Archive for January, 2012
The Nashville Predators are used to late third-period heroics. Down 4-1 early in the third period against the Minnesota Wild, the Predators scored four unanswered goals, including two from Mike Fisher, to win 5-4 in regulation Tuesday night to finish out the month of January with an 11-2 record.
Down 3-0 after the first period of play, Matt Halischuk scored his 12th goal of the season at 9:33 into the middle frame to make it a 3-1 game. Kevin Klein and Brandon Yip picked up the assists.
It was the first point for Yip as a Predator.
After Kyle Brodziak scored 16 seconds into the third period to extend the Wild’s lead back to three goals, Yip scored his first goal as a Predator at 9:22 of the third period to start the Predators unlikely comeback.
The Nashville Predators were the hottest team in the National Hockey League going into the all-star break with a 9-1-0 record in their last 10 games. Nashville is 12-2-0 since December 28th and Predators netminder Pekka Rinne, named the NHL’s second start of last week, was playing some of the best hockey of his career, winning 9 consecutive starts and posting an 18-2-0 record in his last 20 games before the break.
Rinne was excited to be back on the ice Monday afternoon at Centennial Sportsplex.
“It felt great on the ice today. I felt really sharp. I felt winded right away, but that comes from not being on the ice. Getting your legs underneath you is the biggest thing. Other than that, I felt great. It’s just getting back to doing what you do,” Rinne said about returning to the ice after a five-day break.
The Finnish netminder says the break couldn’t have come at a better time, despite Nashville’s impressive play. “Even though we were rolling pretty good, it was a good time to get that break. We played 50 games. Anytime you realize there is a break ahead of you, you let everything out, all your energy every single game. We did that. We played extremely well. Now we got our break and we recharged our batteries and got the energy levels back. I’m really excited and looking forward to getting back at it,” Rinne explained.
Nashville Predators 30-16-4
Minnesota Wild 24-18-7
Going into Tuesday night’s action, the Nashville Predators had a 10-2-0 record for the month of January and will attempt to close out the month 11-2-0. The Predators were 9-1-0 in their previous 10 games going into last week’s All-Star break festivities. The Predators will try to regain momentum Tuesday when they visit Minnesota to face a struggling Wild team to cap off a very successful January.
The Wild are hanging on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings and are winners of their last two contests, but are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. While the Predators are going for their fifth straight win, and goaltender Pekka Rinne will attempt to win his 10th consecutive game, it won’t be an easy task. Rinne is 7-3-1 all-time against the Wild, but the Predators have struggled in Minnesota with Rinne in goal. The 29-year old has a 2-3-1 record at Xcel Energy Center with an uncharacteristically high 3.63 goals against average and an equally uncharacteristically low .868 save percentage.
While St. Paul has been a tough place for Rinne to play in, Nashville has a 5-1-0 record in its last six contests away from Bridgestone Arena. The Predators have allowed only 7 goals during those 6 games, while Rinne has allowed only 4 goals in the 6 of those games which he started.
On Monday, Rinne was named the NHL’s second star for the week with back-to-back wins against Columbus and Chicago on January 23rd and 24 respectively last week.
On the injury front, Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said both Francis Bouillon and Jerred Smithson are set to return to the lineup Tuesday night. The Predators will have to make some tough decisions concerning who to sit both at the forward position as well as on defense.
The likely candidate on defense would be for Jack Hillen to take a seat. In just 14 games, Ryan Ellis has 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points and is a plus 6, earning his spot on the roster.
On forward, Brian McGrattan was already likely to be one healthy scratch, but the Predators will need to sit another forward. Gabriel Bourque has created some nice chemistry playing alongside Jordin Tootoo and Nick Spaling. As such, either Brandon Yip or Matt Halischuk will likely sit out.
Halischuk has played better than anyone in the NHL with under 12 minutes of ice time per game with 11 goals and 5 assists for 16 points. Yip is the newest Predators taken off waivers from the Avalanche. Yip played well against Chicago and showed some chemistry with Craig Smith and Halischuk, but it is unlikely all three will remain in the lineup with the return of Smithson.
The Wild have a couple of key players out with injury. Mikko Koivu is sidelined with a shoulder injury and Guillaume Latendresse is out with a concussion. Both players skated with the team on Monday but according to the Twin City Pioneer neither will be ready to return to action on Tuesday.
After Tuesday night’s game, the Predators start their slate of games for the month of February on Thursday when they visit Philadelphia to take on the Flyers before returning home Saturday night to host the St. Louis Blues.
The National Hockey League’s schedule of games is set to resume on Tuesday night with teams making their final push down the stretch towards the 2012 playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings sit on top of the League standings with 67 points, one point ahead of the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers.
