|The Nashville Predators and GM David Poile have never been accused of spending big, but they have enjoyed annual success by getting the most out of their money. Poile and head coach Barry Trotz have been with the Predators franchise since the beginning, and have forged a hard-working, defense-first philosophy that has become the team’s trademark over the past 14 years. |
In 2010-11, the Predators were one of the strongest clubs in the NHL heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs and clinched the fifth seed in the Western Conference with 99 points. Nashville won its first-ever playoff series 4-2 over the Anaheim Ducks, before being eliminated in six games by the eventual conference champion Vancouver Canucks.
True to his style, Poile made a few subtle changes to his roster over the summer. The Predators opened their roster to allow young players to make an impact when veterans like Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward, Marcel Goc and Shane O’Brien were allowed to walk via unrestricted free agency. Nashville added winger Niclas Bergfors and defenseman Jack Hillen in the offseason, and gave more prominent roles to its up-and-comers.
Martin Erat and Mike Fisher are being counted to supply offensive production up front, and are supported by fellow veterans Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand and Sergei Kostitsyn. Rookie Craig Smith joins them to form the top-six forwards in Trotz’s arsenal, as Smith has jumped out of the gate with a stellar start to his maiden campaign.
Without a doubt, the Predators blue line has been the subject of much focus in the past six months. Team captain and All-Star Shea Weber, a world-class defender with a booming slap shot, was unable to come to terms on a restricted free agent contract over the summer – meaning he and the Predators would require salary arbitration to get him under contract for this season. Weber was awarded a one-year, $7.5 million contract meaning he will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Alongside Weber is his usual partner Ryan Suter, the American defenseman who will also need a new contract after 2011-12. Nashville has benefited from one of the deepest pipelines of defenseman in years, with homegrown guys Kevin Klein and Jonathon Blum emerging as top-four defensemen.
Pekka Rinne is the undisputed No. 1 man in goal and recently received a brand new seven-year contract extension. The 29-year-old Finn is a shining example of Nashville’s strong drafting – he was an eighth-round selection in the 2004 Entry Draft.
| || || |
|Prospal (5) ||Smith, Hornqvist (7) |
|Prospal (9) ||Legwand, Weber (9) |
|Prospal (14) ||Legwand, Smith (14) |
|Dorsett (45) ||McGrattan (29) |
|MacKenzie (+4) ||Weber (+18) |
|Mason (3-12-1) |
|Rinne (10-4-3) |
|Mason (3.63) ||Rinne (2.12) |
|Mason (.875) ||Rinne (.936) || |
|• Since missing the season opener in Columbus as well as the following eight games, Predators LW Martin Erat has returned on a torrid pace. With a two-goal performance on Thursday night, the Trebic, Czech Republic native has posted points in seven of nine games since returning from injury on Oct. 29, amassing nine points (5g-4a) in that span. |
• After combining for just six points in Nashville’s first nine games, the defense pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter is leading the way for the Predators. Weber has posted nine points (3G, 6A), and Suter has notched eight points (2G, 6A) in Nashville’s last nine games.
• Tonight marks the second of six meetings overall and first of three at Bridgestone Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Predators. Columbus is 18-36-10 all-time against Nashville, including a 4-22-6 mark at Bridgestone Arena. The Jackets have gone winless in 17 straight visits to Nashville.
•Grant Clitsome has points in four of the past five games after notching an assist Thursday at Boston. He has assists in back-to-back games after going six games without a helper (had three assists Oct. 25 vs. Detroit).
• Antoine Vermette enters tonight’s game one point shy of 300 in his NHL career with 134-165-299 in 558 career games, after scoring his first goal of the season Nov. 15 vs. Minnesota.
C - #12
• The Predators upgraded their roster just prior to last year’s trade deadline by acquiring Fisher from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a first-round draft pick (2011) and a conditional choice (2012). Fisher, a skilled face-off man that is one of the best 200-foot centers in the game, instantly gave Nashville another scoring threat and a player that fits perfectly into its system.
• Has four assists and is a +4 in his last two games, playing an average of 19 minutes a night in those contests.
LW Kristian Huselius (upper body); indefinitely
D Radek Martinek (concussion); indefinitely