Mattias Ekholm

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WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators



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

P.K. Subban strong candidate for Norris Trophy

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The tug-of-war between perception and reality is one of things that make sports so fascinating.

P.K. Subban stands as one of the most interesting examples in the NHL. Subban’s described as a “flashy” player, and it’s unlikely that he really minds the descriptor. The Nashville Predators star relishes the spotlight, and to delight of non-sticks-in-the-mud, Subban tends to have a plan to entertain when the lights are so bright.

Still, such a demeanor can make people believe that there’s no steak to go with the sizzle.

In Subban’s case, sometimes that means that his defensive strengths go underrated, as the Tennessean’s Adam Vingan reported during All-Star weekend.

“I take pride in the defensive part of the game. … That’s what ultimately won me a job in the NHL,” Subban said. “It wasn’t my offense. I take pride in that, and I just hope that continues. I think people would sound pretty foolish if they continued to try to say that I can’t play defensively.”

Really, though, it’s that combination of strengths that makes Subban worthy of Norris consideration.

After all, as much as he’s turning heads as a shutdown guy, it’s no coincidence that people also can’t help but notice that he’s the Predators’ points leader with 40 points (matching his total from 2016-17, his debut with Nashville), and that he already has 13 goals, two shy of his career-high. And we’re barely in February.

[John Klingberg is making an argument of his own.]

Gaining trust

Subban’s defensive brilliance isn’t merely anecdotal; you can see Peter Laviolette’s trust build in the star in a variety of ways.

After spending at least 50 percent of his zone starts in the offensive zone during the end of his Canadiens days, he’s seeing more and more of a defensive burden, beginning a career-high of 59 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone this season (via Hockey Reference).

That memorable run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final likely won over some doubters, as Subban made life miserable for big names like Jonathan Toews.

One wonders how much of the Subban-related misconceptions come down to mistakes by the Montreal Canadiens. Simply put, some might find it difficult to shake memories of the way Michel Therrien used Subban at times; during the 2013-14 season, Subban averaged just 20 seconds of shorthanded time per game.

Perhaps some of his work in Nashville gets lost in the shuffle a bit simply because he’s part of a great defensive corps? Subban’s now killing almost three minutes of power-play time per night, yet he’s a little behind Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, who also log similar overall ice time to P.K.

A wide-open race

Subban’s 13 goals and 40 points in 50 games should impress, but when it comes to the Norris voting, he’ll be in tough. With Erik Karlsson downgrading from Superman to Batman this season, others might have a chance, and Subban has John Klingberg to contend with when it comes to voters who eyeball scoring.

As you can see from this fairly recent comparison, Klingberg can probably relate to Subban in feeling stung by assumptions about merely being a scoring threat:


There’s no shame in falling just short of a Norris Trophy, especially since Subban already has one on his resume from the 2012-13 season. The real shame, then, would be to ignore just how fantastic Subban has become as an all-around talent.

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

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators




Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarTyler Toffoli

Tanner PearsonAdrian KempeDustin Brown

Kyle CliffordTorrey MitchellTrevor Lewis

Marian GaborikNick ShoreAndy Andreoff

Kevin GravelDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

Derek ForbortChristian Folin

Starting, returning goalie: Jonathan Quick

[Preview for Kings – Predators]

Nashville Predators

Filip Forsberg (he’s back!) — Ryan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Scott HartnellKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Kevin FialaNick BoninoCalle Jarnkrok

Miikka SalomakiColton SissonsAustin Watson

Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Alexei EmelinP.K. Subban

Mattias EkholmYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators

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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

Ryan Ellis hasn’t missed a beat for Predators


For much of this season, people have been wondering how much higher the Nashville Predators’ ceiling might be with a healthy Ryan Ellis. Of course, we’ve seen plenty of instances in which a player comes back, but isn’t quite himself for a while, especially when a knee injury is involved.

It’s early, yet through six games, it looks like Ryan Ellis is … indeed, Ryan Ellis.

Last night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Coyotes was maybe the strongest statement so far in that regard, as Ellis scored a goal and an assist, bumping his season totals up to four points in six games.

In the process, he’s impressed his teammates and coaches, as Brooks Bratten of the team website reports.

That said, the best is yet to come, if you as head coach Peter Laviolette.

“He’s catching a moving train,” Laviolette said. “I’m sure he’d tell you he feels good. Every time we talk to him he says he feels good, but I think his game will continue to get better as he plays more and gets more ice time.”

You can see that Laviolette’s confidence is increasing in Ellis being Ellis by checking his game log. In his first three games back from injury, Ellis received 18:43 or less in time on ice. In the past three games, he’s received at least 21 minutes of ice time, with last night’s 22:33 representing a season high.

So far, Ellis’ possession stats are where you’d like to see them, another heartening sign that he can help Nashville much like he did before: on both ends of the ice.

There’s still an element of being eased into the mix, mind you. Through his first six games, Ellis began 61.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, a huge bump from last season’s 47.7 percent and his career average of 52.1 (via Hockey Reference).

It should be fascinating to see how Ellis’ deployment tracks through this season. If Laviolette feels like he needs to be sheltered a bit all throughout 2017-18, it might not be such a bad thing, as P.K. Subban is putting up Norris-worthy all-around numbers, Mattias Ekholm is trusty in his own zone, and Roman Josi might benefit from an offensive-minded deployment himself.

Few teams enjoy the sort of luxuries the Predators enjoy on defense, at least when Ellis is available.

Even with their top line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg all somewhere between banged-up and actually injured, the Predators are currently on a four-game winning streak and play five of their next six games in Nashville.

Things are looking up for this Predators team, as they’re in a strong position to take the Central Division, and just seem to get stronger as each month goes along.

If Ryan Ellis being Ryan Ellis is legit instead of being a mirage, then the rest of the NHL better beware.

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