Blogs
POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 12:49 PM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

Coming to you live from 30,000 feet! Welcome to the 2013 Nashville Predators CMA Road Trip blog presented by Renaissance Hotels. 

Let me start off by introducing myself. I’m Jimi Russell, the Nashville Predators writer/blogger/PR/web guy. Yes, that’s right, I’m just like “the amazing golf ball whacker guy” in Happy Gilmore. I’ve been tasked with bringing you a behind-the-scenes experience as the team hits the road on a franchise-record tying seven-game road swing. I hope to provide you with in-sight into life on the road through pictures, videos, interviews and anecdotes. And don’t worry, it won’t just be me providing content while we’re away, as Pete Weber, Terry Crisp and Stu Grimson will all share some of their favorite stories from this trip and others throughout their, we’ll call them illustrious, careers.

Back to the task at hand…

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time the Preds have been away from home for seven straight games. They also played seven straight on the road earlier this year from Jan.22-Feb. 5, 2013, and first played seven straight on the road from Oct. 30-Nov. 12, 2002.

As I said in the “Week Ah-Pred” feature on Monday, five of the seven games on this trip come against teams outside of the Central Division – two against the Pacific and three against Eastern Conference teams. So, any points Nashville can garner from outside of the Division are going to be extremely important. But, the games against Colorado and Winnipeg are obviously the most important of the trip.

The trip will last a total of 17 days, the longest stretch away from the Music City in franchise history, and see the team go to Phoenix, Los Angeles, Colorado, Winnipeg, New Jersey, New York (Long Island) and Pittsburgh to wrap things up on Nov. 15.

So... that’s seven flights (including the one we’re on right now), four different time zones, eight different hotels and more than 5,500 miles of air travel. So the next two and a half weeks are sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I just hope I remember what city we’re in each day.

The next time you get to see your beloved Preds at Bridgestone Arena? November 16 against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on “Keep the Red Out” night!

Stay tuned for more blogs from the road.

JR

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POSTED ON Friday, 10.25.2013 / 12:08 AM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

To make it out of the Central Division this season, it is going to take heart, determination and tenacity, and that is exactly what the Nashville Predators showed on Thursday night against Winnipeg.

After a slow start to the first period, Shea Weber’s power-play goal at 15:53 seemed to spark the Predators into action for the final four minutes of the period as they turned up the heat on Ondrej Pavelec. Weber’s power-play marker was the 51st of his career – a franchise best.

Nashville held the lead until the 13:49 mark of the second period, when Anthony Peluso grabbed a rebound, circled the net and tucked the puck under a diving Carter Hutton to tie the game.

Patric Hornqvist tallied his fourth goal of the season – tying his goals total from the 2012-13 campaign – just six minutes into the final frame. Nashville looked as if they were going to pull the win out, but Blake Wheeler walked in unnoticed and a fired a shot past Hutton to once again tie the game. The score held through regulation, as extra time was needed for the second consecutive game at Bridgestone Arena.

After a back-and-forth battle in overtime, David Legwand found Craig Smith open in the slot with 17 seconds remaining, as Smith fired a shot past Pavelec for the win. Smith’s goal was the second-latest overtime winner in franchise history.

Two Big Things and Notes:

Smith Finds His Groove: Smith’s overtime game winner is just the latest in an impressive offensive streak for the third-year forward. His game winner on Thursday was just the second of his career and the first to come in overtime. Smith is tied for the team lead in points (2g-5a), and has posted six points (2g-4a) in his last seven outings. The Madison, Wis., native also leads the team with a +4 rating and ranks second with 34 shots on goal this season. Smith has been Nashville’s most dangerous offensive players through the past seven games – creating scoring chances, going to the hard areas and making the most of his chances. Smith battled through a lot of adversity on Thursday night, including two vicious hits from Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, to etch his name on the scoresheet once again. It seems as Smith goes, the Preds go, and if he continues to play the way he has, things look good along Broadway.

The Young and the Restless: On both of Nashville’s regulation goals tonight, veteran players and rookies teamed up to reach the scoresheet. On Shea Weber’s first-period power-play goal, Filip Forsberg dished the puck to David Legwand before ultimately ending up on Weber’s stick. Forsberg, who was a healthy scratch in Minnesota on Tuesday, continues to impress as he now ranks 12th among first-year players in scoring (1g-3a-4pts). All of Forsberg’s points this season have come on the man-advantage. Legwand, who also recorded his second multi-assist outing of the year with a helper on Smith’s overtime game winner, is tied with Smith for the team points lead (2g-5a-7pts). The Grosse Pointe, Mich., native has four points (4a) in his last four games.

On Hornqvist’s second-period goal, it was another rookie-veteran connection as Seth Jones and Mike Fisher combined to find Hornqvist. Fisher returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a lower-body injury, and recorded his sixth point of the season (2g-4a). Jones has shown time-and-time again this season why he was the top-rated player in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. His helper on Hornqvist’s goal was his fifth point (2g-3a), as he now ranks seventh among rookies in point production this season. The Predators have won every game this season in which Jones has recorded a point.

Team Notes:

Nashville played its second beyond 60 minute game of the season, and now stands at 1-1 in OT/SO. The Predators last won an overtime game on home ice on February 25, 2013 (vs. Dallas).

The Predators penalty kill has been incredibly effective as of late, killing off 22 straight penalties (seven games). The last power-play goal scored against the Preds came on Oct. 10 vs. Toronto.

For the seventh time in 11 games, Nashville put up 30 or more shots.

For the sixth time, Nashville scored first (5-0-1 record).

The Predators are undefeated when scoring a power-play goal (5 wins).

Player Notes:

Goaltender Carter Hutton picked up his second career win. He has now stopped 93 of the 97 shots he has faced this season, good for a .959 save percentage and 1.37 goals-against average.

Patric Hornqvist tied for the lead among skaters with six shots, netting his team-high fourth goal of the season.

Captain Shea Weber’s first-period goal moved him atop the goal-scoring leaderboard among NHL defensemen (3g). Weber added six blocked shots, a season high – he now has four games in 2013-14 with at least four blocks.

Nashville won 39 of 59 face offs, with Matt Cullen (15-of-16) and Paul Gaustad (11-of-14) leading the way.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 10.24.2013 / 2:38 PM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

The Nashville Predators announced today that goaltender Pekka Rinne will undergo arthroscopic hip surgery to determine what may have caused an unexpected infection of his hip.

“When (Pekka) got back to Nashville after the plane ride home, he developed some soreness and stiffness in his hip and had a little bit of a fever,” Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile said. “He came into practice yesterday with a significant limp and was in a fair bit of pain. We sent him to Vanderbilt to see Dr. [J.W. Thomas] Byrd who did the operation five months ago. A series of tests and an MRI determined that he has a spontaneous bacterial infection.”

The infection could not have come at a worse time, considering Rinne played lights-out on Tuesday night in Minnesota, albeit in a losing effort. Rinne is 1-1-1 in his last three outings, allowing one goal in each, and, in his past five starts (3-1-1), the Kempele, Finland native has turned away 120-of-128 shots against to post a 1.60 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.

“I’m not a doctor, but in talking with the doctor, they have no idea how this developed five months after the fact,” Poile said. “He was healed up and had no significant pain or setbacks. Because of the infection, they are going to do a scope of his hip to flush it out and to do the ultimate best they can to remove the infection as soon as possible. Because of the scope, he will be out approximately one month, so that is where we are. I have no other updates on it in terms of more details.”

With Rinne out for at least the next month, in steps Carter Hutton, the solid, yet unproven backup netminder. Hutton has progressed nicely since coming in on July 5, and his work with Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn seems to have paid off this past Sunday, when he defeated the Winnipeg Jets for his first NHL win.

“You’re always prepared to play,” Hutton said. “This is definitely not the way that I want to play – you want to win the job, but that the same time, you always have to be ready.”

To back up Hutton, rookie goaltender Magnus Hellberg has been recalled from Milwaukee. Hellberg, who was selected with the Preds’ first pick (38th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has posted a 1-2-0 record, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in three starts this season for the Admirals. The 6-6, 195-pound netminder is just a season removed from tying for second among AHL goaltenders in shutouts (6), while ranking fourth in goals-against average (2.14) and save percentage (.924).

Only time will tell in regards to how quickly Rinne recovers from this most recent issue and as to how well Hutton plays in his absence. One thing was made certain this morning – Poile and his staff feel confident in their backup plan with one of the League’s top goaltenders out of commission for the foreseeable future.

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POSTED ON Friday, 10.18.2013 / 12:08 AM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

It was another battle for the ages between the Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night, as the two teams went to the shootout for the second time in four games dating back to Jan. 31, 2013.

Matt Cullen got things started for Nashville as he picked up a loose puck just outside Jonathan Quick’s crease and buried it for his first goal in Predators’ gold midway through the first period. But nine minutes later, Slava Voynov would fire home a cross-ice pass from Mike Richards to tie the game at one.

The score would remain tied through regulation and the overtime frame with both Pekka Rinne (29-of-30) and Quick (34-of-35) making save-after-save to earn the game’s Second and Third Star, respectively.

In the shootout, Head Coach Barry Trotz elected to shoot first, sending Craig Smith, who was lights out in the post-overtime tiebreaker a season ago, out for Nashville, but a rolling puck saw him miss on his attempt. After Richards was stopped on his attempt for Los Angeles, Filip Forsberg skated to the center dot for his first career shootout chance. Forsberg showed some nice moves on the approach, but ultimately fired the puck over the net. In the final round, Cullen was stopped by Quick, before Anze Kopitar beat Rinne to secure two points for the Kings.

Two Big Things and Notes:

Smith Came To Play: Craig Smith recorded a point in his third consecutive game with the primary assist on Matt Cullen’s first period goal. The Madison, Wis., native has four points (1g-3a) in his last three outings and is just two games shy of his career-long five-game points streak set during the 2011-12 season. His assist on Thursday night also tied him with Mike Fisher for the team points lead (1g-4a-5pts). Smith has arguably been Nashville’s best forward through the past four games. He has been defensively responsible, while also creating multiple chances in the offensive zone. This is a welcomed sight for Preds fans after Smith’s “sophomore slump” a season ago.

Rinne Improving: After being pulled in the Preds season opener in St. Louis, Pekka Rinne is looking as if he is back to his normal self. Through Nashville’s last three contests, the Kempele, Finland native has turned away 65-of-71 shots against to post a 1.95 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Rinne also became just the second netminder in franchise history to play in 300 games for the Preds on Thursday night. His career goals-against average of 2.37 ranks third among active goalies with at least 300 games played (Martin Brodeur, 2.23; Henrik Lundqvist, 2.26).

Notes:

Nashville outshot Los Angeles 35-30, the fourth game in a row in which the Predators have edged their opponent in this category, and matching the team’s season-best streak from 2012-13 (March 17-23, 2013). Over the last four games, Nashville was won the shot battle by an overall margin of 132-97. Each Nashville skater attempted a shot on goal on Thursday night.

The Predators penalty kill has been perfect (8-for-8) over the last three games.

Nashville has scored first in three straight games (2-0-1 record).

Tonight was the first overtime or shootout game of the Predators’ season.

Through seven games, Nashville is ranked second in faceoff efficiency, winning 56.2 percent of the draws.

With an assist on Matt Cullen’s goal, Gabriel Bourque now has points in consecutive games.

Patric Hornqvist fired a game-high seven shots on goal (tied with LA’s Jeff Carter). Hornqvist's shot total was the highest by a Predator this season.

Defenseman Kevin Klein blocked six shots, a game high. He leads the Predators with 14 blocks on the season.

Shea Weber led all players in ice time, surpassing the 30-minute mark for the first time this season (30:23; previous high of 26:59).

Paul Gaustad won 60 percent of his faceoffs – he has not been below 50 percent in any game this season.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.15.2013 / 11:55 PM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

The Nashville Predators won consecutive games for the first time this season after downing the Florida Panthers, 4-3, in front of the hometown crowd.

Captain Shea Weber tallied his first goal of the season midway through the first period, beating Jacob Markstrom with a booming slap shot from the point. The 1-0 margin would remain through the opening frame.

Last year’s Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau would tie things up just 1:16 into the second frame as he beat Pekka Rinne for his third of the season. Eleven minutes later, Mike Fisher would put the Preds back in front has he buried a feed from Craig Smith and Seth Jones, but the lead was short lived as former Pred Marcel Goc tied things up just 42 seconds later.

The Preds would get goals from Craig Smith at 1:22 – his first goal of the season – and Patric Hornqvist on the power play to open a two-goal margin just over five minutes into the final period, but Florida cut the deficit late in the third with a bad bounce off of Matt Gilroy’s stick. Nashville and Rinne survived a late flurry from the Panthers to hang on for the win.

Two Big Things and Notes:

They Come in Pairs: After Ryan Ellis recorded the Preds first multi-point effort of the season on Saturday night against the New York Islanders, Nashville responded with three multiple point outings on Tuesday. Shea Weber posted his first goal of the season and followed that up with his second assist of the year on Craig Smith’s third period goal. It was Weber’s 54th career multi-point game and his first since April 23, 2013, when he tallied two helpers against Calgary.

Smith also potted his first goal of the season and his third helper of the year en route to being named the game’s First Star. It was his eighth career multi-point game. With his effort on Tuesday, Smith has points in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

With his multiple point effort (1g-1a), Mike Fisher now leads the team in points (2g-3a-5pts) and is tied for the team goals lead (Hornqvist). Tuesday night’s effort was Fisher’s 18th career multi-point outing and his first since April 25, 2013 against Detroit (1g-1a).

Power Play Clicking: After being held without a power-play goal through the first two games of the season, the Preds have recorded four power-play goals in three of their last four outings, and have won each game in which they’ve scored a man-advantage goal. Patric Hornqvist’s game-winning power-play goal on Tuesday night was just the latest in a string of significant man-advantage markers for the Preds this season. Both Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones potted their first career goals on the power play, while Colin Wilson also posted his first goal of the season on the advantage. With Hornqvist’s goal on Tuesday night, the Preds have now moved into the top half of the League in power-play success rate at 22.2 percent (T-12th.)

Notes:

Nashville outshot Florida 15-8 in the third period, and has now outshot their opponent in three straight games (by a total of 97-67).

Nashville was shorthanded a single time, a season low, and has kept the opposition power-play from scoring in two straight games.

Patric Hornqvist scored his second goal in as many games with his first power-play marker of the season. The Swede's 29 power-play goals since the start of the 2009-10 season are the most on the Predators (two goals ahead of captain Shea Weber).

Smith, Hornqvist, Weber, Seth Jones, David Legwand, and Colin Wilson all have points in consecutive games.

Paul Gaustad was again excellent in the faceoff circle, winning 14 of 23 draws (61 percent). Tonight was his fifth game at 60 percent or better. He continues to lead the NHL at 66.9 percent on the season.

Kevin Klein led the Predators in ice time for the first time this season, clocking in at 24:11.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.12.2013 / 11:26 PM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

The Nashville Predators rode timely scoring to a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night inside of a sold out Bridgestone Arena.

After a scoreless first period that saw the Preds hold the Islanders to just four shots on goal, rookie Seth Jones potted his first career NHL goal – a power play goal – just over a minute into the second period. Jones beat Evgeni Nabokov with a slap shot off a feed from David Legwand and Shea Weber - who both recorded their first assists of the season.

The Islanders would tally back-to-back goals for the second night in a row midway through the frame to pull ahead. Then with less than a minute remaining in the second, Patric Hornqvist recorded his first goal of the season, with Colin Wilson and Ryan Ellis picking up the assists, to bookend the second period for the Preds.

Ellis would record his second point of the night as he fired a slap shot past Nabokov at the 3:23 mark of the third frame to put the Preds on top once again. With Matt Hendricks in the box for a four-minute high-sticking call, the Islanders turned up the heat through the third, but the Preds held off the late push to secure the 3-2 victory.

Two Big Things and Notes:

Jones Continues to Impress: With his first career goal, Seth Jones etched his name in the Preds record books as just the fifth teenager to score for the Preds, joining David Legwand, Scott Hartnell, Scottie Upshall and Filip Forsberg. Jones’ goal comes just two games after recording his first NHL point on Filip Forsberg’s first career marker on Tuesday night. In addition to his goal, Jones recorded 21:40 of ice time – leads all rookies in time on ice (23:30) – and three shots on goal on the way to First Star honors. With each game that passes, Jones continues to build confidence and he is quickly maturing into the player all of the pre-draft pundits thought he would be.

Finding Their Mojo: In tonight’s 3-2 victory, several key members of the Preds offense recorded their first points of the season.  Shea Weber tallied his first point of the season as he connected with Seth Jones for the Preds second period power-play goal. Patric Hornqvist, who has been one of Nashville’s most reliable scorers the past five seasons, found the back of the net for the first time late in the middle frame. Ryan Ellis was also able to get the scoring monkey off of his back with a two-point effort (1g-1a) on the night, including the game-winner. It was Ellis’ first point since Feb. 14, 2013, his first multi-point game since Feb. 5, 2013, and first game-winning goal since Feb. 14, 2012.

Notes:

For the first time this season, Nashville scored the game’s first goal. The team was 11-2-5 when striking first last season.

The Predators recorded at least 30 shots on goal for the third time in five games, and have outshot their opponent 67-42 over the last two contests.

After going without a power-play goal in the first two games of the season, the Predators are 3-for-9 in their last three games (33.3 percent).

The NHL’s faceoff leader, Paul Gaustad, continued his winning ways in the circles, going 11-for-15, and improving to 68.4 percent on the year.

Matt Cullen led all skaters with six shots.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.09.2013 / 12:13 AM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

The Nashville Predators picked up their first win of the season against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night on a night of firsts for multiple Preds.

Minnesota opened the scoring just 4:05 into the game with a power-play goal from Zach Parise. Nashville responded with a five-on-three power-play goal of its own just 1:02 later, as rookie Filip Forsberg, fresh off a lower-body injury that held him out of the season’s first two games, buried a rebound past Niklas Backstrom for his first career goal. On the remaining power-play, Colin Wilson tallied his first goal of the season as he rifled a shot past Backstrom less than a minute after Forsberg’s tally. Wilson’s goal gave the Predators their first lead of the young 2013-14 season.

Just past the midway point of the first period, Eric Nystrom was slashed and hauled to the ice on a breakaway, resulting in his first career penalty shot attempt. Nystrom converted the penalty shot for his first goal in a Preds sweater. Niklas Backstrom was injured on the play, so Nystrom faced Josh Harding on the penalty shot attempt. Nystrom’s penalty shot attempt was the Predators first of the season and the ninth in franchise history (previously eight goals on 25 attempts).

Jared Spurgeon would tally another power-play goal for the Wild just 7:26 into the middle frame, but the 3-2 margin would remain at the final buzzer. Pekka Rinne turned aside 32-of-34 shots to record his first win of the season.

Two Big Things and Notes:

Rookies Make an Impact: Filip Forsberg earned First Star of the Game honors after tallying his goal and recording 15:38 of ice-time in his first game of the 2013-14 season. On the back end, Seth Jones led the team in ice-time (25:02) for the second consecutive game. Jones also picked up his first NHL point with the secondary assist on Forsberg goal. With his helper, he became the fourth player from the 2013 Entry Draft to earn a point this season (Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov and Sean Monahan). In addition to his assist, Jones’ night also included six shot on goal and two blocked shots.

Preds Remain Strong on the Dot: Paul Gaustad continued his dominance in the face-off circle, winning 20-of-31 draws (65 percent) on the night. The Portland, Oregon native leads the League in face-off efficiency (71.6 percent) among players who have taken at least 50 draws this season. In addition to Gaustad’s face-off prowess, David Legwand (8 of 12) and Mike Fisher (10 of 17) were also above 50 percent on Tuesday night.

Notes:

Matt Cullen joined in the parade of firsts with an assist on Colin Wilson's goal. It was the first point in a Nashville sweater for Cullen, who played the past three seasons with the Wild.

Rich Clune picked up his first penalty of the season with a fighting major at 2:59, and ended the game with nine penalty minutes total. Clune ranked fifth in the NHL last season with 113 penalty minutes.

Seven different Predators earned a point in the game.

All but three Predators recorded at least one shot on goal.

Nashville outhit Minnesota 25 to 14, and doubled up the Wild on blocked shots, 12 to 6.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 10.05.2013 / 12:15 AM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

The Nashville Predators closed out their season-opening two-game road trip with a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night in the Mile High City.

The Preds got off to a better start than they didn’t against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, but more defensive breakdowns saw the Avs jump out to a 2-0 lead before the Preds finally responded with a goal from Paul Gaustad.

With less than five minutes remaining in the second period, Mike Fisher picked up a pass from Craig Smith and carried it deep into the Colorado zone before he threw the puck to the middle of the ice. Fisher’s centering attempt bounced of an Avalanche player and found its way onto Gaustad’s stick as he shelved a shot over Semyon Varlamov’s shoulder. Gaustad also went an astonishing 16-for-18 (89 percent) in the face-off circle on Friday night.

The Preds continued to keep the pressure on, but penalties kept them fighting an uphill battle through the final 20 minutes. Colorado was able to connect on an open-net goal to finish off Nashville, 3-1.

