Make it back-to-back Wednesdays that Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile has pulled the trigger on a trade. But unlike last week’s trade that brought goaltender Devan Dubnyk to Nashville, which added depth to the Preds goaltending pool, this Wednesday’s trade was all about creating balance on the blue line.
An often understated fact is that things seem to flow more smoothly when defensive pairings are balanced with left- and- right-handed players. For most of the season, Nashville has been playing with at least one pairing that was unbalanced – be it righty-righty or lefty-lefty.
Del Zotto, who is coming from a situation in New York where he too was playing on the wrong side, so this is move that should benefit both clubs. Whether he will play with Jones or Ellis is yet to be determined, but Preds fans won’t have to wait long, as Del Zotto will be available to play tomorrow night in Vancouver.
Another key aspect of Wednesday’s trade was creating offensive opportunity. It’s not a secret that Nashville has struggled to score goals. Going into Wednesday night’s tilts, the Preds rank 24th in the League in goals per game (2.43). That’s a far cry from where they’ve been in recent seasons and from where other playoff-bound teams stand.
Del Zotto also helps to solve the scoring issue. While his numbers this year are slightly down from his career averages – he’s posted 11 points (2g-9a) in 42 games this season – he is only a season removed from posting 21 points (3g-18a) in 46 games, and two seasons removed from notching 41 points (10g-31a) in 77 games in 2011-12. While the Preds may have lost in a steady stay-at-home defenseman in Klein, they gain all kinds of offensive potential in Del Zotto.
Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to snap a player back into form, and for Del Zotto, his form is that of an offensive defenseman that can help Nashville climb back into playoff contention.
Well, we’ve made it.
Today marks the final day of this 17-day road trip, as the Preds get ready to face the Penguins tonight at Consol Energy Center.
After coming up short on the Island, the team had a day off in New York City on Wednesday. For me, the “day off” meant heading over to the NHL offices to shoot a feature with the League’s scheduling guru, Steve Hatze Petros.
After that, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with Mattias Ekholm, who was visiting NYC for the first time, to follow him around with a camera for a few. While we were out, Ekholm took in Times Square, the NHL Store and Rockefeller Center.
Our day wasn’t done though, once Wednesday night’s games got rolling, we headed back to the NHL offices to sit in with the Department of Player safety. It was a pretty fortuitous arrival for myself and the broadcast crew, as the Nazem Kadri hit on Niklas Backstrom had just happened moments before. As soon as we got everything set up, Brendan Shanahan walked in and began the process of review. It was very interesting to see the Player Safety team work together as the reviewed the hit. The end result of the discussion was released yesterday as Kadri was suspended for three games.
You can see all of the videos discussed above at nashvillepredators.com.
After our time at the NHL offices, we walked down to Hell’s Kitchen for a late dinner at Five Napkin Burger, which I highly suggest, before heading back to the hotel to get some sleep.
The team arrived in Pittsburgh late yesterday morning, and immediately headed to the arena for practice – a spirited, hour-and-20-minute long session, as Head Coach Barry Trotz took the guys through their paces following the day off in New York. After practice, we headed to the Renaissance Hotel here in Pittsburgh, just across the river from PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ home field.
I hadn’t really realized just how long this trip was until Trotz was talking with the media following yesterday’s practice. Trotz noted that we’ve been on the road so long that, “we’ve had one guy get injured, go back to Nashville and come back. We’ve had a guy have a baby and come back. And we’ve had a guy go to the American Hockey League for four games and he’s returned.”
That’s a long time to be away from home…
Last night was another low-key night for this guy, I was back in the room by 8 p.m., and watched a movie before calling it a night. My night did include a trip to the famous Primanti Brothers Restaurant – a must on any trip to the Steel City. If you’ve never been to Pittsburgh, you really have to check it out when you’re in town, but if you’re a health nut, it may not be for you.
Tonight’s game, much like the last three games of the trip, will be a test of wills between two teams who have both lost three straight games. The Preds will need to bring home a win with a quick turnaround looming, as they face the defending Stanley Cup champions tomorrow night at Bridgestone Arena.
That’s going to do it for this year’s edition of the Renaissance Road Trip blog. I hope people actually read and enjoyed our little cross-country tour. While the results weren’t always what we had hoped for, the 17 days away from the Music City have allowed the team and staff to experience a lot and bond together.
Until next time,
Good morning from Long Island. The Preds are on the ice for morning skate here at Nassau Coliseum.
Coach Trotz took the boys through their paces yesterday with fast-paced practice in Syosset (Eric Nystrom’s hometown). Following practice, we were joined by Nystrom and his father, Islanders’ legend Bob Nystrom. Stu Grimson did an interview with the father-son combo that you can see on PredsTV.
From there, it was back to the hotel for lunch, before I settled into the room to write yesterday’s Veterans Day blog and the game notes for tonight’s tilt. A pretty low-key night for this guy.
It wasn’t such a low-key night for Gabriel Bourque. He was awoken at four this morning with the news that his wife had gone into labor with the couple’s first child. So he needed to get to an airport and back to Nashville ASAP. Props to Preds Manager of Hockey Operations, Brandon Walker, who had Bourque on a flight back to the Music City within two hours.
After tonight’s game, the team will load up the bus and head to Manhattan for a much-needed day off in the city. While we are in the Big Apple, Preds TV will hopefully have an interview from the NHL Offices, while Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom will grace the NHL Live! airwaves on Wednesday evening.
We will leave NYC on Thursday morning to head to the final stop on this whirlwind tour - Pittsburgh.
This was a short one today… I’ll have more following the day off in Manhattan.
Until next time,
The team is on Long Island in preparation for Tuesday night’s game against the Islanders. But in today’s blog, I want to shift away from hockey for a moment to talk about Veterans Day and what it means to me and the team.
History will tell you that Veterans Day coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I (major hostilities formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918).
While we in America have parades and special services at museums, monuments and cemeteries, our friends to the North don poppies to remember their armed forces (I’m guessing most of you saw that on Friday’s broadcast as Pete Weber and Terry Crisp both wore the red flowers).
Like many around the country, today is a very special day for me and my extended family. It is a day to remember and celebrate those who raised their right-hand and volunteered to serve this great nation of ours in the past and present.
I’m usually not one to talk about myself, but for those who do not know, I am a veteran of the United States Armed Forces. I served six years as a helicopter aircrewman in the United States Navy before joining the Nashville Predators staff in September of 2009 as a student-intern.
Military service is a big thing in my family. Both my younger brother and I served this nation, following the footsteps of our grandfather, who served in the Army during the 1950s. This day holds a special place for me, not just because of my service and the service of my fellow veterans, but because of the sacrifices so many have made in defense of freedom throughout time.
For me, that sacrifice not only includes my own blood, sweat and tears, but the life of my brother, Capt. Drew Russell, who was killed in Afghanistan two years ago. And because of that, Veterans Day will always be a day that I can reflect not on myself, but on my brother and the thousands of others who have given their lives on the battlefield.
As a fan of professional sports, I see the dedication of many professional sports leagues take toward battling cancer, fighting bullying and a multitude of other health and social causes.
But in hockey, I’ve seen an overwhelming acceptance of the military, its culture and those who have served. This is evidenced by the military salutes that take place all over the League (we’ve had one at every game during this 17-day trip), and by events like the one the Preds hosted while we were in Los Angeles, as the team welcomed a Medal of Honor winner into their ranks for the weekend.
“I’m a proud American and I’m proud the live in the greatest country in the world,” Hendricks said. “There are a lot of men and women out there that have given a lot, given their lives and paid the ultimate price for us and our freedoms. I have two little ones at home, and if there is any way to say thanks, it’s through my kids. My kids are going to get a lot of opportunities in their lives – opportunities that they wouldn’t get anywhere else – because of where they live and I can’t thank our military enough for that.”
Hendricks, a long-time supporter of Wound Warriors and Defending the Blueline, says his trip to Afghanistan in support of the USO is one of his greatest memories from his professional career.
“I went on the USO holiday tour last Christmas with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey,” Hendricks explained. “I got to go see some awful places in Afghanistan – Kandahar, Bagram Air Base and a few other places. I was able to meet some great men and women to just say thanks and let them know that we are very appreciative of everything they’ve done and everything they continue to do.
For Nystrom, the dedication and remembrance of the military was solidified when he met members of Hockey Saves, a non-profit that works to supply military members with equipment, tickets and ice time.
During that encounter, some of the service members gave Nystrom a hat and they signed a hockey puck for him but, unfortunately, some of those same service members were killed during their next deployment.
“Being an American, I was happy to get involved with a few groups that support the military and their families, and they help them come out to hockey games,” Nystrom said. “Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the servicemen and we took a picture for Hockey Saves. They signed a puck for me, and a couple of them were getting deployed right after that. Some of those guys ended up getting killed in action. It’s not directly related to me, but it’s those guys who make me remember and we are very fortunate that we get to live the lives that we do because of them.”
For Nystrom, the hat and puck have become a symbol of sacrifice and dedication, and he wears that hat with pride in the Preds locker room each and every day.
This kind of dedication to the servicemen and women of the United States makes me very proud to be involved which this great organization and this great League.
Alright, I’ll climb down off of my Star-Spangled soapbox.
As I eluded to before, the Preds are on the practice ice today getting ready to take on the Islanders on Tuesday night. The Isles are coming off a four-game road trip, including a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday to close out the trip. So we are once again set to watch two teams out for a little retribution.
Until next time,
We’re in the Garden State for tonight’s tilt against the New Jersey Devils. We have now hit every time zone in North America on this cross-country marathon trip – that’s pretty crazy to think about actually.
It was snowing as we lifted off out of Winnipeg yesterday morning, so it was nice to hit 55-degree weather here in Newark as the plane door opened. I’d never think 55-degree weather would be something to look forward to.
Once we got settled in at the hotel, we were off for an early dinner at a place called Legal Sea Foods. They have “wicked awesome” clam chowder for all our readers from the Northeast. The stuff is so good that the White House regularly requests it for their dinners. I would highly suggest eating at a Legal Sea Foods if you’re ever on the East Coast.
After dinner, it was back to my room to relax while watching the newest Star Trek flick. I’m a big fan of J.J. Abrams’ reinvention of the Star Trek series, and I am certainly looking forward to what he will do with the next set of Star Wars films as well. That’s right, I’m a certified space nerd.
So that brings us to the present, as I’m sitting at the Prudential Center, which is a very nice building by the way, watching the Devils go through morning skate. This just the Preds second trip to this building since it opened in 2007. It is my first trip here since the NHL Entry Draft back in June and, thankfully, this trip is already proving to be much less hectic. It’s pretty interesting to watch two of the game’s greatest players, Martin Brodeur (it looks like he’s the starter for N.J. tonight by the way) and Jaromir Jagr, go through a skate. It’s these types of little experiences that have really made this trip fun.
While I’m in awe of watching Brodeur during morning skate, for goaltender Carter Hutton, facing Brodeur is a realization of a lifetime dream.
“It’s a pretty cool to come in here and play against a guy I grew up trying to emulate,” Hutton said. “It’s one of those things where you really realize how far you’ve come. From growing up watching him all the time, trying to play like him, to playing against him. So tonight, it’s going to be pretty cool to go out there and battle against him.”
Looking toward tonight’s game, both teams will be out for a little retribution after both came up short on Friday night. The Preds fell to the Jets and the Devils lost in a shootout during the Hall of Fame Game in Toronto.
After tonight’s game, we’ll head to Long Island (land of the Nystroms), about an hour’s drive north of Newark, to settle in before facing the Islanders on Tuesday. It’s kind of weird to think we won’t step foot on a plane until Thursday, after flying basically every other day on this trip.
Until next time,
We’re in the Great White North and coach Trotz is right… Winnipeg may be the coldest place on earth.
After a huge win in Colorado on Wednesday night, we packed up the show and moved it to Winnipeg. We’re at the midway point of this marathon 17-day trip, but with only seven days to go, there is light at the end of the tunnel finally. The days are starting to run together a little bit, and if it wasn’t for the cold and the names on the scoreboard during morning skate, I’m not sure I’d be entirely certain what city we were in.
Winnipeg is an interesting stop on the Central Division circuit. It’s a cold, Canadian prairie town, but you can tell hockey roots run deep here. They run so deep that many of the Preds staff and players have called Winnipeg home at one point or another.
Trotz grew up in Dauphin, Manitoba, about four hours north of Winnipeg. After playing junior hockey in Dauphin and Regina, Trotz began his coaching career in his hometown as the general manager and head coach of the Dauphin Kings. In 1987, he returned to Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba as head coach, while also serving as a part-time scout for David Poile and the Washington Capitals.
“I started in my hometown of Dauphin and then I got an opportunity in Portage, about an hour out of Winnipeg, but I never coached a game there because I ended up here at the University of Manitoba,” Trotz said. “I coached here for a year and then got involved with the Washington Capitals organization. I started on a part-time basis and then ended up full time. This is where it all started for me, and I’m fortunate to have my first assistant coach here to visit. He brought some beef jerky from home and he’s going to stay for the game.”
Unlike the Preds first trip to Winnipeg earlier this season, this week’s extended stay is a homecoming of sorts for Trotz, which gives him a chance to meet up with family and old friends.
“It is good to see people that you haven’t seen for a while,” Trotz said. “But at the same time, I have to separate Church and State. I’m here to work, not to play. That’s the tough part about being so close to home – you have to make sure people understand you are here to work not visit.”
Assistant Coach Phil Housley played three seasons with the previous incarnation of the Jets from 1990-93. He was better than a point-per-game player for the Jets during that span after posting 259 points (64g-195a) in 232 games. Housley still holds Jets’ records for most points (97) and assists (79) by a defenseman in a single season (1992-93) during Teemu Selanne’s recording setting rookie goal scoring campaign (76).
In addition to Housley’s hockey playing roots here, Winnipeg’s close proximity to Minnesota also offers his family the opportunity to drive up from Minneapolis to see him. Even with the snowy conditions, the six-hour drive is much easier than the 13-and-a-half hour drive to Nashville.
Finally, Colin Wilson, the hero of Wednesday night’s game, calls Winnipeg home during the offseason. Despite being born in Greenwich, Conn., the 6-1, 216-pound forward moved to Winnipeg as a boy and his family remains in the area.
“As soon as we got to the hotel my dad came and picked me up,” Wilson said. “I got to go back home and have a family dinner with my parents, my sister and my grandmothers. It was a good night.”
Wilson is hoping to use some of the momentum he gained in Colorado to show out in front of the “hometown crowd” tonight.
“I have a lot of friends coming out tonight,” Wilson said. “The last game it was a lot of family, so tonight I’ll have a lot of friends here. I feel like I have a little bit of a hot stick after Wednesday, so hopefully I can continue with that and get a few pucks to go in tonight.”
Between Trotz, Housley, Wilson and Carter Hutton, more than 80 game passes were handed out to friends and family for tonight’s game against the Jets.
Tonight’s homecoming will hopefully inspire the Preds to continue the strong play they’ve been showing throughout the road trip thus far. As I wrote before, the four-points against Central Division opponents are the most important of the trip and they’ve picked up two already.
Until next time.
