Juuse Saros

Full strength: Predators punish Kings

Fans of opposing teams might have been getting tired of the refrain: “Wait until the Nashville Predators get to full strength.”

It’s a response that could have come when Ryan Ellis was out, and then for January, when Filip Forsberg was not in the lineup.

Such comments felt more reasonable on Thursday, as the most-loaded-yet version of the Nashville Predators absolutely steamrolled the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 in Forsberg’s return to the lineup.

Nashville built a 3-0 lead through the first period, even with Ryan Johansen‘s would-be opening goal being disallowed. The Kings were unable to break through against Pekka Rinne, allowing the Predators to add an additional goal in each of the second and third periods for an impressive win.

Forsberg, Johansen & Co. treated a rowdy “Smashville” crowd to quite a performance. Forsberg scored a goal and an assist while Johansen piled up three helpers, rendering that disallowed goal a distant memory.

Rinne only needed to make 19 saves for his fifth shutout and 25th win of 2017-18. He’s quietly been one of the main reasons Nashville’s been able to weather injuries to the likes of Ellis and Forsberg, while backup Juuse Saros gives this team a formidable duo in net.

Such a victory puts the Predators in a strong position to win the Central Division. While their 67 standings points trail the Central-leading Jets’ 69, Nashville has played three fewer games than Winnipeg.

The Kings are in a rugged battle for positioning in the Western Conference’s bubble races, so it’s not as though there was little on the line for L.A. Maybe it was as simple as a fearsome team flexing its muscles in this one?

A lot of things can change in the two months remaining in the regular season, but as of today, the Predators look like they’ll be a force in the West once again.

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

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators

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WATCH LIVE AT 8 P.M. ET

Projected lineups

Chicago Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincatJonathan ToewsAnthony Duclair

Brandon SaadNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Ryan HartmanArtem AnisimovTommy Wingels

Vinnie HinostrozaDavid KampfTomas Jurco

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Anton Forsberg

NHL on NBCSN: Preds look to deliver blow to Blackhawks’ playoff chances

Nashville Predators

Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Scott HartnellKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Kevin FialaNick BoninoCalle Jarnkrok

Miikka SalomakiColton SissonsAustin Watson

Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Alexei EmelinP.K. Subban

Mattias EkholmMatt Irwin

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

PHT Morning Skate: Devils prospect named captain of U.S World Junior squad

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Team Canada made their final cuts over the weekend for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo. The roster is now set. (Hockey Canada)

• Despite what Eugene Melnyk has been saying, Bill Daly made it clear that the Sens aren’t going anywhere. (Ottawa Citizen)

• During Saturday’s NHL 100 Classic in Ottawa, the league announced their top moment in history. The honor went to Mario Lemieux’s unforgettable five-goal performance. (NHL.com)

• The Capitals came out with “Capitals Tunes: Volume 2”. If you’re a fan of good holiday music, you might not want to listen. (DC Puck Drop)

• Check out these stories from the NHL’s inaugural season which took place 100 years ago. (Sporting News)

• Joel Lundqvist isn’t as well known as his brother Henrik, but hockey has treated both of them pretty well. (Sportsnet)

Pekka Rinne is proud of the way Preds backup and fellow Finn Juuse Saros has performed. (Tennessean)

• There is no team that’s more Jekyll and Hyde than the Dallas Stars. (Black Out Dallas)

• Everybody loves a goalie fight, right? Well, there was one in the AHL this weekend as Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington dropped the gloves/blocker. (Chocolate Hockey)

• The Red Wings auctioned off “Al the Octopus” over the weekend. They managed to get $7,700 for it. (Detroit Free Press)

• Former NHLer Matt Johnson is missing, and a man from North Dakota went looking for him. (Grand Forks Herald)

• It’s not easy for the Tampa Bay Lightning to replace a “heart and soul” guy like Ryan Callahan. (Tampa Times)

• It took a little bit of time, but Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich‘s English has come a long way. (Sports Illustrated)

• Since returning from an injury in early December, things have been tough for Bruins winger Anders Bjork. (Bruins Daily)

• The Coyotes’ upcoming schedule is like a trip down memory lane for head coach Rick Tocchet. (Arizona Sports 98.7 FM)

• The Winnipeg Jets have star players that have helped carry them this season, but it’s the solid performances from unexpected contributors that has made the difference. (Fan Rag Sports)

• Sweden seems to have figured out the right way to develop their talented young hockey players. (Elite Prospects)

• Tough break for the San Jose Sharks, as they’ll be without Logan Couture (concussion) on Monday. (Mercury News)

• Devils prospect Joey Anderson was named captain of Team USA’s World Junior team. (USA Hockey)

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

The Buzzer: Saros, streaks, shutouts

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Player of the Night: Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

You can criticize the Edmonton Oilers for taking too many perimeter shots and/or having their defensemen fire the puck far too often, and you’d probably have a point.

Still, on nights like these, you also have to acknowledge that the Oilers have also run into some tough luck and even tougher goalies. When it came to Thursday, Saros was that tough goalie, and he reminded the NHL that’s he capable of being more than “just a backup.”

The Finnish goalie set a new Predators record by making 46 saves for a shutout, collecting the second goose egg of his blossoming career.

The Predators (specifically Kyle Turris‘ new second line, which might need to be called a 1B line at this rate) are on a roll, beating Edmonton 4-0 to grab at least one point (7-1-2) in nine of their last 10 games.

Highlights of the Night

Nice play finished by Patrick Kane, as the Blackhawks cooled the Jets:

Jakub Vrana‘s goal was pretty sweet, and a taste of the Capitals’ recent dominance of the Bruins.

Josh Bailey‘s hat trick is worth watching here, even if it wasn’t enough to propel the Islanders to a win against the Blue Jackets.

Scary moment

Here’s hoping that Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ryan Callahan are OK:

The Lightning kept their hot streak going with a W over the Coyotes.

Factoids

Brayden Point gets the Lightning their … well, you probably know. Their points.

The Wild are picking it up, and it’s not just the power of Bruce Boudreau. Probably.

The Flyers are weird, and so is hockey.

Scores

Capitals 5, Bruins 3
Flyers 2, Sabres 1
Blue Jackets 6, Islanders 4
Canadiens 2, Devils 1 (OT)
Ducks 3, Blues 1
Wild 2, Maple Leafs 0
Blackhawks 5, Jets 1
Avalanche 2, Panthers 1
Sharks 3, Flames 2
Predators 4, Oilers 0
Lightning 4, Coyotes 1
Golden Knights 2, Penguins 1

The Buzzer: Shootouts, apologies and Rangers rolling at MSG

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Players of the Night:

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: Lundqvist stopped 29 of the Vancouver Canucks’ 32 shots to win his fifth-straight game and 12th of the season. He’s tied for fourth in wins and has won 11 of his past 14 starts.

Jimmy Vesey, New York Rangers: Vesey scored the tying goal in the third period and then scored in the seventh round of the shootout to help give the Rangers a 4-3 win against the Canucks.

Victor Rask, Carolina Hurricanes: Rask ended an eight-game point-less drought with a goal and an assist in a 4-3 shootout win against the Nashville Predators. The Hurricanes snapped the Predators four-game winning streak and are 6-3-1 in their past 10 games.

Highlight of the Night: Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen took the puck to his backhand and popped it up and over a sprawling Juuse Saros for the shootout winner.

MISC:

On this day in 1917, the National Hockey League was founded in Montreal.

• The Anaheim Ducks apologized on Sunday after they posted an “insensitive” video on their Twitter featuring a naked Ryan Kesler.

Justin Williams did his best to keep his praise of Joakim Nordstrom’s blocked shots in overtime G-rated after Sunday’s game. Nordstrom block two bombs off the stick of P.K. Subban seven seconds apart with under 90 seconds remaining

• The Rangers matched the Vegas Golden Knights for the longest home-winning streak this season at eight games.

Ryan Strome scored for the first time in five games to snap the Boston Bruins four-game winning streak in a 4-2 win for the Edmonton Oilers.

David Pastrnak scored his 12th goal of the season for the Bruins, moving him into a tie for sixth in NHL goal-scoring.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:

Rangers 4, Canucks 3 (SO)
Hurricanes 4, Predators 3 (SO)
Oilers 4, Bruins 2

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