the USA game against Canada on Wednesday night scoring two more goals. Jonathon Blum returned from the cut to the face on Tuesday to lead the defensive charge and score a goal against Canada. Canada goalie Chet Picard, despite going 2-0 with a .50 GAA, may have seen his last tourney action as it appears Dustin Tokarski may get the next start after his strong play against the USA. Blum and Wilson return to action on Friday afternoon when the USA faces Slovakia. Picard and Canada will wait for the result of today's Czech-Russia game to see who they will play Saturday.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass