Calle Jarnkrok

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Lightning, Predators should take advantage of opportunity to rest players


The Nashville Predators announced on Thursday afternoon that forward Calle Jarnkrok will be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season due to an upper-body injury.

Given that Jarnkrok has 16 goals and 35 total points in 68 games this season it is not an insignificant injury for the Predators. But as long as he is back for the start of the playoffs it really is not going to be all that damaging of a blow because of their current place in the standings.

As of Thursday they are in first place in the Central Division (eight points ahead of the second-place Jets)  and five points ahead of Vegas for the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. Barring a major collapse down the stretch they should be in a pretty good position to wrap up both spots.

All of that brings us to something teams like the Predators — who have been doing this already — and Tampa Bay Lightning should consider down the stretch run of the regular season: Giving some of their key players an occasional night off.

This is taking a page out of the NBA playbook, but NHL teams that are pretty secure in their playoff spot should do it a lot more often. The NHL season (including regular season and playoffs) is an intense physical and mental grind, and lot of times the playoffs don’t just come down to the best team, they come down to the healthiest team.

Nashville is a team that has already played a ton of hockey the past two seasons given its run to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago and it doesn’t exactly have a light schedule coming up down the stretch.

Eight of their remaining 13 games are on the road.

They have two sets of back-to-back remaining.

Along with that, they have a couple of stretches where they play four games in six nights.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

That is a lot of hockey down where they don’t really have a ton to gain. What would it hurt to sit a different key player or two each game during those stretches? Just to keep their legs fresh, maybe reduce even a little bit of the wear and tear that goes along with the grind of playing in the NHL. It is a given that starting goalie Pekka Rinne will sit on those back-to-back nights and probably a few more games here and there.

But it does not have to stop there. Pick one night, give P.K. Subban the night off. Do the same for Filip Forsberg on the next night. Will it make a huge difference in the end? Probably not, but it can’t hurt, either, especially when there is very little to gain in the standings.

Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay, there’s already been talk about fatigue setting in for starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, going through his first full season as a No. 1 goalie and the Lightning have tried to schedule some spots where he can get some additional rest. As good as the rest of the Lightning roster is it is going to need a healthy and productive Vasilevskiy in the playoffs if it is going to go on a deep postseason run.

Tampa Bay’s schedule isn’t quite as grueling as Nashville’s down the stretch in terms of travel, but it still has a four-game-in-seven-night stretch at the end of the month and three more sets of back-to-backs. There is no reason that a player like Victor Hedman, for example, should be playing 26 minutes a night in all of those back-to-backs.

When it comes to the subject of rest there is always a bit of controversy that goes with it because fans pay a ton of money for tickets and expect to see star players in action. If you buy a ticket to a Lightning game you want to see Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Vasilevskiy on the ice playing at their best. But the team’s biggest obligation to the fan base is to put itself in the best possible position to win a championship. Hockey is probably the last sport this sort of strategy would be widely implemented (“resting” players seems to run counter to the grind it out, we’re tougher than you mindset the sport likes to sell), but it’s probably the sport where it would make the most sense given the length of the season and the physical nature of the games.

If giving a couple of star players an occasional night off down the stretch for a regular season game that probably does not have a ton of importance in the standings helps improve those chances even a little bit, it is something that is worth considering.


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Galchenyuk, MacKinnon shine; Hall’s streak hits 24 games


Players of the Night:

Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: Galchenyuk went into Friday’s game with no goals in his last 15 games. He managed to score not one, not two, but three goals against the Islanders. He also registered a primary assist on Brendan Gallagher‘s first-period goal. That’s one way to celebrate your 400th career game.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: It seemed impossible to top Galchenyuk’s night, but MacKinnon found a way to do it. The Avs forward picked up two goals and three assists against Minnesota. Since returning from an upper-body injury on Feb. 18, he’s accumulated 15 points in seven games.

Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche: Rantanen “only” had four points tonight, as he scored a goal and three assists against the Wild. If you haven’t figured it out already, the Avalanche scored seven times in Friday’s win. Touchdown!

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: Someone forgot to tell Lundqvist that the Rangers are rebuilding. For the second game in a row, King Henrik has turned aside 50 shots in a Rangers win. Oh, he also turned 36 years old on Friday.

Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets: Laine scored two more goals in Friday night’s win over the Red Wings. The 19-year-old is now riding a seven-game point streak. What’s even more impressive, is that he’s put together six multi-point efforts in his last seven outings.

Highlights of the Night:

Yea, Mikael Backlund is going to see Lundqvist in his nightmares tonight:

It wasn’t the most amazing goal you’ll ever see, but Taylor Hall has at least one point in each of his last 24 games:

Four Red Wings surrounding Laine? No problem:

Mike Fisher scored in his first game of the season:

A wicked release by MacKinnon:

Calle Jarnkrok in OT:

Factoids of the Night: 

The Islanders still can’t keep the puck out of the net:

Lundqvist has been pretty busy over the last two games:

Another mention for Laine:

Hall is in some elite company:


Canadiens 6, Islanders 3

Panthers 4, Sabres 1

Hurricanes 3, Devils 1

Jets 4, Red Wings 3

Avalanche 7, Wild 1

Rangers 3, Flames 1

Predators 4, Canucks 3 (OT)

Senators 5, Golden Knights 4

Ducks 4, Blue Jackets 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

How will Mike Fisher fit back in with Predators?

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If you’re a fan of the Nashville Predators, you’ve probably been wondering if Mike Fisher can return from retirement and still be as effective as he was last season. Maybe you wonder if he’ll take minutes from a younger player with more to offer at this point, whether it be Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, Calle Jarnkrok now or Eeli Tolvanen later.

One cannot help but wonder if Peter Laviolette will tire of being asked if Fisher is in or out of the lineup once the playoffs kick into gear.

Friday won’t answer those questions, although we’ll at least get a look at Fisher as he makes his 2017-18 debut for the Predators, who close out a back-to-back set. They rallied from down two goals to beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 last night, and they turn around to face the Vancouver Canucks tonight.

Really, back-to-backs rank as no-brainer situations for Fisher. Going further, maybe you rest the veteran one night, then give someone a break by lining him up the other?

There’s also the unfortunately real possibility that injuries could always silence the debate, whether it be Fisher getting hurt or the attrition of the postseason limiting Laviolette’s options. Still, at the moment, it’s not that easy to decide who to bump from the lineup for the veteran forward. Especially if he must be at center in any situation.

[Predators bolster center depth with Fisher signing]

We haven’t gotten word about Fisher’s linemates just yet, but take a look at Nashville’s previous alignments, via Left Wing Lock:

Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenRyan Hartman
Kevin FialaKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Scott HartnellNick Bonino — Calle Jarnkrok
Austin Watson — Colton Sissons — Viktor Arvidsson

That’s already a pretty deep lineup, with Jarnkrok, Watson, and Sissons coming to mind as possible scratches. Scott Hartnell could probably sit for a night or two, depending upon different alignments.

Even so, Hartman’s addition already caused some shockwaves. Even if Arvidsson isn’t long for the fourth line – or maybe you consider that Nashville’s third line – it’s jarring to see him outside of the top six. This also serves as another reminder that this Predators team has seen a lot of changes during these trade-happy years for GM David Poile.

For what it’s worth, the team and Fisher are saying the right things. Let’s note Laviolette’s comments, because his opening sentence (via the team website) is “very hockey.”

“Mike is another horse in the stable in there,” Laviolette said. “He brings character and leadership, and I think everybody knows the way he plays. This wasn’t a move out of desperation where we needed this, our team was moving along, but we also know Mike’s strengths and we know what he’s able to do on the ice. We know the person he is, and though conversations, it evolved to this point where it’s getting closer Mike plays … I think everybody’s excited about that and we’re happy to have him.”

Now, when you hear people praise Fisher, it’s easy to get bogged down in vague talk about “leadership” and “intangibles.”

Sometimes such language feels like a smokescreen for a limited player who brings little more to the table than grit. Maybe that’s what Fisher will be at 37 (turning 38 on June 5), but it’s worth mentioning that he really did end things on a solid note in 2016-17.

Fisher scored 18 goals and 42 points in 72 regular-season games. His 54.9 faceoff winning percentage might get excessive praise in some quarters, yet that’s actually a decent plus considering Nashville’s merely giving him $1 million prorated and devoting a roster spot to him (rather than having to spend assets on a veteran in a trade). His possession stats were acceptable, too, especially considering heavy defensive usage.

Things went sideways during the playoffs, when Fisher failed to score a goal and generated four assists in 20 postseason games despite logging 17:17 minutes per night. Then again, with forwards like Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala eventually injured, the Preds didn’t possess the same depth that they do now.

Situations like those might be the key, then. If Fisher flounders in important moments – which, again, would be quite understandable – will Laviolette be able to sit the veteran down for a game or more, even after the team asked him to come back? Considering the wealth of talent on hand even if Tolvanen doesn’t come to the team after his KHL season ends, that could provide quite the conflict.

That said, it’s not that difficult to imagine Fisher pushing an already-impressive Predators team over the top by providing them with jaw-dropping depth and useful minutes on the PK.

It should be an interesting dynamic to witness, starting with tonight’s game against the Canucks.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Predators make Mike Fisher signing official, bolster center depth

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Nearly a month after his surprise return, the Nashville Predators officially announced that Mike Fisher has a signed a deal for the remainder of the season with a pro-rated $1 million salary.

The 37-year-old Fisher retired over the summer after 17 seasons in the NHL to spend more time with his family. When he decided to make a return he needed to sign a contract with the Predators by Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline in order to be eligible for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I really didn’t think I was going to do it, to be honest,” Fisher said during the press conference last month announcing his return. “It was pretty much a no, but as it got closer and then I had some other conversations, that turned (into) a yes.”

Fisher never stopped watching Predators games while enjoying retirement and that’s when he started getting the itch. His wife, singer Carrie Underwood, kept asking him what he was going to do. “She wanted me to do it. She’s usually right,” he said.

This acquisiton at the trade deadline gives the Predators more depth down the middle. There’s Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok all being options for Peter Laviolette at center, with possibilities for the wing as well. They saw how important it is to have capable bodies in that position during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

“I just thought about the opportunity, how good this team is,” Fisher said. “Thought a lot about the run last year and what could be. … The closer I got towards it, the (more) I thought it would be such a great opportunity. … I’m ready for it.”

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

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St. Louis Blues


Ivan BarbashevPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennVladimir Sobotka

Alexander SteenPatrik BerglundNikita Soshnikov

Scottie UpshallKyle BrodziakDmitrij Jaskin


Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo

Jay BouwmeesterColton Parayko

Vince DunnJordan Schmaltz

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

Nashville Predators


Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Kevin FialaKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Scott HartnellNick BoninoCalle Jarnkrok

Miikka SalomakiColton SissonsAustin Watson


Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban

Alexei EmelinYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck