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Preds Top Plays in January

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators
Following the calendar flipping to 2015, the new year saw much of the same from the Nashville Predators. The Preds ended January with an eight-game home winning streak while sitting atop the Central Division.

Among the NHL's best teams all month long, as they have been for the entire season to date, Nashville produced another slew of spectacular goals, assists, hits and saves.

From James Neal scoring twice in former Preds Head Coach Barry Trotz's return to the Music City, to Nashville's three game-winning goals in overtime, the first month of 2015 was another special one for the Predators.

See below the definitive rankings of the Preds top goal, assist, hit and save of the month. 

Top Goal of the Month:

James Neal picks Matt Niskanen's pocket, scores game-winner: The storylines for the Capitals and Predators contest all involved Barry Trotz returning to the Music City and two of the NHL's hottest teams doing battle. Preds winger James Neal did his best to write a few new ones of his own. Already with one goal to his credit in the game, the forward chopped Matt Niskanen's pass out of the air, went in on Brayden Holtby alone and tallied the contest's deciding goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. 

Top Goal of the Month (Honorable Mention):

Mike Fisher dances around Eddie Lack's pokecheck and tallies: Since missing the first 21 games of the 2014-15 season while recovering from an offseason Achilles injury, Preds center Mike Fisher has registered 22 points in 28 contests. The Peterborough, Ontario, native notched one of his dozen goals this campaign on Jan. 13 against the Canucks in an impressive fashion. After taking a pass from Neal, Fisher deked Lack by sending the puck underneath the goaltender's stick before moving the biscuit to his forehand and depositing it into the cage.

Best Pass of the Month:

Long-range saucer for a breakaway in overtime: Already with two assists in the game, Preds center Mike Ribeiro displayed his best pass of the night in overtime against the Avalanche. From the defensive zone, Ribeiro lifted a puck through the neutral zone to a streaking Craig Smith for a breakaway. Once the winger was one-on-one with Semyon Varlamov, Smith made no mistake and gave the Preds two points. 

Best Pass of the Month (Honorable Mention):

A Ryan Ellis fake helps Mike Ribeiro and Mattias Ekholm connect: A little trickery from Ryan Ellis helped Mike Ribeiro earn both of the top passes of the month for January. With Ekholm initially starting the play in the offensive zone, Ribeiro sent a pass along the blue line intended for Ellis. But the Preds blueliner faked a shot as the puck passed through his legs and onto the tape of his defensive partner, Ekholm. After taking the puck, Ekholm wired a shot past the Ducks' netminder to even the score at one apiece.

Hardest Hit of the Month:

Shea Weber smokes Hampus Lindholm: Ducks D-man Hampus Lindholm caught a clearing attempt at the red line and started to carry the puck into the Preds defensive zone. He forgot about Shea Weber, however. The Preds Captain flattened the Ducks blueliner and negated any additional attack from Anaheim.

Hardest Hit of the Month (Honorable Mention):

Filip Forsberg backchecks effectively:
Sure, Nashville rookie Filip Forsberg leads the team in points, but he knows how to hit too. On Jan. 8 against Dallas, the winger chased Ales Hemsky through the neutral zone and dumped the Stars forward in the Preds defensive zone in order to cause a turnover.  

Incredible Save of the Month:

Carter Hutton stretches for a pad save: In the Predators final contest before the All-Star Break, Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton delivered the save of the month to keep the Preds ahead of the Canadiens. With Brendan Gallagher in on a partial breakaway, Hutton followed the forward's backhand move by going post to post and putting out the right pad to make the stop.

Incredible Save of the Month (Honorable Mention):

Pekka Rinne's backdoor denial: Protecting a two-goal lead late in a Jan. 10 meeting with the Wild, Pekka Rinne flew accross the crease to stop Mikko Koivu twice at the far post. Incredibly, the Wild Captain was unable to tally on the in-tight chance thanks to Rinne's sliding save.

A special set of highlights to be sure, but there's easily a lot more that deserve to be present on the list as well. Tell us what your favorite goal, save, assist and hit in January were in the comments.

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