Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews

Kane and Toews only difference between us and ‘Hawks, says Preds asst. GM


For nearly all of their 15-year existence, the Nashville Predators have lacked a star forward. While brief stints from Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya provided glimpses into what it might look like to employ one, both were closer to the ends of their careers while in Nashville… and neither stayed for very long.

In light of that, it’s interesting to learn some within Preds organization believe a star forward — actually, two star forwards — is the only thing keeping them from competing with the NHL’s elite.

“What is the difference between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks?” assistant GM Paul Fenton asked, per The Tennessean. “To me it’s two players: it’s the first overall pick in Patrick Kane and the third overall pick in Jonathan Toews.”

Fenton is referring to Chicago’s consecutive drafts — Toews in 2006, Kane in 2007 — that reversed the club’s fortunes. Since then, Chicago has won a pair of Stanley Cups and the dynamic duo has emerged as one of the NHL’s best, capturing more championships than Pittsburgh (Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin), Anaheim (Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry) and Detroit (Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk*).

Fenton did acknowledge that, in certain instances, teams had to be pretty bad to become very good. Chicago suffered through some lean years before scoring high enough picks — in the right drafts, no less — and Pittsburgh did much of the same. Nashville’s biggest “problem” is that it hasn’t been bad enough to draft high; the club has just two top-five selections in franchise history and the most recent one, No. 4 overall in 2013, was used to select defenseman Seth Jones.

“If you match up our lineups [with Chicago] from [Kane and Toews] on out, it’s pretty even,” Fenton said. “Sometimes you have to be really bad to get them.”

This year, the Preds once again weren’t bad enough to secure a high pick — they’ll go 11th overall at the ’14 NHL Entry Draft. But given that GM David Poile recently said the club needs to add a “big-time forward,” don’t be surprised if the Preds try to target one in Philly — either with their pick, or via trade.

* Datsyuk has two Stanley Cups, but won his first prior to Zetterberg’s arrival.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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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.