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Team First Approach Keeps PK Unit In Top Form

Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 3:37 PM CT / Features
By Bryan Mullen
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Team First Approach Keeps PK Unit In Top Form
The Nashville Predators have overhauled their roster over the last year; eight of the 18 skaters to see the ice during Monday night's game at Edmonton were not on the Preds NHL roster 12 months ago. The infusion of young skilled players has created a buzz about the team. It has also created a little bit of a learning curve as the coaches find the combinations that click best.

However, one thing has remained the same. The Preds penalty kill remains one of the elite units in the league. When  penalty kill regulars Marcel Goc, Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward did not return this season, some surmised that the PK would struggle. Last regular season, the Predators were fifth in the league (84.9%); through the first five games this season, Nashville has killed off 86.4% of its PK opportunities. Young forwards like Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk have taken more of a leadership role on the penalty kill, while guys like Blake Geoffrion and Cal O'Reilly -- both normally associated for the offensive prowess -- have bought in to the nuances of shorthanded play.

“It’s something that I try to continue to improve on,” Spaling said. “I think it’s an important part of our game right now, and the kill is going well. But it hasn’t been tested a lot and there’s a long way to go. We have some things that we’re going over in practices.”

Geoffrion has also spent plenty of time of the PK, going to back to last season when he was with Milwaukee.

“In college, he was a pretty good faceoff guy,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said of Geoffrion. “He was a penalty killer, shot-blocking player. It is sort of the role Jerred Smithson is in, a top faceoff guy and penalty killer. His game evolved into the offensive part in college. He has pretty good instincts for the game and a pretty good stick. He’s not afraid to block a shot.”

“Obviously the No. 1 thing on your penalty kill is goaltending,” Predators Captain Shea Weber said. “And Pekka (Rinne) has been great. He is one of the best, if not the best in the league. Then you have your character guys who kill penalties. They work as hard as anyone. I think we’re able to go two or three units and just roll them 30 seconds at a time to stay fresh.”

Rinne has been stellar, and not just when opponents have been on the power play. Entering Tuesday night, he has made an NHL-high 150 saves and no goaltender has logged more minutes (303:34). With that, Rinne has still managed to be ranked No. 17 in save percentage (.926).

With Francis Bouillon, Martin Erat and Mike Fisher all preparing to re-join the lineup, the penalty kill stands to get three additional weapons to work into the mix.

SMASHVILLE CENTRAL

SCHEDULE
 

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 55 35 16 4 153 127 74
2 DAL 52 33 14 5 169 137 71
3 STL 54 29 17 8 128 128 66
4 LAK 51 31 17 3 135 117 65
5 SJS 50 27 19 4 145 132 58
6 COL 54 27 23 4 146 148 58
7 ANA 50 25 18 7 111 115 57
8 NSH 52 24 20 8 130 137 56
9 MIN 51 23 19 9 126 122 55
10 ARI 52 24 22 6 138 161 54
11 VAN 51 20 19 12 119 138 52
12 CGY 50 22 25 3 130 147 47
13 WPG 51 22 26 3 132 148 47
14 EDM 52 21 26 5 130 151 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Josi 52 10 27 -4 37
S. Weber 52 13 20 -6 33
J. Neal 52 18 13 16 31
M. Ribeiro 52 6 25 1 31
F. Forsberg 52 14 16 -9 30
M. Ekholm 52 6 16 1 22
R. Ellis 51 6 15 0 21
C. Smith 52 11 6 -1 17
C. Wilson 36 4 12 0 16
C. Jarnkrok 51 8 7 -3 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 19 17 7 .903 2.51
C. Hutton 5 2 1 .916 2.36