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Posted On Saturday, 12.14.2013 / 2:23 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Smith returning to the lineup for Predators

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith, who is tied for third on the team in points with 15, will get back in the lineup for the first time in four games Saturday when his team plays host to the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena.

Smith was a healthy scratch in the first of those three games Dec. 7 after he failed to score a point in five straight games. Then he came down with flu-like symptoms. Overall, the streaky Smith has one point in his past seven games and has not scored since Nov. 21.

During the morning skate, he took Gabriel Bourque's place at right wing on a line with center Matt Cullen and left wing Colin Wilson.

"I just want to see him play with the speed and the energy he can and get pucks towards the net," Predators coach Barry Trotz said of Smith. "That's what he's good at and he needs to be good at."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.12.2013 / 2:54 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stars, Predators showcase NHL's top rookies

NASHVILLE -- In what is shaping up as a highly competitive race for the Calder Trophy, two potential candidates are set to face off against each other Thursday when the Dallas Stars visit the Nashville Predators, with the momentum of each team's standout rookie swinging in the opposite direction -- for the moment.

Playing on the Stars' top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, Valeri Nichushkin -- like his linemates -- is riding a hot streak. He enters with two goals and five assists in his past four games, including a four-point outburst in a 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers this past Saturday.

Nichushkin, selected with the 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, ranks second in the League among rookies in assists with 11 and his 15 points tie him for seventh in rookie scoring. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Russian, who speaks little English, has slowly learned through his first 28 games to protect the puck better against opponents and has shown flashes of dominance. At times, the frustrations of being only 18 years old and playing in the top League in the world have also visibly frustrated him.

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Posted On Saturday, 11.16.2013 / 2:23 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Predators' Stalberg excited to play former team

NASHVILLE -- Since signing a free-agent contract with the Nashville Predators in July, things have not worked out exactly the way Viktor Stalberg would have liked.

Entering his first game against his old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, Stalberg has one goal and one assist in 13 games to go with a minus-4 rating. Nashville tied the Florida Panthers last season for fewest goals and expected big things from Stalberg, 27, who scored 22 goals in his last full season and netted nine last year.

The game comes as Nashville has lost four straight by an aggregate 17-2 score while Chicago has not lost in regulation since Oct. 26, a span of eight games.

"You've got to deserve your ice time, deserve everything you get out there," said Stalberg, who averages 13:06 per game in time on ice, which ranks 11th among 15 Predators forwards this season. "I might have taken that for granted at the start. Obviously the last couple of games have been tough for us, but you've got to do everything you can to get back on track and start producing."

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Posted On Thursday, 10.10.2013 / 2:56 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Franson reminisces on time with Weber, Predators

NASHVILLE -- Like a lot of former players who got their start with the Nashville Predators, Cody Franson spoke fondly Thursday of the team that selected him in the third round in the 2005 NHL Draft (No. 79) and with which he began his NHL career.

The 26-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman shares a special bond not only with the organization, but with its captain, Shea Weber. Weber and Franson grew up three houses apart in Sicamous, British Columbia, and have been close ever since.

"He was always a guy that I looked up to," Franson said of Weber. "He was doing what I wanted to do. He played for the [Kelowna] Rockets when I wanted to play in the [Western Hockey League]. He played in the World Junior [Championship] when I wanted to play in the World Juniors. He was a guy who was always doing the exact same things I wanted to do and he was always a guy I could talk to when it came time for me to be able to do that kind of stuff.

"He's always been there for me. He's a great friend. He took me under his wing when I first started and I can't thank him enough for that."

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Posted On Thursday, 10.10.2013 / 2:53 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Stalberg could make Predators debut Saturday

NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz told reporters Thursday that injured forward Viktor Stalberg could play Saturday against the New York Islanders.

Stalberg took part in the team's morning skate Thursday ahead of its game against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, but isn't quite ready yet to make his regular-season debut with the team. He has been on injured reserve since Sept. 29, about a week after he sustained an injury to his right shoulder during training camp.

Stalberg signed a four-year, $12 million contract with the Predators during the summer.

Here are the lineups the teams will use Thursday:

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.08.2013 / 2:34 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Predators to pair Weber, Jones for first time

NASHVILLE -- For the first time this season, the Nashville Predators will pair rookie defenseman Seth Jones, the fourth pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, with captain and two-time Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber.

The move was necessitated by the concussion that Roman Josi, Weber's usual partner, suffered on Friday against the Colorado Avalanche. Jones had started out the season on the Predators' third pair with fellow rookie Mattias Ekholm.

With the loss of Josi in the game on Friday, Jones ended up playing 25:46, the most minutes of any Predator. While Nashville has lost each of its first two games, Jones has nonetheless managed to finish on the plus side in each and enters the team's home opener at Bridgestone Arena against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday with a plus-2 rating.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 2:12 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Predators face rare home finale with no playoffs ahead

NASHVILLE -- For seven of the past eight seasons, the final regular-season home game represented a leaping off point for the Nashville Predators to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This season, that will not happen. The Predators missed the playoffs for a variety of reasons -- some of which will be reflected when the team suits up Tuesday against the Calgary Flames at Bridgestone Arena. Two of the team's top-six forwards, Mike Fisher and Patric Hornqvist, remain out, too injured to play, although they participated in the team's morning skate.

Nonetheless, it appears the fans will have an opportunity to give starting goalie Pekka Rinne a sendoff until next season; he'll get the start in goal.

"It's sort of closure at home here," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "Our fans have been fantastic. The last couple of years we've filled this building. We had 28 straight sellouts this year (dating back to last season). Then we had that week where we had four home games. That sort of put a damper on that in terms of sellouts. They've come out and supported us even in tough times. We haven't been really good with a number of injuries."

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Posted On Monday, 04.15.2013 / 1:10 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Luongo gets second start in three games for Canucks

NASHVILLE -- When he made his highly-publicized comments after the NHL Trade Deadline on April 3 about his frustration that his contract made it difficult for him to be moved, Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was in the midst of a stretch of earning only one start in 11 games.

On Monday, when Vancouver visits the Nashville Predators, Luongo will start for the second time in three games. Last Wednesday, Luongo stopped 40 of 41 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

"It gives him a chance to play," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. Number one goalie Cory Schneider "was on such a roll, and then he got sick and Louie came in and did an incredible job in Calgary for us, and that's what we expect tonight."

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Posted On Monday, 04.15.2013 / 12:26 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Ekholm set to be latest rookie add to Predators' lineup

NASHVILLE -- The parade from Milwaukee to Nashville continues, as the Nashville Predators recalled defenseman Mattias Ekholm on Monday from their American Hockey League affiliate.

Second-pair defenseman Kevin Klein suffered an injury in the Predators' 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, and so the team was forced to recall Ekholm on Monday morning. Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who would not specify the injury, said Klein was highly questionable to play.

Ekholm was expected to arrive in Nashville later in the day. As the injuries continue to pile up, Ekholm will be the sixth rookie on the Predators' roster and the third Swede to suit up for the team in roughly one week's time.

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Posted On Sunday, 04.14.2013 / 3:32 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Predators ready for Forsberg's debut

NASHVILLE – Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg will make his much-anticipated NHL debut on Sunday as a member of the team’s top line and first power-play unit.

One day after arriving from Sweden, the 18-year-old is set to play on a line with David Legwand, who has played for the Predators in every season of their existence, and rookie Taylor Beck, who has three goals in 13 games.

That the Predators’ top line is comprised of two rookies with a total of 13 NHL games between them is a testament to the extent to which injuries have impacted the Predators but also to how they have fallen out of the Stanley Cup Playoff race. They have lost eight out of nine entering their game on Sunday with the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena and were 13th in the Western Conference.

Forsberg, drafted 11th in the 2012 NHL Draft, is the player whom the Predators received in exchange from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat, who ranks second all-time in most Nashville offensive categories.

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Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery