Blogs
POSTED ON Monday, 04.02.2012 / 3:19 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog
I don’t know – if you’re Nashville – if you could have asked for much more at this point of the season. From where you started back in September with a lot of question marks and possibilities, to have a shot atfourth and home ice advantage in the first round is great.

First of all, let’s make this clear: the Preds can still get fourth. I know there are some things that need to fall into place, but they very wellcould. Chicago has only two games left vs. Detroit’s three. Those two play head-to-head in Game 82. So anything can happen mathematically.

More importantly is simply Nashville’s need to have its game together heading into the playoffs. While we may be tempted to blame inconsistency at times, keep in mind Nashville is facing playoff-bound teams of a high caliber (especially this past week) and sweeps are rare. No matter which club the Preds face it willbe a tough battle.

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I thought that Andrei Kostitsyn looked at home with Alex Radulov on his line. AK can make some very high-level plays and AR can finish with the best of them. If you haven’t seen it, check out their connection for a goal in the Detroit game here. And then treat yourself to Radulov splitting the Chicago defense one more time here.

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I’m looking forward to seeing our defense perform in this year’s playoffs. Both Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have put together among the best campaigns of their careers, and a healthy Roman Josi and Kevin Klein bodes well for the Preds. I also can’t wait to see how much bigger Hal Gill will get in key moments.

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Don’t look past any of this week’s opponents. Nashville has to give a full effort against these teams in order to garner all six points remaining. It is still possible and would be fantastic if the Predators managed a fourth seed starting the playoffs.

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For just the fourth time in NHL regular season history, everyone ends the season on the same day – this Saturday. There are no games for Sunday, so Preds/Avs will be among the last to finish and should have many eyes on it.

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Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!

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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 3:42 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

As the plane heads towards Detroit, I'm thinking of a few things on our way.

Probably the most obvious one is that this game tomorrow night is Nashville's most likely first-round playoff matchup. Of course home ice is yet to be determined, and you never know what Chicago might pull off, but it certainly appears that the Preds and Red Wings are destined for one another right now. Nashville is a few key players away from being 100% healthy, but both Roman Josi and Martin Erat are on the trip (playing status for both will likely be better understood tomorrow). Getting Erat back up front would be a big boost for the Predators against Detroit. He's the type of player you tend to appreciate more when he's out of the lineup because he can fool you into complacency with his consistent effort and two-way play while chipping in offensively. You just tend to rely on him without realizing it.

Josi will also be a nice add on defense where the pairs have been jumbled for some time, first because of the absence of Kevin Klein and now Josi. Being able to reset Josi with Gill (likely) and Klein with Bouillon will provide stability for the Preds, and also give the second power play unit yet another option on the point or the ability to use two defensemen if Ryan Ellis is in the lineup.

The Wings are a team that has been almost mirroring the Predators lately, including a small slide over the last few weeks combined with trying to get over some nagging injuries and settle into a rhythm for the playoffs. Certainly Detroit will need Jimmy Howard to be at his level best in the playoffs, and while Zetterberg and Datsyuk are the main difference makers I think any run the Red Wings make will key around the play of the 3-6 defensive spots and contributions from players like Todd Bertuzzi and Jiri Hudler. It will be the supporting cast that has to pull together for the Wings to really make a run. Maybe a Holmstrom or Franzen takes over a series? There's a precedent in place that when Detroit wins, it's because they had someone else rise to the level of its top players to propel the club through four rounds.

Don't think there isn't a lesson in there for Nashville either. Sure, you expect Suter and Weber to excel on D, and for the guys like Erat, Fisher and Hornqvist to score. But who is this year's Joel Ward? One of the Kostitsyn brothers (how about both!)? Alex Radulov? Matt Halischuk? Brandon Yip? Someone must make those key contributions. Depth must be effective and on top of its game. I lump Radulov into that category and perhaps unfairly, as certainly the expectations will be that he is among the leading playoff scorers. But in the sense that he's still one of the adds for down the stretch, if he does contribute on a top level he will be one of those people that raises his game at the right time.

Let's face it, this is a chance for anyone to etch his name into the history books, and onto the most storied trophy in all of team sports.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 11:48 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

It has come to pass – the day has dawned… Alexander Radulov is returning to the NHL and the Nashville Predators.

In what has to be one of the more convoluted contract issues in hockey history, Radulov has cleared his final hurdle to come back to Nashville and push the Predators into the playoffs as they chase the ultimate prize: The Stanley Cup.

For some time now people have said that the knock on the Preds is a lack of scoring. While that hasn’t necessarily been the case this year with the team ranking in or near the top-10 in goals for all season long, Radulov’s return certainly gives the Predators one more incredibly dangerous offensive weapon – one who is a game-changer with deadly offensive instincts.

Barry Trotz has said of Radulov that he’s a guy who loves to score goals and finds pure joy in doing it. The real test will be finding a line to work him in on and developing the chemistry. Against Anaheim on Sunday Trotz did move Andrei Kostitsyn in with Craig Smith and Brandon Yip (and I must say I actually enjoyed watching that line play). Gabriel Bourque drove the Hornqvist/ Legwand combo well too once he was on the wing there, helping generate the first goal of the game for Nashville. Those lines remained intact tonight and the Bourque/Hornqvist/Legwand trio were probably the best line for either team. I don’t know if you dare disrupt Mike Fisher, Marty Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn, but for sake of the argument let’s throw numbers in the blender and hit “frappe”… which oddly enough is French for “to hit”.

So maybe, just maybe, we see something like this:
     Erat-Fisher-Radulov
     AK-Smith-SK
     Hornqvist-Legwand-Bourque
     Halischuck-Yip-Spaling-Tootoo-McGrattan-Wilson-Gaustad

Why am I moving Smith up with the brothers? Largely due to his play in the third period with AK the other night, and plus he has shown real ability to drive this team offensively early on and might benefit tremendously from being coupled with those two. The down side is that Smith is still working on his faceoff technique and this line may not start with puck possession a whole lot at first.

I liked the 27-11-57 combo so much they just have to stay together.

This does leave the issue of working a guy like Gaustad back into the lineup when healthy, and Colin Wilson has played center before although has played more wing. Certainly you could put Gaustad with the Kostitsyns to give defensive responsibility a boost on that line and also help them start with the puck more often. Smith has been on the fourth line much of the time recently, and it would be intriguing to see him with Yip, Halischuk orWilson to see if there is a chemistry that develops.

Adding the scoring threat of Radulov to the lineup now really gives Nashville three lines that can score and makes this team an incredible threat. Plus, you’re adding another sniper to the power play, which has already shown it can be effective this year and win games.

What I know everyone will be looking to see is how well and how quickly he adapts to the Predators, don’t expect miracles the first game (although that would be nice). This is a guy who figures to be fighting off jet lag in a big way and has to reset his body clock by almost half a day. For those who have never traveled internationally, they say the body takes one day to adjust for every hour lost or gained. If you alter your sleep patterns you can help fight this, but making noon into midnight is still going to bear some weight. Give him a little time, and also consider that he hasn’t played in a game situation in a few weeks. All things considered, however, one would expect it shouldn’t be too hard to “catch the moving train” for someone considered one of the world’s best players.

So get your 47 jerseys ready Nashville – he’s coming back and this team’s chances to win a Stanley Cup have never looked so good!

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 03.14.2012 / 6:01 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

After a day away from the ice the Predators returned to the sheet today to work on special teams in a spirited one-hour practice in Scottdale. Things were up-tempo and the players looked determined and competitive.

Lines looked the same as they had in the last game against the Coyotes with Tootoo, Spaling and Wilson staying together plus Bourque, Gaustad and Smith working alongside one another. Erat-Fisher-SK and AK-Legwand-Hornqvist round out the lines.

Kevin Klein took place in all drills and a chance for him to return appears to be nearing.

I know the Phoenix game wasn't the best effort for the Predators and talk to needing to tighten things up -- especially on the defensive end -- abounds in the locker room. Even after the game the feeling was more one of relief, and perhaps a held breath exhaled, after Nashville earned the second point in the shootout. Of course it helps when your goaltender is a Vezina caliber guy – he really does erase a lot of mistakes. The team knows they can't toss out many more like that – unless you agree with Brent Peterson's joking assurances that the Preds "are going to win 'em all 9-8 now". I don't think my voice (or my poor heart) could take that! Getting Klein and Josi back will help tremendously.

Also after the Phoenix game there were some compliments for the play of Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis. For two players who have had to be patient and stay ready, they both have looked good when called upon. Hillen plays very solidly, bodying up on opposing forwards and using his head to help steer clear of trouble. Ellis has a dynamic offensive element to his game and really provides a big weapon to the power-play. It's nice to have depth, indeed.

After today's practice the team will head off to the airport to fly into San Jose this afternoon. The Predators will take on the Sharks Thursday night before heading to the LA area for bouts with the Kings and Ducks to round out the last big western swing for the Preds this season.

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.05.2012 / 12:03 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

Nashville put one back in the win column after downing the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Saturday night with the new parts fitting in nicely. In fact, the “Deadline” appeared on the score sheet for the game’s first goal when Andrei Kostitsyn scored from Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad. Sure that’s not a likely combo since Gaustad was out to take a defensive zone draw and Gill fed Kostitsyn off that faceoff, sending the latter careening down the ice to rifle one in off the goal post for his first in a Predators uniform.

But seeing those names together on the sheet underscored exactly what each was brought in to do. Guastad wins a defensive zone draw. Gill moves the puck safely and effectively and was out in a big defensive situation. Kostitsyn skates and snipes. I had to smile when the call came down and those three were linked together. I would venture a guess that David Poile did as well!

Kostitsyn in particular I thought picked it up from his first to his second game. Against Carolina he seemed like a player tossed into a new system who might not quite have a grasp of things or expectations. I wondered, like many of you, where his compete level might be and how his buy-in would manifest itself. I can honestly say after watching things unfold against the Panthers I feel much better about what he will bring to the table and his level of commitment to this franchise on the ice.

Gaustad played very well and was Nashville’s leading faceoff man in the Florida game. He proved his value there above and beyond his ability to be a big body, play physical, and stick up for his teammates. I’m looking forward to seeing what contributions he’ll make as he becomes more familiar with his role as well.

Gill was one of three players (Roman Josi and Gaustad were the other two) who were stuck out on a second period penalty kill for the entire shift! They managed to help kill the penalty off despite playing two very difficult minutes straight, and really kept the Panthers from getting a toehold in the contest. At that point it became clear that Florida was going to need something major to beat the Predators that night, and they weren’t able to find it.

A few notes from the Florida game:
 - By keeping the Panthers from scoring a power play goal, Nashville has now prevented a power play goal against for seven straight against Florida dating back to 2008.
 - Florida was the best team in the East on Saturdays, going 10-2-0 before running into the Nashville juggernaut.
 - Gabriel Bourque’s assist streak stopped at three games but once again he played well and shows that whether moved up or down the lineup he fits well on just about any line.
 - Andrei Kostitsyn collected a goal on a great shot from the right wing and also sent David Legwand in alone for a breakaway goal with a nifty heads-up pass. Kostitsyn hit Legwand in full stride on the tape with a quick look. Here’s to hoping these guys (along with Patric Hornqvist) continue to grown together and compliment each other’s games. Legwand now has goals in his last four games against Florida.
 - The Preds now play three in a row at home before a stretch that sees them finish the regular season with nine out of 14 on theroad. Only Pittsburgh and Winnipeg remain as Eastern Conference opponents in the last 17 games, and as of today’s writing eight of the 15 conference games are against opponents currently in a playoff spot, while two each remain against LA and Colorado which are sitting just one point out of the final playoff spot.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 4:10 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

The Nashville Predators held an optional skate today, with several key players staying off the ice for a day of rest. Following the skate head coach Barry Trotz said it was a day for his players to rest and reset, but from here on out “it’s all business” for the Preds moving forward.

