NASHVILLE – Nashville Predators rookie defenseman Seth Jones missed earning a spot on the U.S. team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics but he has accepted a spot to play for his country at the IIHF 2014 World Championship in Belarus.
Grabovski, who has 12 goals and 21 assists in 50 games this season, has dressed once since Jan. 24 because of a lingering left ankle injury. He had 2:20 of time on ice on Feb. 27 against the Florida Panthers, but reinjured himself and has not played since.
The Capitals entered Sunday two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings, who are seventh and eighth, respectively, for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They are 4-1-2 in their past seven games, but winless in their past two (0-1-1).
Spaling can play all three forward positions but is a left-handed shot. He had been playing right wing on the third line, centered by Colin Wilson with Eric Nystrom on the left. In a 5-4 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the line was a combined minus-7. Spaling's minus-2 rating ranks fourth-best on the Predators among players who have played at least 15 games.
Trotz dropped Nystrom to the fourth line, which is centered by rookie Colton Sissons and features Rich Clune on the right, and elevated right wing Viktor Stalberg to Wilson's line so Spaling could move back to the left side.
NASHVILLE -- Rookie defenseman Seth Jones, who was the only member of the Nashville Predators to play in every game this season, will miss his first game, due to concussion-like symptoms, Tuesday when the Predators host the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena.
Jones sustained the injury Sunday in a 2-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks when he was on the receiving end of a hard body check along the boards. He logged a season-low 5:48 of ice time and did not return. In his place will be Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto was a healthy scratch for two of the past three games and played 3:13 in the one he did play when Nashville dressed seven defensemen.
Nashville also has a game Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres but it is unlikely Jones will play in that game either.
Coach Barry Trotz said the Predators would be careful with Jones, the fourth pick of the 2013 NHL Draft.
NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has not played in back-to-back games since sitting out more than four months with a hip infection. But he said he felt good enough Saturday to play against the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville did not conduct a morning skate after getting in late following a 3-2 road win Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Predators coach Barry Trotz said after a team meeting that he had decided which goalie would start but did not want to make the decision public. Trotz said he had not spoken to Rinne at that point.
Rinne, asked if he felt healthy enough to play in consecutive nights, replied, "Absolutely."
"No issues," he said. "I think now I've had enough time to get back in kind of the game shape and all that, so I feel really good."
"Adding Tropp in the lineup, Comeau in the lineup, some physical players … getting some guys in the lineup, some straight-line players that can hopefully provide a physical edge for us but also just a spark in getting in on the forecheck," Richards said.
The 24-year-old forward was the No. 7 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft and has played a variety of roles, but has never truly had the opportunity to center the Predators' top line.
Now he does. At the Predators' morning skate, Wilson worked between right wing Craig Smith, who leads Nashville in goals with 18, and Gabriel Bourque. He also took Legwand's spot on the top power-play unit on the right half wall.
NASHVILLE -- In addition to franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne, center Nick Spaling was expected to return to the Nashville Predators lineup on Tuesday for the first time since Jan. 31, after suffering a lower-body injury.
When he was injured, Spaling had had three goals and three assists in his past seven games. Spaling's nine goals last season were tied for fourth on the team.
"Nick brings a pretty complete game," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "[Spaling] was having a pretty solid offensive and defensive year. Obviously, he got hurt right before the Olympics. He was playing with a lot of confidence. He's a guy that has good instincts. He doesn't cheat on the ice. He plays the game 200 feet. … He will help the penalty kill, he'll help our depth, all those things."
NASHVILLE -- Some of the Tampa Bay Lightning's best players are traveling with the team during this four-game road trip and are close to returning from injury, but remain out.
Forwards Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula each participated in the Lightning's morning skate Thursday for their game against the Nashville Predators, but coach Jon Cooper said Filppula (ankle), the closer of the two to returning, would not dress.
"Val's out," Cooper said. "This is probably a day-to-day thing."
Cullen was a late participant to the Predators' morning skate on Saturday and then left early. In the event that Cullen can't play, coach Barry Trotz also said the franchise had some players with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League "on alert" for a possible last-minute call-up.
Cullen sat out four straight games with an upper-body injury between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1 then returned Thursday against the Minnesota Wild but logged only 7:36 of time on ice. The Predators only have 12 forwards on the active roster with Nick Spaling on injured reserve because of a lower-body injury.
For Anaheim, the Ducks will play without left wing Teemu Selanne and his 682 career goals. The Ducks did not take the Finn on the trip so that he could rest for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Olympics.
NASHVILLE -- The New Jersey Devils' lineup will have a somewhat unexpected look Friday as goalie Cory Schneider will start for a second straight game and Eric Gelinas, who ranks second among NHL rookie defensemen in points with 22, has been assigned to Albany of the American Hockey League.
In addition, forward Dainius Zubrus will be a game-time decision after blocking a shot with his left leg Thursday. Zubrus said he sustained a bruise.
The Devils recalled right wing Mike Sislo, who has played seven games this season with the Devils, failing to record a point or log more than 8:49 of ice time in a game. General manager Lou Lamoriello said Sislo's recall was a "safety precaution" in case Zubrus could not play. The Devils played with 11 forwards Thursday.
Schneider had a light load Thursday, facing 16 shots in a 3-2 overtime win at the Dallas Stars. Among those on the ice for the game-winning goal was Gelinas, who logged 2:50 of ice time as one of seven defensemen the Devils dressed.
"I think he feels pretty good, so unless there's a setback he's ready to go," Trotz said.
Weber sustained an upper-body injury in the Predators' 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and sat out the final 16-plus minutes of the third period. He did not practice Thursday but did participate in the Predators' morning skate Friday.
Of his status, Weber was tight-lipped on the issue, saying, "We'll see. I'll take the warm-ups [Friday]. We'll see."
Nichushkin, the 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, will return to the lineup Tuesday when the Stars host the Minnesota Wild, Ruff said.
With nine goals and 13 assists, Nichushkin is 10th among NHL rookies in points and sixth on the Stars. He has averaged 15:11 of time on ice per game in 46 games, but Ruff cut back on that when Nichushkin expressed to the coach that he had become fatigued.
"I think because of where his energy level has been I'm not going to play him in back-to-back games," Ruff said. "He'll go back in tomorrow."
Nichushkin went without a point in his five previous games before he was scratched Saturday at Minnesota. In the past four, he has not played more than 12:48 and logged only 9:56 on Jan. 12 against the New York Islanders.
With the trade, which sent forward Matt Hendricks to the Oilers, Dubnyk will go from playing behind one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL to one that traditionally plays with much more of a defensive emphasis. Nashville entered play Saturday ranked 20th in the League in goals-against per game at 2.88 but has had one of the worst team save percentages in the League. That issue and the hip infection that has kept top goaltender Pekka Rinne out of the lineup for much of the season is what compelled the Predators to trade for Dubnyk.
"They're real structured," said Dubnyk, who backed up Carter Hutton in a 4-3 shootout win against thePhiladelphia Flyers on Thursday. "It was fun to sit and just kind of be a part of it in Philly. I thought we played a great game there. Just the energy level and the way guys work here is contagious and is fun to be a part of."
Hutton's previous start before a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 5 came Dec. 27. Rookie Marek Mazanec primarily has handled the Predators' goaltending duties in the absence of injured starter Pekka Rinne. Mazanec played four games in the past week, including back-to-back home starts Saturday and Sunday.
It also is Hutton's first start since he allowed a late, game-winning goal to the Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner after which coach Barry Trotz said of Hutton's performance: "That's not good enough for this League. He wasn't strong at all."
Hornqvist ranks fourth on the Predators in goals with nine in 41 games. As a net-front presence, he's also an integral part of the Predators' power play. Without Hornqvist, Nashville has not scored on its past five chances with the man advantage.
Overall, the Predators' power play, ranked seventh in the NHL, has struggled of late. Over the past six games, the unit has connected just once on 11 chances.
In a 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the Predators had a power play over the final 1:36 of overtime but could not convert. Predators coach Barry Trotz said at that late juncture in the game the ice was very choppy. As a result, the players had trouble controlling the puck, which allowed Senators' penalty killers to pressure the Predators and prevent them from getting off too many good chances.
NASHVILLE – While the Nashville Predators celebrated good news on Friday in the form of an update on the health of franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne, there still is no timetable for his return as the team readies for three home games in four days, starting Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
Barry Trotz said rookie Marek Mazanec, who has started six of the past seven games, would start against the Senators but the Nashville coach said after that he would take a day-to-day approach.
Rinne's season was derailed by an E. Coli infection in the hip that he had surgically repaired in the offseason. There is virtually no precedent for a player to return from such an injury so the Predators are taking a cautious approach. The news on Friday was that Rinne, who has not played since Oct. 22, could begin "weight-bearing exercises" but that does not appear to include skating for the moment.
Forsberg said he arrived late Wednesday from Sweden and had difficulty with his flights, owing to the bad recent weather in the United States. Nashville coach Barry Trotz said the Predators would hold him out of the lineup Thursday partially for those reasons.
Forsberg was named the tournament’s most valuable player, best forward and a media all-star by posting four goals, 12 points and a plus-3 rating. Sweden, the host country, lost in the gold medal game to rival Finland 3-2 in overtime.
It sounds as if the Predators will try to get Forsberg into a game coming up -- they play four home games in six days starting Thursday -- before making a decision on whether he will remain with the team or be assigned to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
NASHVILLE -- With the Dallas Stars in a desperate situation to try to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen was not sounding optimistic Friday about his injured groin following his team's morning skate.
"I was hoping that I would feel a lot better than I did," Lehtonen said, but he added the injury is "going in the right direction."
As a result, Richard Bachman was going to start Friday at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators. Lehtonen will not be in uniform. Coach Glen Gulutzan said Cristopher Nilstorp, an emergency call-up from Texas of the American Hockey League, would back up Bachman.
NASHVILLE – When the Nashville Predators acquired defenseman Hal Gill last February it was mostly to help with their penalty killing as they anticipated a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Having re-signed Gill in the offseason, the Predators expected him to perform the same service. However, he has been injured for much of the season and, as a result, the Predators’ penalty-killing unit has suffered, ranking 28th in the League at 77.2 percent.
Nashville hopes that changes Saturday when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena and, Gill, who has played in half of his team’s 30 games, should return to the lineup. He has missed 12 straight games with a lower-body injury and has played in three since Feb. 10.
"The penalty kill needs more attention than the power play (which ranks 17th but has yielded three shorthanded goals in the past three games) right now based on we haven’t been able to keep pucks out of our net there, so big Hal Gill has been a big factor since he’s been out," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Our percentage is pretty low for where we were."
Gill worked with Kevin Klein and looked like he had a chance of playing on Thursday against the Calgary Flames at Bridgestone Arena, but coach Barry Trotz said after the skate that Gill would not play.
Gill has missed 11 straight games with a lower-body injury and has only played in three since Feb. 10. The Predators could use his veteran presence as they have been icing, at times, a very young defense corps that includes Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, both in their second seasons, as well as Jonathon Blum, 24, who has only played 73 career NHL games, and rookie Victor Bartley.
Part of that is because veteran Scott Hannan also is out with an upper-body injury, and Trotz said Hannan would be out indefinitely.
When he stepped on the ice wearing his No. 22, the hoot of train whistles would cut through the sound at Bridgestone Arena, and when he crashed into an opposing player with one of his trademark hits, delight and applause would spring forth.
Tuesday, he will play his first game in his former city as a member of the Detroit Red Wings. Tootoo, 30, signed a three-year deal worth $5.7 million. Nashville, busy signing players it traded for last season (Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad), did not make much of an effort to re-sign Tootoo. Rich Clune has taken up Tootoo's role with Nashville.
The sight of Tootoo wearing red and white will take some getting used in this city.
"Obviously it's different," he said. "Everything about the whole experience. Dressing in this (visitors) room -- I've never been in this room before. Walking across the street, staying in a hotel, everything has been an experience in itself, but as a hockey player guys come and go and move from team to team. It's just part of it."
Gaustad got hurt in Monday's 6-5 loss at the Colorado Avalanche in the first period, playing 58 seconds, and did not return. Trotz said he would know more about Gaustad's injury in a few days. Gaustad also missed the second, third and fourth games of the season with an upper-body injury that could be related.
Nashville lost Game 1 in overtime, Game 2 by two goals and Game 4 again by one goal in a 1-0 loss Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.
The Coyotes' defense has been stifling. They yielded only five shots in the first period to Nashville in Game 4 and 25 for the game. In that game – and even in Game 3 which Nashville won 2-0 – the Preds have had great difficulty getting shots through to the net.
NASHVILLE -- Even before he was moved up to the Predators' second line when Alexander Radulov was held out of the lineup in Game 3 for violating team rules, right wing Patric Hornqvist started earning more ice time.
It’s a statement about Nashville's depth that coach Barry Trotz could take a player who led the team in goals with 27 during the regular season and put him on the third line for the first seven games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Hornqvist admits that being on the third line changed his role somewhat to be more of a checking one than a scoring one.
"If you're on the third or fourth line, you have to make sure you don't get scored on," Hornqvist said. "Of course you want to create some offense, but first thought is always not to get scored on, and I think we did a really good job against Detroit (in the first round). Our line, we didn't get scored on, so, plus-3. Now, I just have to get on the board here, and think we really get going last game, so hopefully we can do the same here tonight."
Hornqvist has one goal in eight games so far, but his three assists in this Western Conference Semifinal series with Phoenix lead the team. He also was on ice for the Preds' first goal in Game 3, as his forechecking set up his linemates for the score, even though he did not earn an assist on the play.
Trotz said he has begun to increase Hornqvist's ice time. The Swede did not play more than 15:49 in the first round but has topped 16:29 in each of the first three games of this round, including 20:18 in Game 1, which went to overtime.
"I just think Patric is one of those guys who is capable of elevating his play all the time, and he is one of the most caring players that you'll find," Trotz said. "He is full of energy. He brings everything he's got every night, and when it's playoff time he brings a different level. I just felt that he needed to move up and be a bigger part of our success."
Trotz admitted that Hornqvist's ice time suffered as he was trying to get more time for others. That would be the late-season arrivals of Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn.
"I think I can't really control my ice time, that's about the coaches," Hornqvist said. "Against Detroit, I didn't play that much and I didn't play that good, and now this series I'm playing better and I play more. It's all about me, if I play good he put me out there."
While no one on the Preds would want to say it aloud, Hornqvist is perhaps the primary beneficiary of Radulov's being out of the lineup. He is the only change to Nashville's second line, which is centered by David Legwand and has Gabriel Bourque at left wing.
"I think we have a good line," Hornqvist said. "We play together before Rads come here and play really good. We have to get on our forecheck and get the puck deep and work their (defense). I think we did a great job with that last game."
"As long as we're winning, (Kostitsyn and Radulov) are OK," Trotz said. "We have to win. If someone doesn't play or we have an injury. They handled it quite well. They're top players all their life. They're not used to this."
Radulov had told the media earlier that he did not expect to be back in the lineup for Game 4 after he and Kostitsyn sat out Game 3 for a violation of team rules.
Trotz had said that if Nashville won -- and it did, 2-0 on Wednesday -- he would likely maintain the same lineup. That indication continued on Thursday when Radulov skated in practice with Kostitsyn and rookie Craig Smith, who was a healthy scratch for the game.
"I don't think so," Radulov said after an optional skate on Friday. "They said they don't want to change the lineup."
Trotz said he would use the same lineup, which means that right wing Jordin Tootoo and left wing Matt Halischuk will remain in the lineup. Trotz said he liked the physical impact that Tootoo made on the game. Tootoo drew a cross-checking penalty in the third period on Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris.
Halischuk also drew a penalty and was on the receiving end of a dangerous hit. He went head-first into the boards on a play in which Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin received an interference call. Halischuk went to the locker room after the play for further examination and said he was taken to a "quiet room," where players who are feared to have suffered a concussion are brought. Nonetheless, Halischuk, after the team said that his status was questionable, returned to the game and practiced on Thursday.
"I felt that the group responded really well and I expect the group to respond again," Trotz said. "(Radulov and Kostitsyn) are ready. When I told them, obviously, they want to be in, they want to have some vindication, if you will, but at the same time they were really good about being good pros. ... They understand they're ready to do whatever it takes to get back in."
Trotz said after watching the game film that it was "undeniable" that Nashville played much better in Game 3 than it had in the previous two with the different lineup. He said at this point, the decision was purely made as a hockey decision, whereas earlier it was a disciplinary decision.
Radulov said virtually the same words as Trotz -- that he was fine with it, as long as the team is winning. Since rejoining the Preds in March after four years in the KHL, he has tried to take the focus off of himself and put it onto his team, which he did again on Friday morning.
"Well, yeah, guys play well so I think they made the right change, the right decision," Radulov said. "So I stick up for them. They deserve it. That's the main thing."
NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes were still assessing blame one day after yielding a critical goal on a play in which goaltender Mike Smith came far out of his net to handle the puck in a 2-0 loss to the Predators in Game 3.
Coach Dave Tippett blamed his defense for not getting back fast enough on the play while Smith blamed himself. Smith raced out above the goal line and then reversed the puck behind his net. Tippett said a defenseman should have been there. None was. Instead, the Predators' Gabriel Bourque was and he fed David Legwand in front for the game's first goal. It was the first time in the series Nashville led after losing the first two games. Thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Preds have not lost a game in which they have scored first.
"It's probably a bad read on my part," Smith said. "I made that play a hundred times this year. It's worked out most times. Last night it was probably a bad read. I should've gone forehand up the boards with it."
If Smith had played it up the boards, he still could have risked that Nashville would have intercepted the puck in the neutral zone or that he could've gotten the attempt blocked with him still out of position. That's why Tippett laid blame on his defense. Adrian Aucoin and Rostislav Klesla were the defensemen on the ice at the time.
"That's not Mike's mistake," Tippett said. "That's two defensemen. One could've got back quicker. The other (defenseman) should've been in that corner. That's not on Mike. Watch how many times that deters the forecheck. He's the best in the League at it by far, so we have to use that asset."
As for Nashville's second goal, Mike Fisher scored while practically standing on the goal line from near the corner. He threw the puck at the net and it glanced off Smith's outstretched goal stick and then popped high into the net. Smith said he had "no idea" how that goal went in.
"It's scientifically impossible for that to happen," he said. "I've looked at it and (goaltending coach Sean Burke)'s looked at it a hundred times. I still don't know how it goes from that angle."
The Predators announced on Tuesday that Radulov and Kostitsyn, who lead them, respectively, with six and four points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, would sit out for a violation of team rules.
Tootoo has 37 playoff games under his belt in his career -- all with Nashville -- but only one this postseason. A hard-hitting right wing who brings energy, he skated in warmups with fourth-line center Paul Gaustad and Halischuk on the left. Halischuk has played in three games this postseason, all in the previous round against Detroit. He has an assist and a plus-1 rating but has not played more than 6:50 in a game. Last year, Halischuk, 23, scored an overtime goal against Vancouver in the conference semis.
Rookie Craig Smith was the other player in consideration for a lineup spot on Wednesday.
Predators coach Barry Trotz elected to juggle his lines - except for the first one -- entering the game with his team down 0-2 in the series. Patric Hornqvist, the team's leading goal-scorer during the regular season with 27, moved up from the third line to the second, taking Radulov's spot with center David Legwand and rookie left wing Gabriel Bourque.
The third line was Colin Wilson, making his second appearance of the postseason and his second straight, at left wing with Nick Spaling at center and Brandon Yip at right wing. Wilson and Yip were teammates at Boston University.
NASHVILLE -- Here's how the lineups project for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semfinal series between the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators set for Wednesday night (9 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN) at Bridgestone Arena:
NASHVILLE -- With Detroit facing elimination on Friday, coach Mike Babcock was asked once again if this could be the final game for defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, the seven-time Norris Trophy winner who will be 42 in a number of days.
First, Babcock was asked if Lidstrom is still bothered by an ankle injury that kept him sidelined late in the regular season.
"The great thing about that is you can ask Nick, so that gets me off the hook," he said. "… I think Nick Lidstrom retires when he thinks he's not a good player anymore, but I think he's been a pretty darn good player. I don't know what could possibly be more fun than playing hockey at a high level on a great team. And I know his wife, so she doesn't want him around, for sure. Why wouldn't you keep playing?"
Babcock was asked a follow-up.
"I say this every year so this is seven years for me I've answered this question," he said. "I always say the same thing: He's too good to quit."
Rinne stopped 81 of 84 shots in the Predators' two victories in Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena, and generally has the Red Wings searching for answers. Detroit has scored only eight goals in the four games.
The first goal in particular has been critical in this series, as the team scoring it has won every game. Cleary was asked if Nashville plays any differently when it has the lead.
"Yes and no," he said. "They're a really good defensive hockey team and they're disciplined. This is not a rush-chance opportunity series. There's no 2-on-1s. There's hardly any 3-on-2s. I mean, they've always got guys back and they're blocking everything and they've got like a wall built in front, and so we've got to come in from the sides. It's just a tight series. Right now we're a little stymied, for sure.”
Part of the problem in creating second chances, Cleary said, is that Rinne "catches everything" with his glove, so the Red Wings need to be mindful of keeping the puck away from his glove hand, which is easier said than done.
Babcock said the Red Wings "can't be impatient."
"I don't think we got too impatient last game at all," he said. "I thought we stuck with it. To me, we need some second chances on their goaltender. The puck's not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things, so we've got to figure out a way to get some second chances and be determined and understand it's going to be tight-checking and there's not going to be a lot of room. ... We need to fight for seconds."
NASHVILLE -- Predators coach Barry Trotz ruled defenseman Hal Gill out for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC).
With a win against the Red Wings, the Predators would advance to the Western Conference Semifinals for the second straight season.
Gill, the Preds' leader in blocked shots and in shorthanded time on ice, has yet to play in this series with a lower-body injury.
Gill participated in his first full practice on Thursday and took part in the team’s optional skate. Gill said he would be a game-time decision before Trotz ruled him out. Asked if he expected Gill to play, Trotz said, "No, I don't expect him to play tonight." Then, asked if Gill was out, Trotz responded with a simple "yes."
Earlier, Gill was asked if whether he plays depends on pain tolerance or risk of further injury. He responded by saying, "There's a lot of decisions to be made from coaching, the trainers to me. There's a lot of conversation going on right now. To take a page from [former Montreal coach] Jacques Martin, there's a process and we're going to stick with it."
That once again leaves either Jack Hillen or rookie Ryan Ellis to take Gill's place in the lineup. Hillen played in Games 1 and 2, Ellis in Games 3 and 4. Neither has averaged more than eight minutes per game.
One Nashville defenseman who goes about his game quietly and often gets overlooked is 36-year-old Francis Bouillon. Bouillon leads the series with a plus-5 rating while averaging 14:37, fifth among Preds' defensemen.
"I guess I'm lucky," Bouillon said. "[Goalie Pekka Rinne] saved me a few times. I try to play a good game defensively and there's a little bit of luck, too, and I didn't create much offensively, so sometimes it's being in the right place at the right moment, but, defensively, I try to play pretty hard in my own zone and do my best."
Trotz called the 5-foot-8, 198-pound Bouillon a "battler."
"You talk about a veteran, a veteran always has a lot of pride when it comes to the game and they always seem to elevate their game at playoff time," Trotz said. "Frankie is just one of those guys, he gives you everything he's got. He battles through everything. Pound for pound, he's as tough mentally and physically as anyone you're going to meet.
"He's had a real strong series and it's because he's got some veteran poise, some veteran diligence, if you will -- all those things that make you a good pro, and he knows the importance of each and every shift in the playoffs and he's really elevated his game."
Bouillon's plus/minus rating has benefitted from playing with defenseman Kevin Klein, one of the unlikely offensive heroes in this series, as Klein has two goals. The two have been paired together on-and-off for most of the last three seasons.
Over his final 13 games of the regular season, Bouillon scored four goals. In the previous 663 games in his career, Bouillon had scored 25 times.
"It was different a month ago, but now it's like the opposite," Bouillon said. "Kleier skates, shoots and I back him up."
Note: On Thursday in practice, rookie forward Craig Smith skated on the fourth line with center Paul Gaustad and wing Brandon Yip, leading to speculation he could play his first game of the series over Matt Halischuk. Trotz said Smith, who had 14 goals during the regular season, would bring speed and determination to the lineup if he plays. Trotz said both Smith and Colin Wilson would be ready if called upon.
NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Hal Gill participated in a full practice on Thursday for the first time in two weeks after suffering a lower-body injury, but his status for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena remains up in the air.
Gill said he would speak to trainers later in the day to address the situation. Predators coach Barry Trotz said the team would know more on Friday.
With Gill out, the team's top defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber played more than 30 minutes apiece in the Preds' 3-1 win in Game 4 over Detroit. Trotz said he is not worried about Suter and Weber playing too many minutes, as "they're young," he said.
Gill was the team's shot-blocker and leader in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season. Jack Hillen played in the first two games of the series in Gill's spot and rookie Ryan Ellis played in Games 3 and 4, but neither has played more than 10 minutes in a game. Gill averaged 18:02 with Nashville during the regular season after being acquired in February from Montreal.
Nashville can close out the series with a win on Friday, as the Preds hold a 3-1 series lead.
NASHVILLE – Predators defenseman Hal Gill, who has missed the first two games of his team’s Western Conference Quarterfinals series with Detroit, did not participate in a brief practice Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
Asked if he had a chance to play in Game 3 on Sunday, Gill responded “hope so.”
Predators coach Barry Trotz said Gill, 37, is “getting closer.”
“One of the things with certain injuries here, sometimes you’re better off not to skate in terms of that and let it settle down,” Trotz said. “Every day that goes by, he’s getting closer and we felt that we can just keep him off today. He did some stuff a lot earlier before everybody got here and we’ll see where it is.”
Gill led Nashville in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season and was the team’s top shot-blocker.
Power play struggles
Nashville has not scored a power play goal in its first 12 chances through Games 1 and 2, but Trotz is not getting discouraged. That is because the Preds are generating plenty of chances, but they’re just not finishing them off.
Trotz said there would be a tendency to “reinvent the wheel” if the unit were not generating chances.
In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators lost their opening-round series with eventual champion Chicago in six games in part because they did not score a power-play goal through the first five games.
“The difference in that power play was in that we got no chances,” Trotz said. “That’s the biggest thing. We just weren’t getting any chances or very, very little. That’s not the case here. … I remember that well, by the way.”
The Preds have never won a postseason game in Detroit, failing in all six chances in their two previous meetings with the Red Wings. If they want to win this series, they will need to do so.
“Obviously, it’s a tough place to play,” Ryan Suter said. “We have to if we want to win the series, we’re going to have to win a game there. Going into it, you’re looking at it as, ‘Oh, geez, we’ve never won there. We gotta win.’ But it’s just more of a fact that if we play the way we’re capable of playing we have a good chance to win.”
NASHVILLE – Each team in this Western Conference Quarterfinal series has one player from Finland -- forward Valtteri Filppula for Detroit and Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
Filppula has played against Rinne in his homeland and often as foes in the Central Division. He said in the NHL that Rinne is one of the few goalies who will have a chat with him during the game, though none of that has gone on in the playoffs.
“You have a little bit of a Finnish connection and any time you face a Finnish guy, usually say hi to him and what’s going on there,” Rinne said. “He’s a nice guy, but now it’s a different time of the season but he’s pretty laid-back guy and I’m usually that way, too.”
Filppula said that part of what makes the 6-foot-5 Rinne successful is that he’s an excellent athlete. Filppula said he played against Rinne some back home, but more now in the NHL.