Greetings from the Mile High City,
It’s a balmy 30 degrees outside here in Denver as the Preds prepare to take on the Avs tonight at 8:30 p.m. CT. Forgive me for being tardy on the Denver blog posts, I’ve been a little under the weather – I can’t tell if I’m actually getting sick or if the dry air here is just doing a number on my sinuses. Too much information, I know.
We arrived around 7 p.m. local time on Monday night and immediately boarded the bus for the hotel. Denver is definitely one of the best cities on the NHL circuit, and I would highly recommend a visit, no matter the time of year, because of how gorgeous this area is.
After checking in, the normal broadcast crew and I waltzed over to a restaurant called Earl’s to catch the second half of the Monday Night Football game. I was greeted at the restaurant by terrible news, as Aaron Rodgers, the star quarterback of my Green Bay Packers, had been lost to a fractured collarbone. So, the result of the Monday Night game didn’t work out so well for me. Despite the Packers loss, I really enjoy watching Monday Night Football, simply because of Jon Gruden and his breakdown of the games. It’s always good to know when teams are running plays like “Spider-two-wide-banana” and so on.
The team practiced yesterday afternoon at Denver University because the Denver Nuggets were preparing to take on the San Antonio Spurs at the Pepsi Center. Denver’s campus was a nice little spot as the guys had a fast-paced practice in preparation for tonight’s game. After practice the team returned to Pepsi Center to change and shower – a couple of guys also snuck out onto the Nugget’s court to shoot around a little bit.
After to practice, it was back to the hotel to take it easy and rest up. We had dinner at the famous Cherry Cricket in the Cherry Creek area. One of the best burgers I’ve had outside of Nashville. I got to sit in on the TV production meeting as well. That was a pretty cool experience to see how much behind-the-scenes planning goes into the TV broadcast of our games. I retired from dinner early to go to the mall across from our hotel to pick up a knit beanie. I didn’t plan on 30 degree weather so early on the trip and my bald head isn’t used to being exposed to this type of cold (I still had hair back when I lived in Michigan).
That brings us to today’s game. This is an important one for the Preds as they look to revenge the early season loss to the Avs. The boys will also look to snap a three-game losing streak to Colorado tonight. Make sure you tune into FOX Sports Tennessee or 102.5 The Game tonight for all the coverage.
Until next time,
Yes, in the early stages of the longest road trip in Predators’ history, nothing truly remarkable has happened – yet! Perhaps nothing will.
If you learn to expect almost anything on the road, you are far better off. How about the challenge facing the Buffalo Sabres (later a video coach for the Phoenix Coyotes), Jeff Holbrook?
The Sabres had just begun a 4-game road trip in March of 1996 in Vancouver. When the team landed, Jeff was informed that the charter company had just declared bankruptcy, and that the team would be on its own for the rest of the trip – including stops in Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles.
At that point in time, there were no “super savers” to be had for the team. The only savings came when Head Coach Ted Nolan ordered the bus to drive the team to Los Angeles after a loss in a Sunday matinee in San Jose. In returning home from Buffalo, the team had to split up in order to fit everyone onto commercial flights.
There were other things that were purely quirks of the schedule. Like the time the Los Angeles Kings finished up an eastern swing in Atlanta against the Thrashers and flew home in the wee hours on a Friday morning. On Saturday night, the Kings hosted a home game at the Forum. Sunday morning, they flew back East to play in Philadelphia. That might not sound like much, but it involved flying roughly 9,000 miles to play one home game.
Perhaps the most incredible memory of a Predators’ road trip to date goes back to Boston a few years ago. While relaxing in the lobby area, there was what appeared to be a touching scene playing out before our eyes – and ears.
A young couple was sitting there, and all of a sudden, the male went down on a knee and proposed marriage to the lady. He presented her with a family heirloom – his late grandmother’s wedding ring.
Then, to the surprise of us all – she turned him down! She explained that the ring wasn’t big enough. “But I will get you a nicer ring when I make some money,” the young man pleaded. “No, I want a bigger ring now!”
Obviously flabbergasted, the young man cried for a moment, than sat down on the chair opposite his intended. He was in a boiling rage.
“You know, you’re kind of fat,” he said. “And I think you are ugly, too!”
So much for romance…
To this point on the Predators’ marathon, nothing of the sort has happened. Stay tuned!
Coming to you live from the L.A. Kings practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
The boys are back on the ice this morning after a well-deserved day off yesterday in Santa Monica. Saturday night’s game turned into a bit of a nail-biter as the Kings stormed back to give the Preds a run for their money in the final minutes of the game, but the Preds came out on top as David Legwand continued to have the hot hand on the trip.
After some postgame celebrating on Saturday night, the day off on Sunday allowed us all to get out and enjoy the Southern California weather.
We started the day by shooting the next edition of the Rich Clune Show for Predators Snapshot on FOX Sports. In this edition, Clune interviews one of his new teammates as they walked along the boardwalk in Santa Monica. That’s all you’re getting out of me on it though, so you’ll just have to tune into the next episode of Snapshot before upcoming Preds games. I will point out that the secondary camera work – the scenic views, the wide shots and the interesting angles – were very well shot though (a little shameless self-promotion).
Once we completed the video shoot, I linked up with some of the guys to walk around the Promenade in Santa Monica. It is a nice outdoor mall area with a ton of shops and restaurants. There were also a bunch of, we’ll call them unique, street performers along the Promenade. The most interesting of the bunch was a clown with an uncanny resemblance to a Nashville Predators broadcaster, whose last name may, or may not, rhyme with… well… nothing really rhymes with Crisp.
We also caught a movie while we were out and about. I know what you’re thinking, how could you go see a movie instead of enjoying the sunny weather. Well, it was pretty chilly yesterday afternoon even though the sun was out. We saw Captain Phillips, the tale of the Somali pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. It was a very good movie, and in my opinion, I think Tom Hanks should win an award for his portrayal of the ship’s captain. The film makers also did a good job of showing both sides of the story and creating an emotional connection with the less fortunate pirates (that part of the movie production actually spurred a pretty good conversation at dinner).
On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped off at the infamous Chez Jay restaurant for an adult beverage on our last night in Santa Monica. The little “hole in the wall” place was supposedly a favorite of Wayne Gretzky during his playing days in Los Angeles. After our pit stop it was back to the hotel for a little sleep, after not getting much sleep on Saturday night.
And that brings us to today. After practice this afternoon, we’re headed straight to the airport to board our flight to Denver. Apparently it is snowing in the Mile High City, so I’m going to end this one for now and go dig my overcoat out of the bottom of my suitcase.
Stay tuned – we’ll have a special guest checking in during the next blog.
We’ve made it to La-La Land after our two-day stay in Phoenix.
The final result in Phoenix wasn’t what anyone had hoped for, but the team still made it out of the desert with a point, and they will look to take two away from a tough Kings team later tonight.
With the tragic shooting at LAX yesterday, our travel plans were up in the air for a moment, but we were able to make it to Los Angeles and to our hotel in Santa Monica. We are set up right on the beach, about a two blocks down from the iconic Santa Monica pier. This is the first time in more than four years that I’ve seen the ocean, and for an old water dog like me, it’s been far too long.
After settling in and getting some work done, I joined the team for dinner with a special guest that I will write about later today.
When you’re away from the rink, it is always nice to get out and enjoy the company of everyone from our travel party. There are always good stories and you get to build a bond with your co-workers.
After dinner, we walked around Santa Monica for a little while. There were some interesting characters out along the pier last night, but, after all, it was the Friday after Halloween. After the walk, it was time to head back to the room to get some rest. This time change thing is kind of doing a number on me, but at least I still remember what day it is… for now.
The team will get a much deserved day off tomorrow in Santa Monica, so I hope to have a couple good stories and more pictures to post from L.A.