“Tomorrow (at practice) we’re going hard, and we’re going hard the rest of the way,” said Trotz, indicating that the team’s nose will be firmly to the grindstone for the remainder of the season.

The club did practice shootouts today as promised after recent performances prompted some practice. Also, Paul Gaustad finally got a chance to get in a skate with his teammates and will likely be ready to go in Florida this weekend.

While today did allow players a chance to rest, one who tried to give it a go was Kevin Klein. But after a few minutes on the ice, Klein left the sheet and Trotz later said he had suffered a setback in regards to his upper body injury and would not play Saturday. In the meantime, Ryan Ellis would be ready to go if called upon.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 1:35 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

That was a bit of a tired bunch out there in Carolina, so much so that today’s practice was cancelled. Certainly the Preds aren’t going to let excuses fly around today or tomorrow when they get back on the ice, but perhaps the day of rest will do them some good. Let’s face it – if you’re going to the Stanley Cup Final, there’s still another almost four months left in your season. A day off can’t hurt.

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Barry Trotz said before yesterday’s game he wasn’t going to just drop Andrei Kostitsyn into unfamiliar situations like the power play without a practice, and he held to that. While Andrei did play a decent amount and showed some serious playmaking potential, he wasn’t on the ice at the end when the Predators were putting on a big push. I’m sure that situation will be open to more evaluation once he’s had more time to adapt to his new surroundings, systems and teammates.

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Colin Wilson has picked things up as of late and is more noticeable on the ice. His goal in the second period against Carolina was just will power, stealing the puck from the defenseman McBain and then following up his own rebound for the score. I also think Gabriel Bourque continues to mature and look better.

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Moving forward the Preds play only three more games outside of the Conference (Saturday at Florida and back-to-back games Mar. 22 vs. Pittsburgh & Mar. 24 vs. Winnipeg); talk about being in the driver’s seat as far as your own destiny goes? Nashville definitely is.

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A programming note for you in that the March 8th game against Colorado will be on SportSouth instead of FSTN. Mark it on your calendar! By the way, all remaining games will be broadcast on local TV, but that doesn't mean you can't still hang out with me on the radio side for a few games (check here for the Preds Radio Network affiliate schedule)

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Just saw the finished mask for Peks from the AT&T Design The Mask contest and it looks awesome!

That’s it for now, until next time keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Monday, 02.27.2012 / 2:47 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

Nashville wrapped up its NHL Trade Deadline with a deal that saw the team bring in Paul Gaustad after acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn earlier in the day.

At 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds, Gaustad is an imposing presence up the middle for the Predators and currently ranks 10th in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 56.8%. He’s also third in shorthanded faceoff victories this season and is a very good penalty killer; he played almost three minutes per game on the PK with Buffalo this season.

Right away you can see Gaustad fits in to a role where Jerred Smithson most recently skated, bringing faceoff acumen and a big body plus a total of 17 points this season. Last year Gaustad posted 31 points, close to his career best 36 in 2007-08.

Sometimes shoring a club up defensively doesn’t just mean a big body on the blue line like Hal Gill, but it also means forwards who play the two-way game and can make a difference while shorthanded or in key defensive situations late in games too. Gaustad will give the Predators size and weight, something that you desperately need as the playoffs wear on.

At the end of the day Nashville accomplishes two things it set out to: first is to not meddle with the current room chemistry by deleting players currently working well together; second was to make the team stronger and deeper for the playoff run. Adding Kostitsyn and Gaustad has done just that. Now the Predators can put the pedal down in the playoffs.

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POSTED ON Monday, 02.27.2012 / 10:11 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog


Andrei Kostitsyn on his way to Nashville shows a few things – and most importantly to Predators fans is that this team is gunning for the Stanley Cup. Right here, right now.

Andrei has broken the 50-point barrier before and despite a bit of a down year in Montreal this season still has posted 24 points. Reuniting him with brother Sergei in Nashville will hopefully mean not only an uptick in production but might also convince the elder brother that the change of scenery suits him on a longer term. His $3.25M cap hit contract expires this season and he becomes a UFA, but perhaps an audition here and a little positive press from Sergei might make him a long-term guy.

Barry Trotz has shown that he is able to bring players in that have fallen into disfavor with other teams and help them get their games in order in a Predators sweater. I would think that for Andrei coming in having a clearly defined role and responsibilities will help tremendously. Also, to have someone with his offensive talent give Nashville just that much more depth of scoring shows that the Predators can attack with three (and sometimes four) lines.

Also, David Poile has mentioned before that Nashville still has its first round pick for this year as a bargaining chip, plus the team still has exceptional depth of prospects. It’s possible there may be more to come for the Preds but for now, Hal Gill and Andrei Kostitsyn are very good adds to a team that is shaping up better and better for a deep playoff run.

Keep it tuned to NashvillePredators.com all day long for continued trade deadline coverage.



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POSTED ON Friday, 02.24.2012 / 11:41 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog

Ryan Ellis was assigned to Milwaukee this morning, and to me that signifies a few things.

First of all is that for Ryan Ellis this is not performance-based. Barry Trotz has gone out of his way to say time and time again he likes what Ellis has done on the ice and is pleased with his development so far. But the reality of the situation is that only six (and rarely seven) D get to play in a game. Ellis and Roman Josi are the only two Predators defensemen who can be sent down without clearing waivers. And with Ellis out of the lineup once Hal Gill was acquired, the Preds needed to do something as far as getting Ellis some playing time.

Heading to Milwaukee is probably not his favorite thing, but at the end of the day it will provide Ellis an opportunity for heavy minutes in a top role every game. Ellis will be the power play QB once again, get a lot of ice, and be able to keep his game sharp instead of sitting in the press box every game up in Nashville. It certainly will help his development more. The more key minutes Ellis plays, the better.

This also shows just how much Roman Josi’s stock has risen within the organization. The Preds scouts have talked glowingly of Josi since the moment they drafted him, but to rise up the depth chart he had to pass a deep group of blue chip prospects. Now a fixture paired with Hal Gill, Josi has earned a lot of trust from coaches in big situations. Certainly he’s still a rookie and sometimes makes plays that show his inexperience, but the journey from his first few unsure games to now is remarkable. He has risen to the occasion and reminds me just a little of the similar journey Jonathon Blum went through last year. Of course Josi has much room for growth and improvement, but his emergence has really helped Nashville in many ways and allowed the team to not have to lean on Blum quite as hard when he struggled this year.

Perhaps something that flies under the radar here is Jack Hillen’s role with the team. It’s not easy to be a 7th defenseman or extra forward, but Hillen has helped when called on and doesn’t seem to miss a beat. He would have had to clear waivers in order to go to Milwaukee and the Predators don’t want to expose him to the possibility of being lost, which shows how the coaches value his contributions. They know depth is the name of the game in a long playoff run. Trotz has said it may take seven, eight, or even nine defensemen in a playoff run depending on injuries or matchup requirements, so the Predators know full well Hillen’s solid play will be useful in any series. And if you don’t think defensive depth is tested that deeply in the playoffs, I’ll take you back to the Buffalo/Carolina 2006 Eastern Conference Final series in which the Sabres were down four regular defensemen for a pivotal Game Seven that Buffalo led into the second period but ultimately lost – sending the Hurricanes on to a Stanley Cup win over Edmonton.

Or just last season when the Vancouver Canucks had nine different defensemen lace up the skates during the run to the Cup Finals and only two of their d-men played in all 25 playoff games last season.

And if nothing else, I think Trotz’s statement about the playoffs holds a lot of truth: offense may win you games, but defense will win you championships.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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