“Now you get to see him more and obviously he’s become better as you would hope,” Filppula said of Rinne. “He’s always been good size and really fast and I think that’s the biggest thing as to why he’s really good. He’s really quick and obviously never gives up and makes a lot of good saves after you think it should be a sure goal. He comes back and makes those key saves. Definitely, it’s a fun goalie to follow and hope for all the best, but not so much in this series.”
Rinne was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last year but he does not have a star personality. He’s fairly low-key off the ice. Filppula said that as a result Rinne does not exactly have rock-star status in Finland.
“Well, I think for the Finnish audience, it’s tougher since he didn’t play that much back home,” Filppula said. “He came over here pretty early but I think now people see him play more and I think he’s definitely one of the top Finnish players to play. He’s really earned that right and everyone knows he’s a great goalie now. I don’t think he acts that way, which is a good thing.”
NASHVILLE – As recently as last week, Red Wings right wing Dan Cleary said his left knee was only at 50 percent.
Without giving away too much, Cleary said Friday that improved medication is helping him in the playoffs. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought that Cleary was one of the team’s better forwards in Detroit’s 3-2 loss in Game 1 and that Cleary played a “heavy” game and not a “light” game on the periphery, as he was forced to do during the regular season when the knee bothered him.
Cleary played 15:49 and posted an even rating. Cleary was one of only four Red Wings not to be a minus in Game 1 and one of those four was center Darren Helm, who endured a playoff-ending laceration to his forearm and played only 3:06.
“How do I phrase this the right way? The medicine helped a lot,” Cleary said of Game 1. “It’s a little different in the playoffs. … The dose is a little better. It allowed to me to be able not to feel [the pain], so I felt like normal. It’s good.
“Let’s put it this way, medicine certainly helped -- like a lot. The type that you take in the playoffs is a lot different. It was a huge difference. I felt like normal. I could skate.”
Cleary normally kills penalties with Helm so he said he did not think he would see more time on the penalty kill. But he said Helm’s loss was a blow to the team. Helm underwent surgery Wednesday.
“His loss is felt for sure,” Cleary said.
He said he had spoken to Helm and was asked about Helm’s spirits.
“How would you be, you know?” he said. “He’s pretty down, but at least he’s -- in a way -- healthy. You know, there’s no nerve damage, so that was a huge thing but his loss is going to be felt, huge, huge loss.”
NASHVILLE – Predators defenseman Hal Gill ruled himself out on Friday for Game 2 of his team’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit because of a lower-body injury that continues to plague him.
Nashville acquired the 6-foot-7 defenseman in February for his penalty-killing and shot-blocking abilities from Montreal in preparation for their Stanley Cup Playoff run, but Gill has yet to be available. He skated before the team’s optional skate Friday at Bridgestone Arena but did not feel well enough to go. He said the decision was made in conjunction with the coaching and training staffs.
“It’s getting better,” the 37-year-old Gill said, meeting with the media for the first time since the injury occurred April 5 against Dallas. “It’s something I have to take it day by day and test it without pushing too hard.”
Then he ruled himself out.
“I’m going to give it some more time,” Gill said. “At this point, I don’t think I can help the team so we have some good players that can play, so I’ll let that go.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he would dress seven defensemen again for warm-ups, as he did in Game 1, and then make his decision as to who would be in the lineup – either Jack Hillen, who played in Game 1, or rookie Ryan Ellis. Hillen, 26, seems the likely choice.
Beyond the team’s first pair with Shea Weber, the defense corps is not big. Hillen and Ellis both stand 5-foot-10, but Hillen outweighs Ellis officially by 11 pounds and is a bit more muscular. He played 8:20 and was plus-1 while taking a minor penalty Wednesday.
Nashville had to kill eight penalties in its 3-2 victory in Game 1 and Detroit scored two power-play goals, so Gill’s presence – and his 105 career playoff games -- was missed.
“To win is awesome, I don’t care how it happens,” Gill said, “but those are the games that you want to be a part of. Those are the fun ones. Playoff hockey is the most exciting thing that I’ve ever had in my life so it’s tough not to play.”
Gill said to try and play right now would be foolish and that he just has to be patient.
“There’s being tough and then there’s too much pride and right at this point it would be too much pride to play,” he said. “So, like I said, we got good players, we can win with them.”
Gill refused to handicap his odds for Game 3 on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, but said he would travel with the team Saturday for the trip. He said he has been staying in shape, exercising, waiting until he is ready. Game 4 is Tuesday and then the teams have two days off before Game 5, if necessary, back at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, giving him potentially more time to heal.
NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Hal Gill will miss Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Detroit with a lower-body injury.
Jack Hillen, 26, took his place in the lineup and made his playoff debut Wednesday night. Gill, acquired from Montreal in February, finished 16th in the League in blocked shots and led Nashville in shorthanded time on ice per game.
NASHVILLE -- Red Wings center Darren Helm, who missed the regular season's final 10 games with a sprained knee, will return to the lineup on Wednesday for Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock gave an emphatic, "Helm's playing" after his team's morning skate. Helm -- who had nine goals and 17 assists in 68 games -- provides Detroit with some speed and a helpful penalty-killer up front.
Earlier in the week, Helm said he would not be at 100 percent effectiveness if he played, but Babcock put those ideas to rest on Wednesday.
"Well, if he was 50 percent effectiveness, he wouldn't be playing; let’s get that straight," Babcock said. "We sat down and we talked about that specifically and I said I have lots of guys on deck ready to go and he assured me he's ready to go, so there's no issue there."
Before Babcock spoke, Helm said he would have to consult with the doctors and trainers before getting the OK to play.
"I want to make sure I'm helping my team, not hurting them," he said. "This has always been everyone's favorite time of year, but it's a chance for me to play the way I want to play all the time. It's hard to play this style of game 82 games a year, but it's focus on one game at a time now. I can play with lots of energy, speed and finishing checks, and I hope I can be out there and make a difference."
Babcock said he has ruled out forwards Jan Mursak, Riley Sheahan and Chris Conner. The final decision on Detroit's lineup will come down to forwards Justin Abdelkader or Cory Emmerton. Babcock said Helm's presence in the lineup helps to align the Red Wings' bottom two lines and will help to provide them more scoring depth. Then he seemed to engage in some gamesmanship.
"Well, Helmer puts everybody in the right spot," he said. "We had a great bottom six all year long and then we lost our people [to numerous injuries] and we had no bottom six, we had no support scoring. You know, it's amazing when you put people in the right spot. When I look at their team, I see [Nick] Spaling and [Paul] Gaustad in the three-four holes [at center], those are good matchups for us. They weren't without [Helm]."
Babcock seemed to continue the theme of trying to turn up the competitive pressure on Nashville, saying he and general manager Ken Holland have often talked about how they would prefer to start the playoffs on the road instead of their status as a perennial high seed. He said starting on the road makes his team looser.
"Just play the game," he said. "Just get out and get after them. You don't have to worry about anything. You just play, nice and simple and just put as much pressure on the opposition as you can and just watch them tighten up."
Here is the Red Wings' projected lineup for Game 1:
NASHVILLE -- Predators coach Barry Trotz re-iterated that defenseman Hal Gill, who leads his team in averaging penalty-killing time on ice, will be a game-time decision Wednesday for Game 1 of the team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC).
The Predators held an optional skate Wednesday and the 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill (lower-body injury) did not participate. Trotz said the Predators would skate seven defensemen in warm-ups.
If Gill cannot play, then Jack Hillen or rookie Ryan Ellis likely would take his place in the lineup. Trotz described the 21-year-old Ellis, last year's Ontario Hockey League player of the year, as someone who is poised and does not get rattled on the big stage, as he has played in high-profile tournaments such as the World Junior Championship.
Hillen, 26, has played more than 200 NHL games, but, like Ellis, would be making his playoff debut. Hillen is a sturdy 5-10 and 190 pounds and Trotz seemed to trust his penalty-killing ability, which could be the team's need if Gill can't play.
"Jack's one of those guys who is really sort of one of those under-the-radar guys," Trotz said. "He's really efficient. He skates real well. He's really strong on his feet and therefore he's got leverage skills. He's a good penalty-killer and you know what you're going to get with Jack. He's a little older; he's 26, so he's a little more mature than other players."
Hillen had two goals, four assists, 20 penalty minutes and a plus-6 rating in 55 games. He was a mainstay in the lineup for much of the first half of the season, but once Ellis was called up after the League's two-day December holiday break and Gill was acquired in February, he played sparingly.
Hillen sounded like someone who had been told to be ready to go.
"I slept well, but I was really excited," he said. "I definitely went to bed thinking about it, woke up thinking about it. Just went over it in my head -- if I'm in there, what I need to do -- so, definitely excited about it."
While Gill's presence in the lineup is the major issue for Nashville going into Game 1, Trotz also has some decisions to make in terms of his fourth-line forwards. Matt Halischuk and rookie Craig Smith seem to be the likely choices to play with center Paul Gaustad, although Brandon Yip also is a possibility on the right side instead of Smith. Colin Wilson, Jordin Tootoo and Brian McGrattan were among the final players coming off the ice and seem less likely to crack the lineup.
Smith ranked among the League's top rookie scorers during the first part of the season, but hit something of a wall in the second half. Trotz said he thinks it's not unusual for that to happen for first-year players who have come out of college. (Smith played at the University of Wisconsin.)
But on Wednesday, Trotz said Smith is "flying around," and that looks like the explosive player he was earlier in the season. Smith had a goal and two assists in the Predators' regular-season finale Saturday against Colorado.
In the season finale, Smith skated on a line with Wilson at center and Halischuk on the other wing. Smith was asked if he thought his performance on Saturday gave Trotz reason to play him in the playoffs.
"I think our whole line did," he said. "I thought our line played exceptionally well. I think we were playing simple and doing the right things and had success. At this point, anyone who's in the lineup is going to be ready to go."
Here is the lineup the lineup the Predators likely will put on the ice for Game 1:
NASHVILLE -- The Predators acquired defenseman Hal Gill, who made appearances in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009, winning it with Pittsburgh the second time around, precisely for the postseason, but his presence in the lineup for Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit on Wednesday will be a game-time decision, coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday.
One of the 6-foot-7 Gill's specialties is blocking shots, and he may have injured himself doing just that in Nashville's home finale on Thursday when he stepped in front of a drive by Dallas' Sheldon Souray, owner of one of the League's hardest shots. Gill did not practice on Wednesday. Trotz would not confirm that Gill injured by blocking Souray's shot, but did confirm Gill had a lower-body injury.
"We felt with his injury, just no sense trying to aggravate it anymore, so we'll know in the morning," Trotz said.
Gill did not play in the season finale on Saturday against Colorado and Trotz said he had a "maintenance day" on Monday when Gill did not practice either. Gill skated by himself on Tuesday before the team's main session.
Splitting his time between Montreal and Nashville, Gill averaged 17:08 in time on ice in 76 games and posted a minus-3 rating, though he was plus-4 in 23 games with Nashville playing slightly more than he did in Montreal at 18:02. In particular, Nashville wanted him for his penalty-killing ability. At 3:28 per game, he is by far the Preds' leader in average shorthanded time on ice. Nashville acquired the 37-year-old with a conditional fifth-round pick on Feb. 17 in exchange for forwards Blake Geoffrion and Rob Slaney and a second-round pick. Coincidentally, both of Gill's appearances in the Cup Final came against Detroit, Nashville's opponent in the coming series.
Gill led the Preds with 161 blocked shots, which ranked him 16th in the NHL.
Trotz was asked if he were worried about a letdown if Gill cannot play on Wednesday.
"Well, we can't," he said. "The playoffs are about, there's going to be adversities, there's going to be changes in the lineup, and you just have to adjust. If he's in the lineup, great. If he's not, then we'll just have to adjust. The playoffs are all about adjustments. Not everything's going to go perfect. After Game 1, whoever wins is probably going to limit their adjustments, and the team that loses is probably going to adjust a little more because something didn't work.
"That's sort of the cat-and-mouse game that happens in the playoffs, especially when you're playing a team and playing them maybe up to seven games."
NASHVILLE -- Veteran right wing Radek Dvorak, who has missed eight of the Stars' last 11 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday against the Predators, as Dallas sits on the brink of elimination.
A regulation loss will elimination the Stars. They need, at a minimum, three points in their final two games combined with two regulation losses by San Jose to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While it might seem like a 35-year-old with only 4 goals and 17 assists in 72 games might not be the most important cog for the Stars, the team has gone 2-6 in the eight games Dvorak has missed and 2-1 in the three he has played over the last 11. He skates on a line centered by Vernon Fiddler with Eric Nystrom on the left. The trio has proved an effective combination.
"We play similar style," Dvorak said. "We try to be energy for our lineup. We play a simple game. We try to put pressure always on the opposing team's lines, which means get the puck deep, get in on the forecheck, cycle the puck. We have a lot of speed, so we usually get the puck first and that's how you gain the zone. That's our game."
NASHVILLE -- After not dressing for the Predators' game on Tuesday because of an illness, No. 1 goalie Pekka Rinne practiced Wednesday and participated in the team’s morning skate for its regular season home finale on Thursday against Dallas.
Coach Barry Trotz said that "he's probably in, yeah," in reference to a question as to whether Rinne would start on Thursday. Rinne said on Wednesday that he had an IV to help him rehydrate.
Here's tonight's projected lineup for the Predators:
NASHVILLE --Warren Peters was expected to return to the Wild lineup on Tuesday against the Predators after missing one game with an upper-body injury.
The Wild had recalled Cody Almond from Houston (AHL) to fill in for Peters, and then sent him down on Tuesday. Almond, 22, who has played in 10 games this season, totaling 1 goal and a minus-5 rating, only played 7:37 in a 5-4 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday, but was even and had two shots. Wild coach Mike Yeo said he liked what he saw.