The Nashville Predators sit in fifth place in the Western Conference, tied for 64 points with the Chicago Blackhawks, just three points out of first place in not only the Central Division and Western Conference but also the entire NHL.
Predators netminder, Pekka Rinne has already picked up 28 wins in 45 games, ranking second in the League behind Detroit’s Jimmy Howard who has 30 wins on the season. Rinne’s record is 28-11-4 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.
All-Star defenseman, Ryan Suter says when Rinne plays well, so does the team. “He is the main guy. When he is on, everyone feeds off him. He is one of the best goalies in the League and he proves that every night for us,” Suter said.
Since December 28th, Rinne is 12-1-0 with a 1.60 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage, giving the Finnish netminder the best numbers in the League for wins as well as goals against since the end of the calendar year. In his last 19 decisions, the 29 year old is 17-2-0 and he ranks second in the League in saves with 1,248, starts with 45, and third in shots against with 1,349.
Shea Weber gave it his best, but 106.0 mph just wasn’t fast enough to beat Zdeno Chara. The Bruins captain again broke the record for hardest shot with 108.8 mph. The previous record was set a year ago at 105.9 mph, also set by Chara. Click the link to watch the hardest shot competition‘s winning blast from Chara. The hardest shot competition has now been won by Chara for the last five years.
Below, take a look at photos of Weber, Ryan Suter and Craig Smith from Saturday night’s festivities.
Weber being introduced.
With a shot of 106.0 mph, Weber again showed why no one will want to block this shot.
Suter being introduced in Ottawa, Ontario.
Rookie Craig Smith participated in the relay.
Photo credit: All photos are from Getty Images
The Nashville Predators won their fourth game in a row, and 9 of their last 10, on Tuesday night when they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 at the United Center. The Blackhawks have one of the most impressive home records with only five regulation losses in Chicago entering Tuesday night’s contest.
The Predators now have an 11-2-2 record against Central Division opponents, one of the most difficult divisions in the NHL with four of the five teams in the top six positions in the Western Conference.
It was Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne’s 9th consecutive win.
Chicago played without Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp who have scored 27 and 20 goals respectively. Nashville was without Francis Bouillon and Jerred Smithson, both knocked out of the lineup with an upper-body injury.
Nashville opened scoring with 8:11 left in the first period when rookie Craig Smith fired a shot passed netminder Corey Crawford after Matt Halischuk kept the puck in the zone by getting to a loose puck before the Chicago defenders. Brandon Yip screened Crawford.
Mike Fisher picked up his 12th goal of the year, and third in two nights, when he scored from the slot with only 2:26 left in the opening frame to give the Predators a 2-0 lead. Patric Hornqvist kicked the puck to Fisher in the slot from behind the net for the assist.
The second period was scoreless, but the Blackhawks cut the lead to within one goal in the third period when Dave Bolland scored a power play goal at 7:20 into the final frame.
The Predators were able to score an empty net power play goal when Colin Wilson picked up his 10th goal of the season with 13 seconds remaining in regulation.
Nashville enters the All-Star break in fourth spot in the Western Conference, tied for 64 points with Chicago. Detroit leads the Central Division, as well as the entire NHL, with 67 points on the season.
Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Craig Smith will participate in All-Star festivities for Nashville. The All-Star game draft is Thursday night. The skills competition will take place on Saturday night and the All-Star game is Sunday afternoon. Coverage will be on NBCSports, formerly Versus.
Nashville Predators 29-16-4
Chicago Blackhawks 29-14-6
The Nashville Predators boast a 10-2-2 record against Central Division opponents this season heading into Tuesday night’s action. The Predators will try to expand that record to 11-2-2 when they visit the United Center to take on the Chicago Blackhawks before entering the All-Star break.
Only two points separate the clubs, two overtime/shootout losses to be exact. A win for Nashville will put the Predators and Blackhawks tied for 64 points on the season after 50 games.
Tuesday’s game won’t be easy. Chicago is a tough place for away teams to play. The Blackhawks have only lost five games in regulation at the United Center in 28 contests, with a 19-5-4 record at home. Furthermore, the Predators played Monday night beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1. So far this season, Nashville has a 5-2-0 record on the front end of back-to-back contests but is only 2-4-0 in the second game.
Chicago and Nashville have split the two games they have played against each other this season. On Saturday night, the Predators beat Chicago by a 5-2 score in front of a sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. The last time the Predators played in Chicago they lost 5-4 in overtime on Halloween.
The Predators have a 15-22-2 all-time record in Chicago.