Three Big Things:

Rinne Returns – After a less than hopeful start to the season, Pekka Rinne rebounded on Friday night, stopping 33 of 35 shots against in the loss. Despite the final score, the Finnsh netminder was back to his usual self. Rinne’s lateral movement looked normal as he made several big saves, including a huge save of an odd-man rush midway through the second period. The goals he did allow came during tough situations for the goalie. The Avs got on the board immediately after a hard collision between Paul Gaustad and Matt Hendricks in the Nashville end. When Gaustad and Hendricks went to the bench, the Preds were caught shorthanded momentarily and the Avs took advantage, jamming a rebound home. The second goal was a seeing-eye puck that found its way through two Avalanche screens and past Rinne. Even in the loss, Friday’s game will hopefully boost Rinne’s confidence heading into the five-game homestand.

Penalty Trouble – After not being assessed a penalty in the opening period, the Preds committed eight penalties through the final two periods for a total of 16 penalty minutes – only 10 of which were shorthanded. Despite spending 10 minutes shorthanded through the final 40 minutes of play, Nashville did not allow a power-play goal against. On Thursday in St. Louis, the penalty kill wasn’t as adept, allowing one goal in just 4:21 of shorthanded time.

Jones vs. MacKinnon – There was a lot of hype heading into Friday night’s game as arguably the two best players in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft faced-off for the first time in their young careers. Jones, coming off a +2 performance in St. Louis, logged a game-high 25:46 of ice time, including 5:55 of shorthanded ice time, and one shot on goal. On the other side, MacKinnon tallied an assist – his third of the season – on P.A. Parenteau’s first period goal. MacKinnon also logged 17:14 of ice time on Friday. Although MacKinnon got the best of Jones in round one, this is going to be an exciting matchup to watch for years to come.

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POSTED ON Friday, 10.04.2013 / 1:14 AM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

The Nashville Predators 2013-14 season didn’t get off the start everyone had hoped for, but there were some positive things to take away from Thursday night’s 4-2 loss in St. Louis.

Pekka Rinne got off to a bumpy start after allowing three goals on St. Louis’ first six shots of the game. Rinne is still recovering from offseason hip surgery, but there were several defensive breakdowns that led to the early goals. A positive to take away from the early breakdown was the play of Carter Hutton in relief of Rinne – see below for my note on Hutton.

The line of Mike Fisher, Nick Spaling and Eric Nystrom was everything Preds fans could have hoped for on Thursday night. They were aggressive, hard on the forecheck and created several decent scoring changes early on. That early chemistry paid off as the trio connect for the first goal of the 2013-14 season. Nystrom battled down low to push the puck to Spaling, who found Fisher wide open in front of the net. Fisher was able to bury the Spaling feed past Jaroslav Halak to cut the Blues lead to 3-1.

David Legwand picked up where in left off in 2012-13, when he led the team with 12 goals, as he tipped a Patric Hornqvist pass over Halak’s shoulder to pull the Preds within one. But the Blues would regain the two goal lead just minutes later on the power play as a shot from Alex Steen trickled past Hutton.

Despite the loss, the Preds showed several positive things, but they also displayed some areas to work on. The offensive was noticeably more active tonight – they were forechecking hard, they were active in front of the net, they put a lot of shots on goal and everyone worked to generate as many scoring chances as possible. On the negative side, the youth along the Preds blueline showed early, although their defensive play did solidified as the game went on. That should be an area of interest for Preds fans going forward in 2013-14.

Two Big Things And Some Notes:

Me and Mr. Jones: Rookie Seth Jones celebrated his 19th birthday by making his NHL debut last night in St. Louis. Jones becomes the first Preds rookie to make his NHL debut in a season opener since Craig Smith in the 2011-12 season. The 6-4, 205-pound defenseman played a total of 18:35 of ice time, including 3:52 on the power play. Jones fired three shots on goal and posted a +2 rating on the night.

Jones looked strong all game long. He was composed under pressure, made smart decisions with the puck and is quickly earning the trust of the coaching staff as evidenced by both his total ice time and power-play time. As I wrote during the preseason, Jones has come as advertised and has done nothing but impress during his short time with the Preds.

Back-Up Plan: Goaltender Carter Hutton was called upon early in the 2013-14 season, after Pekka Rinne allowed three goals on six shots in St. Louis. Hutton, making just his second NHL appearance, allowed one power-play goal on 22 shots against in 50:15 of work after the change. Prior to last night, the Thunder Bay, Ont., native had only played one NHL contest – the final game of last season with Chicago, a 3-1 loss to the Blues.