"I really liked what Cody did last game," Yeo said. "I thought that that was a real good game for him but, obviously, Petey coming in now and we're off emergency, but that was a really good performance by Cody, I thought."
NASHVILLE -- Goalie Anders Lindback will play on Tuesday for the first time in two weeks for the Predators, which, by Lindback's standards, is not so long.
Nashville is gearing up for the playoffs and intends to get some rest for No. 1 Pekka Rinne. With three games remaining, Rinne, the League's leader in wins, has played in 71 games. Lindback, by contrast, has made 14 appearances.
The last time Lindack played was in relief of Rinne, giving him playing time in two straight games (March 18 and 20). Not bad, considering that Lindback played in only one game between Jan. 19 and Feb. 27.
That was not the plan for Rinne coming into the season, Predators coach Barry Trotz said.
"No, I think going into it, I looked at it as more of a 65, probably, as a number going into the season," Trotz said. "He's probably best around that number. So it's a little higher…. I think we went into a little bit of a roll right before the All-Star break. We knew the teams in the West are so close and we wanted to get some separation. We rode him hard into the All-Star break."
Trotz said that the Preds have been careful of Rinne's rest and recovery time since the All-Star break. To that end, on Tuesday Nashville recalled goalie Chet Pickard, a first-round pick in 2008, from Cincinnati (ECHL), whose season has ended.
Trotz said that in trying to take some shots off of Rinne, at times they will shorten his practices and will need Pickard for practice. Rinne did not participate in the team's morning skate and Trotz said that if he did not back up on Tuesday, then Pickard would.
For his part, Lindback, 23, was looking forward to the start. He said watching has been helpful in his development process.
"You pick up a lot of things, too, watching Pekka play," he said. "Tendencies every team's got. You try to pick it up and put it all together."
He was asked what in particular he has learned from watching Rinne.
"Just the way he handles the puck around the net and uses his glove," he said. "He prevents so many rebounds. He saves us a lot of shots. Really helps out for the (defensemen)…. It's fun to watch him play and really educational."
NASHVILLE – Earlier this season, Barry Trotz coached his 1,000th game behind the bench – all with the Predators.
On Friday, he earned his 500th win with a 4-1 victory at Detroit. Talking about the feat Saturday morning, Trotz preferred to point credit in a different direction, saying he hadn’t thought about it much.
“Last night the players were coming off [the ice] and going, ‘Hey, congratulations,’” he said. “And David Legwand [a member of the Predators since their inaugural season] hands me a puck and I say, ‘What the [heck] is this for?’
“I was oblivious to it, so from that standpoint, after the game, really to me, it was good for the franchise and I thought it was real, real great for me that [general manager David Poile] was able to get 500 with two franchises -- which is the only guy in the history of this game, which is over a hundred years old -- to do that. I’m more proud of that for David than anything.”
Poile also guided Washington 500 wins from 1982 to 1997. The Predators are the fastest to win 500 of any expansion team after 1990, needing 1,062 games.
NASHVILLE – Coming off a huge win on the road Friday in Detroit that helped the Predators vault past the Red Wings into fourth place in the Western Conference, it was hard to tell if Nashville coach Barry Trotz was going to go for broke and start goalie Pekka Rinne again Saturday against Central Division rival Chicago.
Trotz said that backup Anders Lindback, who has only played in 14 games, would probably start a game or two in Nashville’s four remaining contests, but he would not say which goalie was going to start Saturday.
All Central Division teams have four games remaining entering Saturday and Nashville leads fifth-place Detroit by one point and the fourth-place Blackhawks by three. It’s possible that Trotz could start Rinne again Saturday and then rest him for one or two of the non-divisional games which don’t have as many playoff implications. One of those teams (Minnesota) is eliminated and another (Colorado) could be by the time Nashville plays the Avs in the season finale.
“We’re going to play sort of game-by-game,” Trotz said of the goalie decisions.
Rinne earned his 42nd win of the season Friday in the 4-1 win against Detroit by making 31 saves, including a sprawling, highlight-reel glove stop on Henrik Zetterberg from point-blank range in the second period. Without revealing anything, Rinne sounded as if he could play if called upon.
Lindback spent plenty of time on the ice during the morning skate; only the players who did not play on Friday participated in it. Rinne also said winning the first end of a back-to-back can be energizing.
“Yeah, for sure I think it’s a help,” he said. “We were talking about that after the game last night. Even though you feel, obviously, sometimes a little tired, but when you win, it gets easier and you feel like you have more energy. That kind of gives a boost for the whole team. Beating Detroit gives confidence to the whole team, so that’s a good thing.”
Rinne was asked if he would rate the win as one of his best performances of the season.
“I don’t know, for sure against a good team like that play a solid game at this point in the season,” he said. “It was a good game. It’s hard for me to rate it. … For sure, good to have a good game like that at the later stage of the season like it is.”
NASHVILLE – The day after a big comeback against Southeast Division rival Washington, Winnipeg coach Claude Noel was mum on who would start Saturday against the Predators.
Down 3-0 on Friday against the Capitals, the Jets rallied to win 4-3 in overtime to move within four points of the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with eight games to play as goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 20 saves and did not allow a goal after the 5:47 mark of the second period. The Jets hold a game in hand on Washington, which has 82 points.
Pavelec is 28-25-7 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Backup Chris Mason, a former Predator who played in the playoffs for Nashville, is 7-6-1 with a 2.40 GAA and .903 save percentage.
“We’ll see at game time,” was all Noel would say. Noel did say right wing Eric Fehr (shoulder) would miss the Saturday night contest.
NASHVILLE – Alex Radulov will make his home debut Saturday when the Predators play host to Winnipeg – his first game at Bridgestone Arena in four years.
Radulov, who had a goal in his debut Thursday in 15:54 of ice time while going minus-two at Pittsburgh, said he is still adjusting to being back in the NHL after playing four seasons in Russia’s KHL with its larger ice surface. Jet lag from the time change, in particular, will take a little while. Moscow is nine hours earlier than the Central time zone, where Nashville sits.
The two-time KHL MVP said after the 5-1 loss he was mentally tired.
“Well, first period was a little bit hard because you get into the game and small ice and game was a little bit different,” Radulov said, “But when you get on, the game feel much better. Still, you know, need some time to adjust. Like I said before -- times change. It’s almost 10 hours difference, so it’s a little bit hard. Not looking for any excuses. I just need to get on top of my game and help my teammates.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz was asked if he would try to calm the excitable Radulov at all going into the game.
“He’s like (Patric) Hornqvist and that’s the espresso line, those two guys,” Trotz said of the wings who are centered by David Legwand. “There’s a lot of energy in those two guys. You don’t really temper it. What makes Rads special is, obviously, he’s got good skills, but his willingness to compete and so he’s sort of like a rink rat. He wants to be there all the time, just like Hornqvist. They both have a lot of joy in their game. They want to be on the ice, they want to be in the important situations so from that standpoint I don’t think I’d want to temper him at all.”
Nashville has lost two straight by a combined 11-4 margin, so the Preds will be looking to get their game back on track Saturday against the Jets.
“It’s a big game for us,” Radulov said of his home opener. “We lost the last game. Everybody understand how important this is for us. … I’m happy to be back. Excited to play first game home. Will be fun, I think."
NASHVILLE – After missing a 4-3 win Friday against Los Angeles with an illness, Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader was expected back in the lineup Saturday for a metting with Central Division rival Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said that forward Joakim Andersson, who played in five games without any producing any points, was sent back to the minors.
The Red Wings have been depleted by injuries and it has started to catch up with them so even getting back a fourth-line forward like Abdelkader, who has seven goals and 13 assists, is a help.
While the Red Wings are starting to get healthy – center Pavel Datsyuk skated on Friday in Detroit – they will miss plenty of players Saturday. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will miss his sixth straight game, Datsyuk his ninth straight, forward Todd Bertuzzi his third straight, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson his sixth straight and goalie Jimmy Howard his third straight.
Babcock said the results have dropped off, but the team is doing the best it can.
“I mean our record’s not even close, so reality is we haven’t been good enough,” he said. “But we’ve battled hard. We’ve lost two of our last three games and we’ve given up 18 and 23 and 24 shots. So we’re not an offensive machine, but we’re hanging in there and we’re battling hard to try and help our goaltender out. I think we’ve done a pretty good job in that area.”
Babcock said the critical thing is not to lose ground in the standings. With Datsyuk out, Detroit is 3-4-1 and St. Louis has overtaken the Red Wings for the division lead.
Nashville could move within four points of Detroit for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference with a regulation win.
NASHVILLE – For the second time this season, Predators rookie defenseman Roman Josi took an aggressive approach in an even-numbered situation on Thursday and for the second time it ended up in the back of his net.
Earlier this season when Dallas’ Mike Ribeiro did it to him on Jan. 5, and Predators coach Barry Trotz said that Josi, an excellent skater with an offensive upside who has four goals and 11 assists in 46 games, needed time to learn the League’s personnel.
Trotz sounded that theme again Saturday after Colorado’s David Jones beat him Thursday night along the boards, creating a 2-on-1 that led to Jamie McGinn’s goal. (Nashville also had a blown coverage on the back end of the play, further complicating the situation.)
“What happened was he got bent over reaching,” Trotz said. “If you’re going to expose yourself to try to stand up a guy, you really can’t do that because you get on your toes, then you can’t turn. You’ve got to sit back on your heels and if you’re going to stand the guy, at least you can push forward… Those are little things we talk about one-on-one. He got a little bit anxious and he exposed himself outside the dots and he certainly got walked there….
"Those are just quick decisions that happen in games. Jose is pretty good one-on-one because of his skating ability. Once he goes through the League a couple of times, he’ll know what to expect all the time.”
Josi said it was a bad play, but he was glad later to earn a primary assist to help put Nashville ahead 2-1.
“You got 0.1 seconds to decide what to do,” Josi said. “I decided to be aggressive. … kind of a pretty good move. I got beat a little bit. I poke-checked him and the puck went in the corner, but it was 2-on-1 after that so it’s tough sometimes, but you have to learn out of those situations and next time you can avoid them.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz would not say whether forward Colin Wilson would return to the lineup on Saturday against Detroit. Wilson was a healthy scratch for the first time this season in a 4-2 win Thursday over Colorado.
Last season, Wilson, 22, a high first-round pick of Nashville’s, was scratched for a protracted period at the end of last season and then into the start of the playoffs until the coaching staff convinced him his play had to improve. Trotz said after Thursday that he did not expect the situation to repeat itself.
NASHVILLE -- Colorado center Matt Duchene's ankle injury will keep him out 3-4 weeks, coach Joe Sacco said on Thursday, costing the team one of its top players in the midst of a playoff drive.
Duchene, who has 13 goals and 13 assists in 48 games, hurt himself in Tuesday's 7-1 win over Minnesota after playing 11:36. It's the second time this season the Avs will be without the two-time 20-goal scorer, as a knee injury cost Duchene 20 games between Dec. 31 and Feb. 17. Colorado entered the day 10th in the Western Conference, but tied with 74 points with both San Jose and Los Angeles, which are in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively.
Sacco said the injury will not require surgery.
"We've done a good job of dealing with injuries and throughout this season we haven't had that many -- knock on wood -- not as many as we've had the last couple of years," Sacco said. "But he missed a significant amount of time before that with a knee injury and we were OK. It's just an opportunity, maybe, for other people to step into maybe more of a role than they previously had."
Sacco said for Thursday's game with Nashville, Mark Olver would move to Duchene's spot at center. Olver, 24, who was called up from Lake Erie (AHL) on Feb. 16, has 3 goals and 2 assists and is plus-3 in 10 games.
In hindsight, two moves that Colorado made before the NHL trading deadline passed that brought more scoring look prescient. The Avalanche sent defenseman Kyle Quincey to Tampa Bay and received forward Steve Downie, who has 14 goals, in return. Downie has 2 goals and 8 assists in seven games since coming over.
"We feel we have good depth at all our positions right now," Sacco said. "We have good depth up front, we have good depth on defense, our goaltending's been pretty solid for us throughout the whole course of the season, so it is nice obviously when you lose a body here or there that you know you can rely on a couple guys for at the deadline, Downie, both him and Jamie McGinn, both players have been real good for us since the trade.
"Both are starting to find their way around the locker room, their way around the players, but more importantly they've been very productive and have had an impact on our team in a positive way, so they've been good."
Downie missed Sunday's game with Minnesota because of an injury, but returned on Tuesday and had 3 assists in 18:27 of time on ice. Sacco said he was fine to play on Thursday.
Thursday will be the first time that Avs defenseman Shane O'Brien, a member of the Predators last season, will play against his former team this season. O'Brien was an important penalty killer for the Predators, as they won the first playoff round in franchise history last season in the first round against Anaheim.
O'Brien ended up departing as a free agent and signing with Colorado in the offseason. O'Brien, who is now with his fifth team in six NHL seasons, had something of a reputation as perhaps a malcontent -- Nashville coach Barry Trotz affectionately referred to him as a "chirper" on Thursday.
O'Brien thanked Nashville for helping to rehab that image.
"I was probably a little surprised," O'Brien said. "I wasn't disappointed. I mean, they gave me a great opportunity to come in and kind of just change my, maybe persona, the way people thought about me around the League. Trotzy was unbelievable with me all year. (General manager David) Poile was great, everybody was great.
"I was a little surprised maybe when they didn't re-sign me, but that's the business side of it. Obviously, no hard feelings. It was a great year and that's the way the business works."
"Yeah, for sure, I think any time you get traded, a team lets you go, or even if you're just playing your old teammates, you definitely look at the calendar and you're excited definitely for that game," Yip said. "I'm fired up for tonight."
Although it might have been unnecessary to say so, Yip mentioned several times how excited he was. He said he went out with six or seven former teammates on Wednesday night after the Avs arrived in town.
