Nashville Predators hope to court jilted Atlanta Thrashers fans


One of the big reasons that an NHL team could conceivably work in Seattle, Washington is because it is such a short driving distance from Vancouver. The team would probably benefit from overflow from hockey fans who couldn’t get tickets to Canucks games.

While the distance is quite a bit further between Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee, it’s still a fairly reasonable 249 miles or about a four hour drive (according to Rand McNally). That might not be a convenient distance for a back-and-forth trip during the week, but perhaps hockey-hungry Atlanta residents might opt to make that trip during the weekend or on holidays?

Whatever the case, the Nashville Predators are trying to seize a solid opportunity to sell some extra tickets by courting jilted Thrashers fans. The Nashville Post reports that the Predators are still waiting on the Board of Governors’ vote to approve the Thrashers’ relocation, which is largely considered a formality. The Predators are hoping to sell a package of four to seven games, which focus on weekend contests. What might be most interesting, though, is that Predators games might actually replace Thrashers ones in the Atlanta market.

Parker said the package geared towards Atlantans will be between four and seven games, predominantly on the weekend and spread throughout the season.

“If we can play the former Thrashers, that’s a more appealing stand alone option. … We’d like to work with CVB for a package to make it a weekend. It’s four hours and 5 million people. You’d only need to obtain a sliver,” he said.

Rumors have also circulated that Fox Sports is looking to broadcast Nashville or Carolina Hurricanes games in the Atlanta market next season. Both Henry and Parker said the talk is premature with the BoG vote still pending, but that it’s an opportunity they’d clearly like to take advantage of, given that Atlanta’s large metropolitan area provides access to both a large fan base and a sponsor base. Henry noted that Fox is going to have a sports programming hole in a major media market that needs to be filled.

“If the move is approved by the Board of Governors, I assume there’s a big void of coverage. You are moving from 82 games to none, from 300 hours of coverage to zero, and I’m assuming there’s going to be hockey [on Atlanta television],” he said.

Could the Predators expand their swath even slightly into the Atlanta market? That remains to be seen, but they’re absolutely wise to give it a shot.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.