Adam Jahns of the Sun Times reported that Jonathan Toews will not be in the lineup for Chicago on Tuesday night. He left Saturday night’s game in Nashville with what is a suspected left wrist injury. Patrick Sharp is also out of the lineup with a wrist injury.
After the game, the Predators will enter their All-Star break. Nashville doesn’t play again until January 31st when they visit the Minnesota Wild. Three Predators will be taking part in the All-Star weekend. Defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were named to the team as well as Craig Smith, who was named as a part of the rookie contingent invited to the weekend festivities in Ottawa, Ontario.
The Nashville Predators won their fifth consecutive game on home ice Monday night when they beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena. It was their third win in a row and seventh win in the last eight games.
All-Star defenseman, Ryan Suter returned to the lineup. Suter says the team has finally established the home ice advantage Nashville is known for maintaining.
“I think early on we struggled at home because we were on the road so much. You are on the road for a week and then you come home for a game and then you go back on the road for a couple of games. It is tough to get anything going when you are on the road and back home,” Suter said.
In the month of October, Nashville was 2-2-1 at home. In November, the Predators slightly improved with a 2-1-2 record at home for a combined 4-3-3 at home through the first two months of the season. It wasn’t until December that Nashville started to establish its dominance at home, posting a 12-4 record at Bridgestone Arena since Nashville’s 3-2 loss to Buffalo on December 3rd.
“Now that we have had our little stretch at home we have been able to capitalize on that and gain our home ice advantage,” Suter explained.
The Nashville Predators are 9-2-2 against Central Division opponents and will try to improve upon that impressive record when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. It is the last time this season that the two clubs will meet.
Columbus and Nashville met just last Thursday night when Predators netminder Pekka Rinne picked up his fourth shutout of the season in a 3-0 win over the Blue Jackets. Monday’s game is the first in back-to-back contests for Nashville. The Predators will travel to the United Center to face Chicago on Tuesday night before going into the All-Star break.
One of the hardest divisions in the League, only five points separate the division-leading Detroit Red Wings from the fourth place Predators. The Red Wings are also leading the entire Western Conference with the St. Louis Blues, Blackhawks and Nashville, all contenders for the division title, sitting in fourth, fifth, and sixth place respectively in the Western Conference standings.
“I think the Central Division is such a tough division. We are battling with three or four teams for playoff positions. Every game you have to be up for it or they will take it to you,” rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis said about Nashville’s divisional rivals.
The Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Saturday night in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena, but had to win without Francis Bouillon.
Late in the first period, Bouillon left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return.
“It is tough to lose a guy like that,” rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “He is a steady guy back there. He plays big minutes for us, but everyone adjusted well. We are used to playing with each other and mixing it up. We just had to get used to that and do the best we could.”
The Predators are already missing All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter from the lineup. Suter has missed the last three games, also with an upper-body injury.
The Predators are 2-1 without Suter in the lineup. “Losing Suter is tough enough, but losing Frankie [Bouillon] too really puts a hurt in our defensive corps. We did a good job adjusting and got the win.”
“It wasn’t too hectic. It is not our first rodeo. We were prepared,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said about playing the final two periods with only five defensemen.
Chicago got on the board first when Marian Hossa was able to step around Predators captain Shea Weber and beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne at 15:05 into the first period.
Nashville tied the game a little over two minutes later on the power play when Craig Smith scored his 10th goal of the season at 17:19 of the opening frame.
“It was good puck movement,” Ellis, who assisted on Smith’s goal, said about the power play. “We broke in one side went to the other and back to the top. It was just a shot and Smith put it in. It was great positioning by him.”
The Predators went on to score three second period goals to take a 4-1 lead into the third period. Kevin Klein scored from the red line at 5:15 of the middle frame to give the Predators a 2-1 lead less than two minutes after Sergei Kostitsyn had a goal waived off for hitting the puck into the net with a high stick.
Colin Wilson picked up the game-winning goal at the 11:14 mark of the second period, and Kostitsyn added the Predators fourth goal when he took a feed from Mike Fisher and beat Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford at 16:03 into the period.
Hossa picked up his second goal of the night just 48 seconds into the third period, but Nashville added another goal, Patric Hornqvist’s 13th of the season, to make it 5-2 just 3:08 into the final frame.
“Chicago is highly skilled and a great team. Tonight we played some good defense and that is what got us through,” Ellis said of the win.
Nashville is now 9-2-2 against Central Division opponents.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Chicago, who played Friday night, beating the Florida Panthers by a 3-1 score at the United Center.
The Predators have the day off on Sunday, but are back in action Monday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. It will be the final time the two Central Division rivals meet this season. Nashville leads the season series 4-0-1.