Yip played only 10 games in Colorado this season, often being made a healthy scratch, and had no goals. He has 1 goal and 2 assists in 13 games with Nashville.
Last season, Yip had a promising 10 goals and 12 assists in 71 games, and Nashville likes his size at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. Since Nashville picked up forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline, Yip has had a harder time getting in the lineup.
He was a scratch for the last three games, but coach Barry Trotz gave him the heads-up that he would play against his former team a few days ago. Nonetheless, as Nashville tries to settle on its expected playoff lineup, Trotz said he likes Yip's chances to earn a regular spot.
"I think he's really worked hard, him and (Matt Halischuk), and those guys are setting themselves up to unseat some guys, if guys' play doesn't pick up here, so I know Brandon will be a good fit," Trotz said.
Following Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Los Angeles, Trotz was unhappy with what he called some players' commitment level. Asked if Craig Smith and Colin Wilson could be scratched on Thursday, Trotz said, "possibly."
"The guys that are bringing it every night are the guys I'm going to start putting in, and I'm not going to be concerned about 'Do I have enough power-play guys?'" Trotz said. "I'm just going to put the guys that are deserving in terms of accountability. If you're not detailed in your game, if you're not willing to play a 200-foot game, then maybe I'll change you out.
"Whoever comes out tonight, it doesn't mean that they're not going to get back in, but I'm going to increase the urgency level -- a) to get in and, b) to stay in."
Both Wilson and Smith earn power-play time for Nashville.
Yip is looking forward to the opportunity that Thursday is providing him.
"Absolutely, that's the biggest thing on my mind right now, to prove I can be in this lineup and be a contributing factor in every game," Yip said. "Like you said, there's not much regular season left and we're getting geared up for the playoffs and kind of getting in that playoff mode right now. It's exciting for everyone and it's good healthy competition."
Scuderi signed with Los Angeles and Gill with Montreal after that 2008-09 season. Since Gill was traded to Nashville, both players are now in the Western Conference. Through a quirk in the schedule, Los Angeles is visiting Nashville for the second time in eight days and Nashville visits the Kings again 11 days from now.
Gill's wife and three children are visiting him this week during a break for the schools in Montreal so he was not able to get together with Scuderi on Monday. Nonetheless, he considers Scuderi, 33, a good friend. (Gill, 36, played his college hockey at Providence College while Scuderi played his at Boston College, but both make their offseason homes in the Boston suburbs.)
Scuderi has 1 goal (his third in the last three seasons) and 7 assists this season and is minus-1 while averaging 20:25 of time on ice. The Kings are ninth in the Western Conference, just a point out of the final playoff spot entering Tuesday's games.
"I think we both see the game pretty similar," Gill said. "Play good defense. Take away passing lanes, take away shot lanes. Try and make the first pass, make it tape-to-tape and support our (defense) partners. For the most part, other than us playing together, we've always been with an offensive guy and we kind of play center defense, I guess."
In consecutive seasons playing against Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final, Gill and Scuderi often matched up against the Red Wings' top offensive players such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
"Usually, we got the big line," Gill said. "It was fun. You have that challenge every game. It gives you something to play for. As a defensive defenseman, you're not going out there and trying to score goals, so you don't get that glory unless you do a good job shutting down their top line."
In '09 during the Cup Final, Scuderi famously misspoke and referred to himself as "the piece" of the puzzle that the Penguins needed to win it all. His teammates then, with mock affection, nicknamed him "The Piece."
"We got on him pretty good because that's not his personality at all," Gill said.
Despite backup goalie Jonathan Bernier's 5-1 lifetime record against Nashville, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he will go with No. 1 Jonathan Quick in goal on Tuesday because each game is now like a Game 7 for the Kings with 17 games remaining. Quick, who is second in the League in shutouts with seven and third in save percentage at .932, has never beaten the Predators in his career, as he is 0-4-1 against them, losing 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena eight days ago.
NASHVILLE -- Defenseman Kevin Klein is expected to miss his fourth straight game on Tuesday when Nashville hosts Los Angeles. The team is calling Klein's injury an upper-body injury.
When Klein went down, the Predators called up rookie Ryan Ellis, who has yet to get back in the lineup. Ellis played 22 games with the Predators earlier this season, totaling 3 goals, 6 assists and a plus-8 rating. Ellis was sent down after Nashville acquired defenseman Hal Gill from Montreal.
Since Klein got hurt, however, Predators coach Barry Trotz has preferred to go with veteran Jack Hillen. Hillen has played in 49 games this season, but had played relatively sparingly since early January. He had been a scratch for 14 games since the start of the new year. He has played played the past three, going plus-1 in two of them and even in the other.
Trotz would not reveal his lineup for Tuesday, but hinted that Ellis might get in the lineup, saying Nashville might have "one of each" --a new forward and defenseman -- in its lineup.
Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk were the scratches at forward in Nashville’s last game, as the Predators suited up new forwards Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn, both acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, for the first time in the same game. Gaustad missed his first game afterhis acquisition because of an upper-body injury.
Trotz described the options involved in playing Ellis or Hillen.
"They're a little bit different," Trotz said. "What you get with Jack is a good defender, get some veteran presence. He's a guy that subtly is able to get the job done. He sort of goes under the radar a little bit, but he's pretty efficient.
"With Elly, you get a real good dynamic, puck-moving guy. Competes pretty well. Defends, actually, pretty well, too, so just a little bit different. You get a little bit more of the offense with Ellis than you do with Hillen, but you get a little bit more of the defensive side with Hillen. He'll give you a little more penalty killing. He's a little more of a transporter. Ellis has really great dynamic thought process, stick, passing. Those are all intangible."
With Los Angeles being the League's lowest-scoring team, it will be interesting to see which direction Trotz goes.
The Predators entered Tuesday with the League's No. 2-ranked power play, but they haven't scored a power-play goal in their past three games -- mostly because they’ve only had one chance in each.
"We can't tell if it's any good anymore," Trotz quipped of the unit, "because we never get any" chances.
He thinks with the Stanley Cup Playoffs in sight and so many teams fighting for their lives or positioning, that teams are playing more disciplined.
"I just think everybody's ramped up defensively," he said. "They know the importance of the games … during the playoffs sometimes that's what happens. Everyone's pretty disciplined, but it's good, clean, physical hockey, and no one's taking any penalties."
NASHVILLE –Jerred Smithson was a long-time Nashville Predator who was liked and respected by teammates and members of the coaching staff alike.
So when Nashville traded him to Florida on Friday for a sixth-round pick, it was not an easy move.
Smithson, a solid two-way forward who was strong on faceoffs and a good penalty killer, scored what coach Barry Trotz called arguably the biggest goal in franchise history last year in overtime in Game 5 of the first round at Anaheim, setting Nashville up for its first series-clinching win in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena.
Trotz was the second member of the organization to speak to Smithson on Friday night after general manager David Poile informed him of the trade. Trotz said it was a “tough” phone call and that he was at a loss for words, saying Smithson was “one of my favorites.”
Smithson, 33, in his seventh season with Nashville, was held out of the lineup four times since the Predators claimed a younger faster forward with more potential offensive upside in Brandon Yip. Trotz also said that the development of young players like Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Craig Smith and Gabriel Bourque increasingly took over Smithson’s former role.
Smithson had only one goal and four assists in 53 games. He entered the season with 35 goals and 46 assists in 444 games for Nashville.
“It was difficult in the sense that Jerred brought a lot to the locker room,” Trotz said. “The stats, if you look at stats, they’re really for losers. He brings a lot of intangibles to the group -- character guy. Real pro, one of the better faceoff guys in the game, with him also he probably hasn’t had the year he was expecting and maybe he was expecting. Not to diminish anything he’s done. Not to diminish anything he’s done. He’s done a lot for us.”
Trotz hinted that it was a potentially unhealthy situation, having a player so well respected sitting out on a regular basis, saying, “One thing you don’t want is a player you highly respect and you know has contributed in a lot of different ways to not be a part of it.”
Smithson and Predators captain Shea Weber were roommates on the road. Weber was the third person to speak to Smithson after the deal. He said it was hard to see Smithson sitting out.
“Yeah, yeah, he’s such a character guy, someone who means so much in the locker room, a veteran presence especially where we’re so young,” Weber said. “It was tough to see.”
Right wing Jordin Tootoo played on the same line as Smithson and sat next to him in the Preds’ dressing room.
“He’ll be greatly missed in the dressing room but at the same time it’s part of business,” said Tootoo, who also spoke to Smithson after he was dealt. “… As a person, he was a very comical guy.”…
Right wing Patric Hornqvist will return to the lineup after missing five games with what the team called an upper-body injury.
NASHVILLE – The San Jose Sharks enter their second-to-last game on Saturday of what had been a rather unsuccessful nine-game road trip with a chance to finish at .500 thanks to a 2-1 win on Saturday at Toronto.
The Sharks went 1-4-1 in the first six games of the trip, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he saw some improvement and hopes that with wins over the Predators on Saturday and in the finale at Minnesota on Sunday the Sharks can go home with nine out of a possible 18 points.
The poor road trip, combined with Phoenix’s surge, has allowed the Coyotes to tie the Sharks for first in the Pacific Division with 71 points entering Saturday.
“Defensively, we were much better,” McLellan said of the Leafs’ game. “We weren’t as loose. Positionally, we were better. I thought our goaltender looked sharp, the way he’s supposed to look. Power play got us a goal. We came out on the winning side of a one-goal game, instead of the losing side. Kept a team to under three, which is important to our team.
“A lot of real positives. I thought we got solid contributions from all four lines. We were much more disciplined. We didn’t end up in the penalty box. I can keep going on and on. It’s amazing how many things we did better and yet it still a one-goal win.”
One player who will not play on Saturday or Sunday is newly acquired center Dominic Moore, who has a lower-body injury. Moore missed the game on Thursday at Toronto and McLellan said he would not get back into the lineup at earliest until the team returns home against Philadelphia on Wednesday.
NASHVILLE -- Predators right wing Patric Hornqvist, second on the team in goals with 17, will miss his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury when Nashville hosts St. Louis on Thursday.
He participated in the team's morning skate on Thursday, but is not yet ready to play.
"He's getting closer," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "He's not in tonight. Saturday would be the soonest."
Hornqvist has not been a huge loss in the short-term for Nashville, which has gone 3-1 without him, although the Predators have not scored more than three goals in a game in that span.
Hornqvist's absence has, however, caused the Preds to re-jigger their forward lines and their power play somewhat. Hornqvist normally skates with Colin Wilson on the left and David Legwand at center.
Instead, Wilson has moved to center with Matt Halischuk on his left and Brandon Yip on his right. Yip, a big body, also has taken Hornqvist's spot on the power play in front of the net.
Legwand has centered a line with Gabriel Bourque on his left and fleet-footed rookie Craig Smith on his right. Smith had been the fourth-line center.
Trotz also said it's likely the team will send rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis to the minors soon to get him playing again. Ellis played less than four minutes on Sunday, was scratched on Tuesday and will probably sit again on Thursday, as the Predators are carrying eight defensemen right now.
"Our thought process is that we may have him go to Milwaukee (AHL) for a couple of games just to keep him playing," Trotz said. "And it's not based on play. We just want to keep him playing."
Ellis would not have to pass through waivers, nor would fellow rookie defenseman Roman Josi, but Josi has established himself for longer. Josi played his first game on Nov. 26 and has not missed a game since. Ellis played his first game on Dec. 26 and has been out of the lineup three times entering Thursday.
Tonight's game is the second stop on the Canucks' six-game road trip, which also includes stops in Detroit, New Jersey, Dallas and Phoenix. With five games in the next eight days, Vigneault said he expects Schneider to get his share of starts.
Here is what the Canucks' lineup likely will look like tonight:
NASHVILLE -- It was two weeks ago to the day in this very same venue that Byron Bitz played on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin for Vancouver at Bridgestone Arena and earned a goal and an assist -- his first points in the NHL in almost two years -- in a 4-3 shootout win.
Bitz, a big forward, played in seven straight games for the Canucks, picking up a goal and three assists and coach Alain Vigneault liked what he saw. However, Bitz began experiencing soreness in his hip and was scratched for Vancouver's last game, Sunday in Edmonton, raising potential alarm bells about the player's health.
Groin, hip and abdominal injuries have been a frequent problem for Bitz during his hockey career. Vigneault said Tuesday that Bitz had "some improvement on his hip flexor today" and was hoping he might be able to practice Wednesday.
Vigneault said Bitz's injury history is making the situation "a little more challenging for him and for us right now," but he did not want to overreact on the chance that it might be "real minor."
"I think on his part, on a personal level, there has to be some concern," Vigneault said. "He's played a couple of games in Chicago (AHL) and he comes here and then he plays five games then all of a sudden, the body feels some pain and then he can't play anymore.
"For us, it's a big question. The young man was playing really well, really liked his contribution, and after five games he's got to sit out a couple of days. We believe we still have a lot of hockey to be played here, so we'll see how this goes here in the next couple of days."
NASHVILLE -- After missing Sunday's game with an illness, Predators center Mike Fisher was expected back in the lineup for Tuesday's game against Vancouver.
On Sunday, the Predators dressed seven defensemen, as they had only 11 healthy forwards, forcing them to play without their two leading goal-scorers. Fisher and right wing Patric Hornqvist, each with 17 goals, were both out. Hornqvist, who has an upper-body injury, was expected to miss his fourth straight game, but skated on Tuesday morning and Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he is getting closer to returning.
Nashville recalled forward Chris Mueller from Milwaukee (AHL) on Tuesday as insurance in case another player gets sick. Trotz said David Legwand had a touch of the flu, but did not miss any action, so the Predators want to be prepared. Mueller has played in four games in Nashville with no points and a minus-1 rating this season.
With a healthy complement of forwards, that means Nashville likely will return to playing six defenseman. Rookie Ryan Ellis played only 3:56 in Sunday's 3-2 win over Dallas, a result, Trotz said, of being skated hard in the morning, as the team was not going to play him until Fisher took ill.
"It's hard going with seven 'D' sometimes," Trotz said. "We tried to do it with seven through the first period, but it just took away all the rhythm so I said to (associate coach Peter Horachek), who changes the 'D', let's just get into a little bit of a rhythm. That seventh guy is affecting everyone."
That meant less ice time for Ellis, who could be the odd man out on Tuesday.
After trading for defenseman Hal Gill last Friday, the Predators will have to figure out how to configure their defense on a nightly basis, as they are carrying eight healthy defensemen. Unless they elect to make a roster move, that means scratching two healthy players on a regular basis.
NASHVILLE -- With his team mired in as long of a losing streak as he can remember during his tenure, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was emphasizing defense on Tuesday entering their game with the Central Division rival Predators.
The Blackhawks have yielded 34 goals over their eight-game losing streak, an average of 4.4 per game. Chicago is on its seventh game of a nine-game road trip.
"We haven't really responded to being scored on lately, and I think that's one where we want to make sure, let's be tight in that area," Quenneville said. "We'd love to score first, but if we do get scored on, let's not get distracted."
In the third period of Saturday's 3-0 loss to Phoenix, Quenneville put together Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on the same line. That was going to carry over into Tuesday's game.
Together, that trio has combined for 61 goals.
"That line together, the last period the other night, they like playing together," Quenneville said. "Maybe as a group, we look for a little more balance, but when those three guys get together, they can generate a lot of things and I think they read off one another and they get excited about playing together, so hopefully they can recapture that feeling."
Quenneville said it was important for Chicago to get back to playing with a "swagger."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he expected his duo of All-Star defensemen, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, would match up against that line with the Predators' being the home team and having the last change.
Quenneville said John Scott would return to the lineup, with the defenseman likely playing up front on one of the forward lines.
NASHVILLE -- Rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis was scratched for only the second time in 21 games since being called up in Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to Boston. Trotz said he thought Ellis had slipped back into making some high-risk plays that the coach didn't like. Trotz would not reveal whether Ellis would sit again tonight in favor of Jack Hillen.
Here's the likely lineup the Predators will have tonight:
NASHVILLE -- The last time the Predators saw Chicago, the Blackhawks were riding high.
Nashville put an end to all of that. With consecutive wins against their Central Division rival Jan. 21 and Jan. 24 (Nashville actually had another game in between but Chicago did not), the Predators sent the Blackhawks into what was become their current eight-game winless streak.
During that span, Chicago has plummeted from having the most points in the League to sixth in the Western Conference and fourth in the division. Nashville can pad its lead on Chicago to seven points with a regulation victory today.
All of that has put some heat on Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who guided the team to the Stanley Cup in 2010. However, at least one member of the coaching fraternity has Quenneville's back.
"Joel's an outstanding coach," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "I'll say this: When you win, us coaches get too much credit, and when you lose, we get too much blame, and it's somewhere in between. He's got a wealth of knowledge. He's won Stanley Cups, he's been to the finals, he's done all that. … I don't know what criticism they're giving him, but he's one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League. They're just going through a dry patch."
Trotz also said he understands what the Blackhawks are going through.
"When things aren't going your way, everything's hard," Trotz said. "And you have to almost to accept that it's going to be hard and get enthused about the battle and the hardship you're going through. We've had our struggles in the past, but you become a stronger team through the battles …
"But it's not easy coming out of it. You've got to really want it."
NASHVILLE --Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin estimates that of the roughly 850 NHL games he has played, 840 of them have been with his twin brother Daniel on his wing.
If coach Alain Vigneault sticks with what he tinkered with during Tuesday's morning skate, then the night's game against the Predators will represent one of those rare exceptions.
Henrik skated on a line with Mason Raymond and newcomer Byron Bitz during the skate and Daniel practiced on a line centered by Ryan Kesler with Alexandre Burrows on the right. Vigneault said the final decision would not come until the pregame meal when he consults with his assistants.
"What you're always trying to do is to make sure you're putting players in positions where they can have success, and we got a couple guys right now that might be off, considering the type of hockey we've seen some of these players play," Vigneault said, "so, throughout a season, you always have to make some adjustments and we might have to tonight."
Without naming names, Vigneault was referring to Henrik, who, despite a team-best 55 points that tie him for fifth in the League, has failed to score in 10 straight games entering Tuesday and has only 1 goal in his last 13.
While not quite as unproductive, Daniel has failed to register a point in six of his last 10 games.
Nonetheless, Daniel still has 4 goals and 1 assist in that stretch to give him 52 points, tied for 11th in the NHL.
And the uncharacteristic play by the twins has hardly slowed the red-hot Canucks, who have not lost in regulation over their last six games (4-0-2) and, like Nashville, have lost in regulation only three times in their last 17 games.
Vigneault acknowledged breaking up the brothers was a somewhat extreme step.
"I have split them up a few times during the six years for short amount of times," Vigneault said of his tenure. "Just sometimes to create a little something new, but, at the end of the day, those two guys are better together. We all know that, we all agree. But right now, basically, if you look at since the Boston game (on Jan. 7), it's almost been a month since they've been a little bit off. So we've got the afternoon to decide if it's time -- if a month is enough."
Henrik said sometimes it's beneficial to try something new, and said that despite the team success that the Canucks can play better.
"I think no one in there is happy with the way we've played," Henrik said. "That's a secret to no one. We're getting wins because of good goaltending, individual effort, but that's not how we want to win games."
In Bitz, the Canucks are conducting something of an experiment. A 6-foot-5, 215-pounder out of Cornell, he showed some promise as a gritty wing in 2009-10 with Boston and Florida, totaling 5 goals and 6 assists in 52 games. But four separate groin and abdominal injuries had kept him out of the NHL until he was called up from the AHL on Saturday.
"If you break a bone or something, it's four to six weeks," Bitz said, comparing his injury. "I was to the point where I was doing rehab and never knowing when the end was coming. I never saw the finish line. That was the tough part and I finally got there."
NASHVILLE – Despite goalie Pekka Rinne having the benefit of the All-Star break off, Nashville coach Barry Trotz nonetheless gave him a rare night off this past Thursday eventhough the Predators were not in a back-to-back games situation.
Rinne, who has won 11 straight and has 30 wins, ranks second in the League with 47 starts. Trotz said it was an effort to get back-up Anders Lindback, who has played in only 10 games, a start.
Trotz said Lindback is going to start playing more for the Predators.
“I wanted to re-introduce everybody back into the lineup, if you will, and Anders is going to have to play some games here,” Trotz said of both goalies and forwards alike. “I don’t want him sitting too long either.”
Rinne, however, is back in the lineup for Tuesday night's showdown with Vancouver.
Lindback has played so rarely the past two seasons that despite being on the roster for virtually the entire 2010-11 season, he preserved his rookie status entering this one. He also has been sent to the minors at times simply to get in some games.
But that has changed perhaps because Rinne, by winning so much of late – the Preds have won 14 of their past 17 -- has given the Predators the luxury of not having to be desperate to earn every point.
With 68 points and 29 games remaining, Nashville basically only has to average a point per game to reach a threshold that should get the team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think it gives you a little bit of breathing room,” Trotz said. “If you’re trying to catch everybody, you need every point, yeah, you don’t have that luxury. From our standpoint, we’re going to need both of them anyways. But when I can get Peks some rest, when I feel I can get him some rest, I try to do that. And we’ve been managing his practice, sort of, and game time, even in terms of drills we select so he’s not getting worn out."
Trotz said that forward Jerred Smithson, one of Nashville’s better faceoff men and penalty killers, would likely get back in the lineup. Smithson, a mainstay in the lineup as a checking line player, has only played in four of the past 12 games, owing both to injury and a logjam of 14 healthy forwards.
Halak made 22 saves in a 1-0 win on Friday over Los Angeles for his fourth shutout in the last seven games so coach Ken Hitchcock elected to go with the hot hand for the key Central Division match-up with the Predators. Nashville trails second-place St. Louis by one point in the division.
Hitchcock also said he was setting up the rotation so that Elliott, a former Senator, would start play against his old team on Tuesday when the Blues visit Ottawa. Ottawa traded Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson on Feb. 18 of last year. St. Louis signed Elliott as a free agent.
“Easy decision, the shutout, obviously, and then we want to play Ells in Ottawa, so it works out good,” Hitchcock said. “He was really good yesterday, really good in the third period when we needed him the most, so we’re going to need great goaltending tonight to win.”
In other news, Hitchock said that center Jason Arnott would be a game-time decision. Arnott hurt his shoulder late in Friday’s game. Arnott is the former captain of Nashville and has yet to play a game back in Bridgestone Arena as an opponent. Nashville traded him after the 2009-10 season and awarded Shea Weber the captaincy.
Arnott was injured earlier this season when the Blues visited and did not return last season as a New Jersey Devil or Washington Capital.
NASHVILLE – On Tuesday, Predators forward Brandon Yip posted a goal and an assist, finished plus-two in a 5-4 win against Minnesota and yet found himself a healthy scratch in his team’s next game on Thursday.
Such is life these days for the Nashville Predators. With 14 healthy forwards, coach Barry Trotz has juggled his lineup on a regular basis since picking up Yip via a waiver claim on Jan. 19.
Almost like an NFL coach assembling his game-day roster of 45 players from a 53-man roster with a specific game plan in mind, Trotz said he is now picking his 12 forwards based on the specific opponent. Entering Nashville’s 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday, the Predators had won 13 of 15.
“I look at our individual opponent and say, ‘I think this is our best lineup for this individual opponent,’” Trotz said. “It’s not about who’s playing good, who’s playing bad right now because everyone’s playing OK.”
Trotz said the extra players have been both a “blessing and a curse.” Matt Halischuk was scratched initially to make room for Yip on Jan. 21 but since returning he has a four-game points streak (two goals, three assists). Jerred Smithson, another player who has had to sit out, is one of Nashville’s best faceoff men and penalty killers.
“There hasn’t been any passengers at all,” Trotz said. “Everybody’s bringing their ‘A’ game in their roles. Right now, my biggest challenge is to continue winning and to keep everybody sharp.”
Nonetheless, that message is not easy for a player like Yip when he has to sit out. Trotz said it’s best just to be honest with the player.
“But he understood the reason he was going in was because I wanted to integrate him before the (All-Star) break there,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a balancing act.”
Trotz did not say whether Yip is going back on for a key Central Division game Saturday with St. Louis, but it’s possible as the Blues have a big lineup and Yip is 6 feet 1, 195 pounds. Nashville is just a point behind the second-place Blues.
Here is Nashville’s projected lineup for Saturday night:
NASHVILLE -- Columbus activated left wing RJ Umberger, who has been one of the League's most durable players over the last few seasons, off injured reserve on Monday and Umberger will get back in the lineup when the Blue Jackets visit the Predators later in the day.
Umberger, who has 7 goals and 11 assists, was out for nine days and five games with concussion-like symptoms. To make room in the lineup, rookie Ryan Johansen, the fourth pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was expected to sit out, coach Todd Richards said.
Johansen has 1 goal in the last 12 games. He has been a healthy scratch five times this season, but not since Dec. 18. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound 19-year-old has 8 goals and 8 assists in 41 games and, at plus-3, is one of only three players with a positive rating on the Blue Jackets.
"It's exciting," Umberger said. "It's obviously a new feeling for me. I was a little anxious and nervous this morning. I'm not used to being a guy who comes back in the lineup, so hopefully I just grab back on to my normal routines and make it a normal game."
Umberger said his goal was to get in front of the Predators' net, and to "be greasy and play a hard game."
Umberger, 29, had played in every game over each of the last three seasons and over the previous six seasons he had missed only eight games. Until the last five games, he had never missed a game as a Blue Jacket -- playing in 206 straight.
He talked about the frightening nature of head injuries.
"You just want to make sure you're getting healthy, you're going to live a normal life again," he said. "Things with the head are just so scary. It's not a fun way to go about every day, so once I started to get signs of coming back around, starting to feel myself, that makes you feel a little better."
Richards addressed why Johansen would sit.
“A lot of it is his game’s been OK -- he has been OK -- but when you look up and down our lineup, our forwards, it’s tough to pull other guys out for what they bring to our team and what we need as a team, or what we feel as a staff we need, going into certain games,” he said. “The way our top six has gone, they’ve been good and we’re really happy with our third line, (Samuel) Pahlsson, (Derek) Dorsett and (Ryan) Russell.
"Right now, it's just a set of circumstances that he's not in the lineup. And he needs to be better. I think he can be better, but his play has not been bad where we have to get him out of the lineup."
Defenseman Brett Lebda was set to make his season debut after the Blue Jackets signed him on Jan. 17. He was expected to play on their top pair with Fedor Tyutin. Lebda was going to take the place of Nikita Nikitin, who had played in every game but one since Nov. 12 when he arrived with Kris Russell in a trade from St. Louis. Nikitin, who has 2 goals and 16 assists in 38 games, injured his knee on Saturday against Detroit.
Steve Mason was expected to start in goal, his second start in the last three games but only his third in the last 10.
NASHVILLE -- After claiming forward Brandon Yip on waivers from the Avalanche last Thursday, Nashville now has 14 healthy forwards. That's made for some difficult decisions for coach Barry Trotz, as the team is playing well, having won 10 of 12 entering Monday.
On Saturday, the healthy scratches were Brian McGrattan and Matt Halischuk, who has 10 goals and also kills penalties. While McGrattan likely will continue to sit out for the time being, the other scratch will be a tough call on a nightly basis.
Trotz said he did not anticipate a roster move and said the Predators benefit from having the depth.
"The season's going to ramp up a little bit here," Trotz said. "We're going to have the trade deadline (Feb. 27). I think it was a great move picking up on Brandon. He's a player we've liked for a while. Hopefully, a new lease on life. We've had a number of players that's been a real good thing for us.