Some have questioned Hutton’s ability to be a reliable back-up for Pekka Rinne going into this season given his limited NHL experience. He posted a couple up-and-down performances during the preseason, but I think the composure he showed coming on early for Rinne on Thursday night says a lot about Hutton’s character and his skill set. If he continues to post solid outings like he did in St. Louis, fans can rest easy that Hutton will be able to shoulder the limited workload in relief of Rinne.

Notes:

Mike Fisher opened the scoring on the 2013-14 season with his goal at 10:42 of the first period.

David Legwand tallied a goal in a season opener for the fifth time in his career and the first time since Oct. 9, 2010. Legwand led the Predators in goals a season ago with 12.

Paul Gaustad won 12 of 18 face-offs (66.7 percent) on the night. Gaustad led Nashville and ranked third in the League in face-off efficiency a season ago (57.7 percent), his fourth season finishing among the League’s Top 10 in the category.

Shea Weber led the Preds with 26:59 of total ice time. Weber led the team in ice time in 37 of 48 games a season ago and logged more than 25 minutes on 33 occasions. No Preds player logged less than 11 minutes against the Blues.

• Playing alongside Seth Jones, fellow rookie defenseman Mattias Ekholm recorded a +2 rating on the night. Ekholm had posted a -2 rating through his three previous NHL games.

Eric Nystrom’s 10 PIM (a game misconduct penalty) were his most penalty minutes since March 6, 2009 when he posted a career-high 17 minutes as a member of the Flames.

• Nashville outshot St. Louis 30-28. The Predators only outshot their opponents 19 times last season, going 7-9-3 in those contests. Patric Hornqvist and Roman Josi led the Preds with a game-high four shots apiece.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 09.19.2013 / 9:32 AM
By Jimi Russell - Nashville Predators / The Russell Report

Naples, Fla. -- For the second consecutive day, the Nashville Predators took to the ice at Germain Arena in Naples, Fla. Much like the practices in Nashville, the team was divided into three different groups (blue, white and silver), and spent time working on odd-man rushes, two-on-two battles and special teams.

       Pekka Rinne during drills at Germain Arena in Naples, Fla.

Despite playing games on Monday night, Tuesday’s practice had the up-tempo pace that we’ve come to expect from the 2013 Training Camp. Players were put through a series of drills and worked with coaches on the finer points of their respective games. Following practice, the team completed a dry-land workout before heading back to hotel for an afternoon team building meeting.

A random appearance at Tuesday morning’s practice was retired NHL defenseman Brian Rafalski, formerly of the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings. Rafalski, who lives in the Naples area and coaches youth hockey, spent time watching practice and talking with Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton, before visiting with a couple of players.

Wednesday, Sept. 18

Wednesday morning’s session opened as Goaltending Coach Mitch Korn worked to fine tune the games of the eight goalies in camp. The goalie session was short, but mirrored the pace of full practice as the goalies knocked out a series of drills in short order.

     Shea Weber shows off a red snapper during the fishing trip

Two-time Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne has looked sharp while on the ice – making save after save during drills without any evidence of lingering issues or fatigue. Rinne has made a lot of progress since stepping on the ice just a few weeks ago, and according the line-up for tonight’s game in Tampa, the 6-5 Finn will be in net for the first time this preseason.

Once the players finished up on Wednesday, they embarked on an afternoon backwater fishing excursion near Ft. Myers. The three-hour fishing derby consisted of 17 boats with a veteran, a couple of rookies and a local guide each. All boats returned safely to shore, but sunburns were plentiful among the group. Prizes were award in several categories with Mike Fisher’s boat taking home the grand prize for most fish caught with 22. There were rumors of a shark being caught by one of the team’s, but there was no supporting evidence.

Thursday, Sept. 19

This morning’s practice was a light affair compared to the previous two days in Naples. The non-playing group spent an hour on the ice before heading back to the hotel to pack for Tampa. The playing team met with Strength and Conditioning Coach David Good in the hotel’s fitness center for a brief morning workout before heading to lunch and the bus to Tampa.

The Predators take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at 6:30 p.m. CT. Stay tuned to nashvillepredators.com and on Twitter (@PredsNHL) for in-game updates.

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PROMOTIONAL

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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