"It gives us a lot more depth and it allows even (general manager David Poile), if something comes up for the trade deadline and if we have to add or delete, in the past we'd add someone, but by adding someone, you create other holes and then we've had to expend a third- or a fourth-, fifth-round pick to fill that hole. With a Brandon Yip or whatever … you don't have to do that if you have more depth."
NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Ryan Suter will return to the lineup tonight when his team hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets, securing his ability to play in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.
Suter, who ranks third in the League in average time on ice at 26:30, missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, potentially jeopardizing his ability to play in his first All-Star Game. However, that issue seems to have resolved itself.
"What I said before was if I don't play with my team before the All-Star break, then it's not fair to go and play in something like that," said Suter, who turned 27 on Saturday. "Hopefully, everything goes well in the next couple of days and go have fun."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Suter wanted to play in Saturday's 5-2 win against Chicago, but the team held him out as a precaution.
Suter's return comes at an opportune time for Nashville, as veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Bouillon got hurt Saturday and did not return.
NASHVILLE -- Keeping the puck out of the net isn't exactly the Chicago Blackhawks' forte, but the Hawks have excelled defensively during the recent hot streak that has seen them race to the top of the NHL standings.
The 'Hawks entered Saturday ranked 15th in the NHL in goals-against-per-game at 2.77 but first overall in the standings. They are 5-0-2 entering Saturday's match at Central Division rival Nashville and had allowed just 16 goals during that span (2.29 per game).
When Patrick Sharp, the team's second-leading goal-scorer with 20, hurt his wrist on Jan. 10 -- he's expected to be out at least another two weeks -- coach Joel Quenneville's message to the team was to win with defense.
The 'Hawks have done that.
"I think it's team awareness," Quenneville said on Saturday evening. "Whether it's doing good things with the puck, not necessarily looking for a better play, we're trapping guys on the rush in the offensive zone, how we're checking in our end, putting the puck in safe areas, chipping pucks, getting pucks deep, a little bit more of a purpose in the game, as opposed to trying make plays all the time or thinking we're going to outscore the opponent. That's always an ongoing challenge."
Qunneville also said the 'Hawks would not have any lineup changes, but that Corey Crawford would start in goal after Ray Emery played in Friday's 3-1 home win against Florida.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –Brandon Yip had his first practice with Nashville on Friday after the team claimed him from Colorado off waivers the day before and he was looking forward to getting in the lineup Saturday against Chicago for the first time as a member of the Predators.
Coach Barry Trotz said he was undecided about what to do and said he would have some difficult decisions to make if he entered Yip, a right-handed shooting forward, into the lineup, because all of the Preds forwards are “playing really well” he said. Having said that, Trotz is eager to get a look at Yip, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound 26-year-old and said he was leaning towards playing him.
After four years at Boston University, Yip showed some promise as a rookie, with 11 goals in 32 games for the Avs, but over the last two seasons he has just 12 goals in his last 81 games. He played in only 10 games this season for the Avs and failed to register a point.
He said he was “ecstatic” when he learned about Nashville’s successful waiver claim. One of his college teammates was Preds forward Colin Wilson and during his childhood he played summer hockey with Nashville defenseman Shea Weber.
It’s not often that a player moves up in the standings when one team waives him and another claims him, as was the case with Nashville and Colorado. Yip said he hopes to “help battling down low and having some good puck possession and chipping in offensively when I can.” Trotz said he likes Yip’s size, skating ability and the release on his shot.
Options for Trotz to sit out would be Gabriel Bourque and rookie Craig Smith. Bourque has brought energy to the Preds, and are 9-2 since he was called up, though he has only one goal and two assists, while Smith has no points in his last four games and only one in his last 10.
Smith, a University of Wisconsin product, is not accustomed to playing this many games. Trotz was asked if Smith (9 goals, 17 assists), who selected for the SuperSkills competition at this coming weekend’s All-Star Weekend, had hit the proverbial wall.
“I think he did a little bit, probably about 10 or 11 games ago, I think he hit it,” Trotz said.
“Between the preseason and about game 40 in our schedule, he had played about 48, 50 games and, obviously, the excitement and the adrenaline and all that. Just the grind, he got into the grind. I think he hit that and I put him at center. I think mentally he’s getting re-charged again and I see his play starting to go up again.
“Usually, with some of the college guys, they hit a wall and they’re just not able to sustain it, so I brought his ice time back a bit and put him back at center where he really can be dynamic and just brought his ice time down a little bit and took the pressure off him mentally more than anything and now I see him having that great jump that he had early in the season. I see him tracking him sort of upwards. We’re hoping he’s re-charged and ready to go in the second half, which would be really good for him.”
Another option would be for Trotz to dress five defensemen and 13 forwards. “We will have an extra forward if he goes in,” Trotz said. Nashville is currently carrying 14 forwards.
Note: Nashville’s All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter will be out on Saturday but said he could have played if necessary. He would like to play on Monday against Columbus and is leaving out hope that he will play in the All-Star Game next weekend.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- About an hour before his team hit the ice for its morning skate at Bridgestone Arena, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren issued a statement that forward James van Riemsdyk would be out indefinitely with a concussion.
"James was hit in the head in each of our last two games," Holmgren said. "He reported yesterday not feeling like himself."
For the Flyers, whose lineup has been hit hard by concussions this season, the news that van Riemsdyk, 22, with 11 goals and 11 assists in 37 games, would be out was just the latest.
"Any time you’re losing personnel, you don't want that," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's unfortunate that it happened. I actually liked the way he was moving on that line, I liked the line, I liked the way it was moving. So when guys come out, it's a setback for them, a setback for the team. Now Zac comes back in the lineup, brings his energy, probably move the lines around a little bit.
"But we've been through it before, we'll get through this as well."
Some of the Flyers' most high-profile players have fallen victim to concussions this season. Defenseman Chris Pronger will be out for the remainder of the season. The team's leader in points, Claude Giroux, missed four games with one. And rookie Brayden Schenn dealt with one as well.
Laviolette was asked if the Flyers had only had a healthy lineup for one game.
"I don’t even know if we've had that," he said. "Someone's been on the injured list or injured reserve the entire year. But again, that's part of the sport and part of hockey and it is what it is and you deal with it."
Several Flyers said they noticed that van Riemsdyk was hit in the head recently in a game against Ottawa by Bobby Butler on Jan. 8. Danny Briere observed that van Riemsdyk did not practice on Thursday but thought it might have been a groin injury or something else.
"I remember the one hit against Ottawa," Briere said. "Butler kind of clipped him at home. Besides that, I don't remember. We get hit in the head all of the time. But sometimes it starts with one big hit. You see it with, I think (Pittsburgh's Sidney) Crosby's the perfect example of all that. All the battles, you always get hit in the head somehow. And you see it even more after."
Rinaldo echoed that sentiment.
"I think it's just wear-and-tear type of thing, game in game out getting hit in the head," Rinaldo said. "Maybe having a headache and thinking nothing of it and keep battling and stuff like that and just repetitive hits to the head cause concussions."
Rinaldo, who ranks second in the League with 120 penalty minutes, will bring a different element to the lineup than van Riemsdyk. He said he would "keep positive, keep banging bodies, keep doing what I do best and hopefully it works out for the best."
Laviolette said Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal for the first time in three games on Saturday.
Nonetheless, Wilson, 22, whose father Carey was an NHL player, grew up with Jagr as his favorite player. On Saturday when the Predators host the Philadelphia Flyers, Wilson will get to play against his idol for the first time.
"I love the way he plays," Wilson said.
Wilson said his father was fairly particular about who he picked as his favorite player. Wilson said at one point one of his favorites was the New York Rangers' Mike Richter -- a one-time teammate of his father's -- but Carey Wilson told Colin that he needed to pick a player who was not a goaltender.
"I think he likes Jagr, the way he plays," Wilson said. "He's pretty critical of some of the players I liked growing up. … He was good with Jagr because he was a big, skilled player."
At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Wilson isn't quite Jagr's 6-3, 240, but he is a wide body. He said he has tried to emulate some parts of Jagr's game.
"He makes one move wide and he cuts in and there's not much you can do about that," Wilson said, "and I try to play that same game. I'm a bigger body, but nothing compared to him. I think I want to use my hands and skill like he does. Again, everything to an extent, but try to do things like that."
Trotz was asked about the "awe factor" for some of his young players who will compete against the likes of Jagr. Nashville has the League's youngest team.
"I don't know if there's any way to do it," he said. "You just say, 'Hey, this guy's a good player. You've got to respect what he can do but don't respect him too much because time and space will be death. Death to you and death to the team.'"
Wilson is well aware of the pitfalls of defending Jagr, especially with him playing on arguably the League's top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. Jagr has 12 goals and 20 assists in 36 games while Giroux is tied for second in the NHL with 49 points and Hartnell has 19 goals.
"You don't want to give him too much room," Wilson said. "At the same time, you can't go right into him because he's so big. Do a quick turn and as soon as he gets an edge on you, you can't do much about it. It'll help a bit defending, having studied his game, but I haven't watched him too much this year because we've been playing, so I don't know, maybe he's picked something up when he went back to the Russian leagues."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nineteen-year-old Gabriel Landeskog was hoping to meet fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom, the six-time Norris Trophy winner from the Detroit Red Wings, at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game. Alas, the second pick in the 2011 Entry Draft will have to wait, as Lidstrom will not be present.
"Lidstrom, those Swedish guys," Landeskog said of who he looked forward to meeting the most right after coming off the ice, where he learned the news that he was one of 12 rookies picked to participate I All-Star Weekend. "(New York Rangers goalie) Henrik Lundqvist. I haven't played against him yet."
Landeskog has 8 goals and 21 assists in 44 games, but perhaps most significantly he owns a plus-9 rating -- best on a team that has a minus-16 goal differential. At 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, he plays a physical two-way game.
The Avs are finish a home-and-home set with Nashville tonight coming off a 4-1 Predators win Tuesday in which Landeskog threw his body around. Predators coach Barry Trotz joked after his team's morning skate that in the old days Landeskog would have been met with a "Koho sandwich" for his physical play.
"He plays a complete, 200-foot game," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "He's a really good two-way player for us. He's physical. That's what you probably notice about him more than anything. He's on the body. He finishes his checks. He's difficult to play against for a young player, but he's been doing that pretty much all year long, that physical side of his game. Doesn't really waver that much. He does a lot of dirty work out there. Goes to the hard areas of the ice, competes, battles and he never gives up regardless of the outcome of the game or the score or wherever we're at. He's always competing and that's what I like most about him."
This year's All-Star Game will be only the second time the Avs have not had a player selected to play in the main game since the franchise re-located from Quebec.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After 13 days and four games, Nashville defenseman Shea Weber will return to the lineup Thursday when the Predators host Dallas, the team against which Weber suffered his concussion on Dec. 23.
Ironically, Nashville went 3-1 without Weber, who was a Norris Trophy finalist last season and is having a Norris-caliber season in 2011-12. Weber still ranks third in the League in points among defensemen with 29 in 35 games. He also is a team-leading plus-14 and averages 26:20 in time on ice per game (fifth in the NHL) for the Predators, who entered Thursday seventh in the Western Conference.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said that Weber was cleared Wednesday afternoon.
“It’ll be good,” Weber said. “Obviously, the guys have been playing really well, so hopefully I can fit back in and keep it going.”
Trotz was excited about having his franchise defenseman back.
He would boost any team, not only us,” Trotz said. “Trust me. He’s one of those elite defensemen that you don’t really replace. He’s excited to be back.”
Weber said he has had concussions in the past but that he was unsure how many. The injuries have become a hot-button issue not only in hockey, with long absences by some of the game’s top players, including Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and the New York Rangers’ Marc Staal, but also in other contact sports such as football.
Weber said he felt fortunate that he was only out for as short a time span as he was.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously seeing the length of some of these concussions, it’s scary,” Weber said. “I’m excited to be back.”
While it was not a lengthy time by most standards, Weber said it did not seem that way.
“It’s been, obviously, up and down just like everyone talks about,” he said of the rehab. “It’s a long process – it seemed like a long time, it was fairly quick – but just one step at a time, one day at a time.”
The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Weber has advanced to the League’s elite at his position with a physical game. He said the injury would not change how he plays.
“Everything’s fine, obviously,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been cleared to play if it’s not, so it’s going to be. I’m sure I’ll try to get into it early and I’m definitely not going to change the way I play.”
Weber suffered the concussion in a late-game hit with Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric that was not penalized. Both Trotz and Weber said the team would not seek retribution.
The Stars already lead the season series 1-0 and sit only three points behind Nashville with a game in hand so the game has consequence in the standings.
“We need two points,” Weber said. “They’re a very good team. We have to play better than the last time we played against Dallas, so I think we’ll be ready.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With Saku Koivu expected to miss the game Saturday against the Predators with a lower-body injury, Bobby Ryan is going to move to center for Anaheim from his customary left wing for the first time this season.
Ryan, who will center a line with Teemu Selanne on his right and Andrew Cogliano on his left, played a few games at center last season when Ryan Getzlaf was injured, but the Ducks decided in the end that he was better off at wing.
“I like the fact that I get to move my feet through the neutral zone a little bit,” Ryan said. “I’ll be counted on the break-out side of things a little more. Other than that, I have to make sure whoever I’m playing against doesn’t beat me too bad on the draws.”
Because of the Ducks’ struggles – they entered Saturday 14th in the Western Conference – Ryan was the subject of intense trade rumors in recent weeks – put to rest by general manager Bob Murray following the firing of former coach Randy Carlyle. Ryan’s name surfaced in those rumors as a result of his relative lack of production.
The former 30-goal scorer has 10 goals and six assists in 28 games, but since Bruce Boudreau has taken over as coach Nov. 29, Ryan has three goals and two assists in five games. The move also represents a bit of tinkering by Boudreau, as he continues to get to know his new team.
“You know, I hope he gets to handle the puck a lot,” Boudreau said. “That’s what he’s so good at. The other advice is take shorter shifts because when you’re at center, you’re skating an awful lot more. You don’t realize it when you don’t play that position.
“It’s like a defenseman. You put him up to forward for a few shifts. He comes back and can’t wait to play defense because he’s exhausted. But center, again, you’ve got to go not only side to side, but you’re down low, you’re up top, you’re doing an awful lot of yeoman’s work, which is why it’s really difficult for a winger to step and be a center, but it’s an awful lot easier for a center to become a winger, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Ryan understands those challenges.
“I will (take shorter shifts), yeah, my workload is essentially going to be higher,” he said. “So I’m going to spend more time in the defensive zone and more time moving my feet, so I think it is something that will come with it.”
Ryan said he likes the idea of handling the puck more.
“It gets you more involved in the game,” he said.
With Ryan on a different line, Kyle Palmieri, in his first game of the season, will get an opportunity to skate with Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Ryan’s usual spot on the line which was League’s best last season.
Palmieri, a first-round pick in 2009, has played in 10 career games with one goal and no assists. He led the AHL in goals with 17 when he was recalled on Friday. He played in one playoff game last season against Nashville and failed to record a point.
Boudreau, the one-time high-scoring minor-leaguer, offered his advice to Palmieri and his reasoning on the move. At times, players called up from the minors might be a scorer, but they are thrust into a fourth-line role. Boudreau said that by playing Palmieri with Getzlaf and Perry, the Ducks are putting the rookie in a position to succeed. The coach admitted that when a player doesn’t get much ice time, “it’s difficult to throw them in from the bench.”
“I said (to Palmieri), I got called up 18 times, and the one thing if you want to stay, you have to do something other than ordinary,” Boudreau said. “If you just do ordinary things, when the injured player comes back, you’re always the one who gets sent down. So you’ve got to do something to show for yourself …
“Score a goal. Open peoples’ eyes. That’s how you stay in the NHL. Or, you’ve seen it a hundred times, guys come up, they do an OK job and then they get sent down. But you’ve got to do something extraordinary to open those guys’ eyes.”
Dan Ellis, the former Predator, was expected to start in goal … Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who has missed the last 12 games with a broken finger, could return in a week to 10 days and could return to practice next week.
Predators right wing Jordin Tootoo was expected to return to the lineup after sitting out two games with a suspension. Defenseman Jon Blum was a healthy scratch for the first time on Thursday in a 4-3 win against Columbus. Predators coach Barry Trotz did not indicate whether Blum would return to the lineup …
Nashville center Blake Geoffrion, who has missed the last five games with an upper-body injury, participated in the morning skate for the first time since getting hurt Nov. 28. Trotz said he thought Geoffrion might return to the lineup early next week.
Both players have missed the first seven games of the season, as the Preds have gone 1-2-1 since winning their first two games. Nashville is coming off a three-game Western Canadian road trip in which it scored four goals.
Fisher, who was acquired in February from Ottawa for a couple of high-round draft picks, underwent a procedure on his shoulder during the offseason. He had 3 goals and 4 assists in 12 playoff games and 5 goals and 12 assists in 27 games during the regular season after coming over the from the Senators, as Nashville's management credited his performance with helping to get the team into the postseason.
He has been skating since August but was only recently cleared for contact. Nashville coach Barry Trotz said that Fisher would skate on a line with rookie Craig Smith, who also plays center, and that Smith would take some of the faceoffs to take pressure off Fisher.
"I'm feeling good and cleared to play, pretty excited," Fisher said. "It's been a long time. Yeah, it's good to be back …
I feel, conditioning-wise, ready and strong and should be good to go."
Bouillon has been sidelined much longer with a concussion. He last played on Jan. 16 at Chicago, missing the final 44 games of the regular season and all of the playoffs. He is likely to start out on Nashville's third defense pair with either Jack Hillen or Teemu Laakso.
"I don't want to start talking today about what's going to happen if I get hit and stuff like that, I just got to put them (negative thoughts) aside and to play my game," Bouillon said.
Trotz said the players should give Nashville, one of the League's youngest teams, a "comfort feeling" in the locker room.
"We could use their experience because we are young and a little bit fragile right now, so hopefully they'll be stabilizing factors," Trotz said.
San Jose coach Todd McLellan did not disclose any lineup changes prior to the game.
The Predators placed veteran forward Martin Erat on injured reserve Thursday retroactive to Oct. 8. In addition, right wing Patric Hornqvist also will be out for Nashville's home opener Thursday with Phoenix, meaning Niclas Bergfors and Brian McGrattan will make their debuts for the organization.
Erat has an upper-body injury, while Hornqvist, a 30-goal scorer in 2009-10, has a lower-body injury.
A member of the NHL All-Rookie team in 2009-10, the Preds are Bergfors' fourth team since February 2010. He was a healthy scratch for Nashville's first two games -- both wins on the road, against Columbus and St. Louis -- but is a former 20-goal scorer.
"Bergfors is coming into the lineup and he'll probably play with Sergei Kostitsyn," Predators coach Barry Trotz said of the line centered by Nick Spaling. "… I think he's a little bit like Sergei (in 2010-11), I think he had an OK camp, but it's just like last year, Sergei took a while to get used to how we play and I think Bergie had to catch up a little bit there.
"But he's really a pretty good detail guy, he's pretty competitive. What you notice about him, he's quick, but not fast. Sergei's more … he can get from goal line to goal line a little quicker, but Bergie really darts in the short areas and he's got a really good release and that's sort of his game. With the way the game's played now, he should be pretty effective if we can get him into the offensive zone and get cycling around and making those short plays. He'll probably do a really good job there."
McGrattan, claimed Tuesday on waivers from Anaheim, brings a physical element. He has 395 penalty minutes in 182 NHL games. The Preds made room for him earlier in the week when they sent Zack Stortini to Milwaukee of the AHL.
Trotz said in terms of Nashville's defense that rookie Mattias Ekholm will be a game-time decision. Jack Hillen and Teemu Laakso, both of whom are minus-1, have formed Nashville's third pair. Ekholm was sick for the Preds' first two games last week.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett did not announce any lineup changes after his morning skate.
So here's how the lineups for the two teams could look tonight:
Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler had the look of a downtrodden man on Monday after his team's morning skate. While Edler is minus-2 overall in the playoffs, he is even in the five games in this series with Nashville but has had some rough moments.
During the Canucks' morning skate on Monday, he had a new defense partner -- the defensively sound veteran Sami Salo. Edler had a turnover in Game 5 that led to one of the goals by the Preds' Joel Ward and also, bizarrely, batted a puck into his own net after Nashville's David Legwand, who was behind the goal, flipped it over the net in Edler's direction.
Also, in Game 3, Legwand stripped Edler of the puck behind the net and then Legwand scored a shorthanded goal. After that game, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said it was an "easy call" to remove Edler from the power play and put Mikael Samuelsson back out there because Edler allowed himself to be stripped of the puck.
Samuelsson is injured and did not travel to Nashville for Game 6 so it will be interesting to see how much power play time, if any at all, Edler gets. Vancouver has allowed two shorthanded goals in this series.
Faced with the change, Edler said the right things but being taken off a pair with his usual partner Christian Ehrhoff, who is tied for the lead in scoring among all NHL defensemen in the playoffs with nine points, he acted more as if he were being punishment.
"Well, he's been out a lot this year, but I played with him a lot last year and I think we played very good last year, so it's nothing really new," Edler said of Salo. "We've been playing on the same team for a long time, so…"
Edler was asked how good Nashville has been on the forecheck.
"They're coming hard, but, I mean," he sighed audibly, "they're coming hard one, two, three guys, so it's so important that we go back hard and a lot of communication."
Then he was asked whether he is comfortable moving the puck against such pressure.
"Yeah, I mean, it's not easy every time but sometimes you got to eat it," he said. "Sometimes when you feel like you move it, you got to move it."
Vigneault did not confirm that the pairing would be changed, saying not to put too much in what reporters saw on the ice. However, Edler did say, "yeah, it looks like it, play with Sami."
After defeating Anaheim in six games in the first round, the Predators organization took steps to prepare for the possibility that the local weather might turn hot for the Western Conference Semifinals.
It happened. By 1 p.m. Central time on Monday, the temperature had reached 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Some local forecasts have the temperature getting as high 90.
As recently as last week in Nashville for Games 3 and 4, the overnight lows dipped into the 30s.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz was hopeful that dehumidifiers that the organization installed on top of Bridgestone Arena would help the conditions, but he wasn't 100 percent sure.
"This morning, good," Trotz said of the ice conditions after his team's morning skate, "because it's still not 89, which it's going to get up to today, and you don't have 17,000 people coming into the building and heating it up, so right now the ice conditions are good. I think it was a much needed move by the organization that we have the dehumidifiers on top of the building. We probably didn't need it the first couple of games, but it's been traditionally cold here in Nashville so far through the playoffs but today's it's a regular Nashville day -- actually, a little hotter -- usually it's about 75 or 76 this time of year and it's going to be 89, so I think we're going to do everything possible to keep the ice as good as we can.
"But 17,000 people and 89 or 90 degrees outside, that's going to be hard to keep it perfect."
Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo has not played since April 24, injured in Game 6 against Chicago in the first round, but on Monday he practiced with his team at Bridgestone Arena.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault pronounced the 36-year-old Finn "day to day." Long after the Canucks had finished speaking to the media and after Vigneault also had done so, a throng of reporters waited to speak to Salo, fifth among the team's defensemen in time-on-ice per game during the regular season at 20:20.
But he didn't say much.
"I feel pretty good and I've been improving the last few days, which is a good sign," Salo said.
Asked if he could play on Tuesday, Salo said, "We'll decided tomorrow but day-to-day is a good assessment."
Salo would not parse his "day-to-day" statement, saying "it's not 51 or 49 percent."
However, as to whether he would play in one of the two games in Nashville, Salo said, "probably at some point" but that "it's tough to pinpoint when."
When Vigneault was asked to assess his third defense pair of Aaron Rome and Andrew Alberts, he did not give them roaring approval.
"I thought they had their moments where they looked all right," he said. "Some of their decisions put them in a little bit trouble."
Rome was on ice with Keith Ballard when Vancouver allowed the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2.
Assistant coach Rick Bowness said following the team's optional skate that Salo would be a "game-time decision" and would not elaborate beyond that.
Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo has not played since getting injured April 24 in Game 6 against Chicago in the first round, but on Monday he practiced with his team at Bridgestone Arena.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault pronounced the 36-year-old Finn as "day-to-day."
Long after Vigneault and the Canucks had finished speaking to the media, a throng of reporters waited to speak to Salo, fifth among the team's defensemen in average ice time during the regular season at 20:20. But he didn't say much.
"I feel pretty good and I've been improving the last few days, which is a good sign," Salo said.
Asked if he could play on Tuesday, Salo said, "We'll decide tomorrow, but day-to-day is a good assessment."
Salo would not parse his "day-to-day" statement, saying "it's not 51 or 49 percent."
However, as to whether he would play in one of the two games in Nashville, Salo said, "probably at some point" but that "it's tough to pinpoint when."
When Vigneault was asked to assess his third defense pair of Aaron Rome and Andrew Alberts, he did not give them roaring approval.
"I thought they had their moments where they looked all right," he said. "Some of their decisions put them in a little bit trouble."
Rome was on ice with Keith Ballard when Vancouver allowed the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2.
Before Game 6, Trotz was asked how to prepare his players to clinch the franchise's first ever trip to the second round. (This is the first time the Preds have had an opponent in an elimination game.)
"We've never been here," said Trotz, Nashville's only coach since it arrived in the League in 1998. "You have to live in the moment. This is a new situation…. Every group is a new canvas and you start over again.
"There are good and bad experiences you have to go through. The bad ones make you more resilient, the positive ones you draw from."
Nashville has been resilient in this series, helping to establish a series of franchise firsts. The Predators rallied from a goal down in the final minute of regulation in Game 5, pulled their goalie and tied the score and then won in overtime. In Game 3, they earned a power play in the final minutes of regulation to help them protect a one-goal lead, as they won 4-3. Last year, they lost a game to Chicago in the first-round in a similar situation.
Friday represented numerous organizational firsts for Nashville: The first time it won a Game 5, won an overtime playoff game and recorded two road playoff wins in the same series (or season). In fact, Game 1's victory was only Nashville's second road playoff victory in six trips to the postseason.
Asked how the mood in the room was on Sunday afternoon, Trotz said he had yet to check. After completing his talk, he popped in and then came back out to indicate that the mood was light.
Earlier, he said his message to the players was simple.
"Play to win," he said. "Don't sit back. This is a great opportunity. Shifty by shift. Get the job done."
After setting the Twittersphere ablaze around midnight on Friday night in Game 5 with his goal for the ages, Ducks forward Bobby Ryan was still reveling in the attention he was receiving when he spoke to reporters on Saturday.
To recap: Ryan blocked a shot by Nashville's David Legwand in the third period, earned possession of the puck in the neutral zone, faked around Legwand once, causing Legwand to lose his stick, then stickhandled again around Legwand, as Legwand missed with a body check.; with Nashville's All-Star defenseman Shea Weber in pursuit from behind, Ryan went from forehand to backhand, roofing a shot over Preds goalie Pekka Rinne's blocker.
Some called it Mario Lemieux circa the '80s. Some called it the best goal they have ever seen.
"It has been pretty cool," Ryan said. "I didn't talk to too many people last night, but getting off the plane today I had about 40 text messages. It's a cool feeling. Obviously, when I look back on all of them, it's a moot point when you go on to lose the game, but I'll remember it, that's for sure."
Ryan was asked if the goal made the clips that Ducks coach Randy Carlyle showed the team in preparation for Game 6.
"We haven't seen anything yet," he said. "It won't make the cut, there will be a lot of different clips in there, but I don't think that will be one of them."
I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.
— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie