James O'Brien

Arizona Coyotes' Tobias Rieder (8) celebrates his first goal during the third period against Nashville Predators' Carter Hutton, left, with teammates Martin Hanzal (11) and Zbynek Michalek (4) in an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. Rieder scored two goals in the third period, and the Coyotes defeated the Predators 4-0. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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Predators should probably be more concerned about goaltending

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The Nashville Predators’ recent play has been worrisome, and the splashy trade to land Ryan Johansen hasn’t steered them back on a winning path.

Saturday represented another troubling loss, as the Predators dropped their third straight game (and fifth loss in six games) in humbling fashion. The Arizona Coyotes beat them 4-0, culminating with a salt-in-the-wounds goal by Anthony Duclair.

In fact, that defeat bumped Nashville out of the West’s playoff mix as of last night.

The Tennessean’s Adam Vingan caught up with multiple members of the team who recognized a problem … though specifics were scarce.

(More here.)

Perhaps they’re not willing to confront their most glaring problem, though?

The elephant in the room

When you look at the Predators’ possession stats, they don’t really strike you as a “bad team.”

They may be a team suffering from bad luck, with bottom-third numbers in shooting and save percentages, giving them a low “PDO.”

Johansen and simple bounces may help the shooting side … but what about Pekka Rinne‘s failings, and the shortcomings of Nashville’s goaltending in general?

Rinne wasn’t in net last night, but the team uses him like a workhorse, making his struggles that much more glaring. His record isn’t very good (16-13-6, leaving among the NHL’s biggest losers) and his .906 save percentage falls in the “bad backup” range.

It makes sense to stick with a $7 million guy, especially since the team doesn’t seem to have much trust in Carter Hutton, but maybe GM David Poile should try to work the phones for a better second goalie option?

Ultimately, the Predators’ biggest concern might just be their lack of concern in net.

That said, feel free to float other hypotheses in the comments.

Here’s what Lightning reportedly want for Drouin (Hint: not Shattenkirk)

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Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said what you’d expect about trading (or not trading) Jonathan Drouin, but really, what would it take to pry that promising player away?

Well, we can narrow it down in one way: not a piece like St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, as had been rumored before.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman laid out the blueprint for landing Drouin during Saturday’s Headlines segment: the Lightning want “young for young.”

More precisely, Friedman notes that the Lightning want a young player whose contract they can control. That’s why Robby Fabbri‘s name is coming up, according to Friedman.

(Again, check out the full segment here.)

It’s easy to see why this is the asking price, with an emphasis on price. While Shattenkirk is quite the steal at a $4.25 million cap hit, the Lightning need to save every nickle and dime to re-sign the likes of Steven Stamkos, not to mention other prominent players who are only a season or two away from expiring contracts.

That’s all pretty reasonable, yet it’s specific enough that it might be a trickier asking price for some teams, especially if Yzerman is picky about the type of prospect he’d take in return.

Speaking of Shattenkirk: Friedman notes that the Blues are getting calls about Shattenkirk now that his name surfaced in rumors, and he was possibly being floated for Ryan Johansen.

Really, that could be just as interesting to watch as Drouin trade scuttlebutt, at least if St. Louis is truly serious about moving its underrated scoring blueliner.

Blues break losing streak, overcome questionable McNabb hit

St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera, top, of Finland, tangles with Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik, of Slovakia, during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP
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It hasn’t always been pretty, but the St. Louis Blues are doing what they need to do to survive in the modern NHL.

The standings points are coming even when style points are in low supply. The Blues broke a five-game losing streak on Saturday by edging the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 via a shootout, yet it wasn’t really the type of win you’d do a ton of gloating about.

They couldn’t take advantage of a major penalty stemming from this questionable hit by Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb on Magnus Paajarvi:

That late advantage wasn’t what propelled the Blues to victory, at least directly. St. Louis only managed 16 shots on goal, too, even with a full overtime period thrown in.

As many negatives seem to stack up, the bigger picture is of a team that’s finding ways to stick with it. Injuries have been a season-long issue, and that continued with Jake Allen and Jay Bouwmeester being out of the mix.

Even their losing streak featured traces of resiliency, as St. Louis generated three standings points from those five losses. With other Central Division teams not named the Chicago Blackhawks struggling lately, give the Blues some credit for rolling with the punches.

Now they get a few days to shake off this tough stretch; they begin a four-game homestand on Tuesday.

Maybe they’ll manage a few more impressive moments then?

(H/T to The Score.)

Pens stay hot as Fleury spurns Canadiens

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MONTREAL (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots, Bryan Rust scored his first goal of the season to put Pittsburgh ahead in the second period, and the Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 Saturday night.

Patric Hornqvist and Eric Fehr also scored for the Penguins, who are 3-1-2 in their last six games.

P.K. Subban scored for Montreal and Mike Condon, playing for the injured Carey Price, finished with 29 saves. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien announced Friday that Price would not play until after the All-Star break.

Subban tied the score with 9:21 left in the second period with his second of the season – and first in 34 games – on a one-timer from the point.

Rust put the Penguins in front for good, beating Condon top shelf on a breakaway with his second career goal about 3 1/2 minutes later.

Fehr added a short-handed empty-netter with 10 seconds left in regulation.

Montreal has not won consecutive games since late November.

The Penguins were all over the Canadiens for much of the game, beating them to loose pucks and applying constant pressure on the puck carrier.

With Torrey Mitchell in the box for high sticking in the second, Hornqvist eluded Montreal’s defense and slotted home his ninth of the season from the edge of the crease at 7:18 to make it 1-0.

Evgeni Malkin got an assist on the goal, his ninth point in his last six games.

Pittsburgh’s power play, ranked 15th overall in the NHL, has been dominant over the last four weeks, scoring 11 goals in their last 10 games.

Fleury made 16 saves in the third period.

Condon had to be sharp in the first period to keep the game scoreless. He made a sensational pad save on Sidney Crosby early on, and made back-to-back stops on Malkin and Kris Letang late in the period.

Condon was less dominant in the second, however, when Hornqvist and Rust prevented him from getting his fourth consecutive victory.

NOTES: Greg Pateryn was in the lineup for Montreal in place of the injured Jeff Petry (lower body). … Andrei Markov was reunited with Subban on Montreal’s top defensive pairing. They each played more than 27 minutes. … Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl, 23, made his season debut. … This was the last of three meetings between the Canadiens and Pengins this season.

Blood, big checks and drama in Wild win vs. Stars

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Screen via Fox Sports/Sportsnet
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When hockey fans get defensive and insist that a 2-1 game can be exciting and memorable, they point to contests like the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

  • The Stars seemingly scored the opening goal, but it was negated by a coach’s challenge, as officials believed that Antoine Roussel kept Devan Dubnyk from making the save.
  • Dubnyk kept the Wild in even as the Stars carried the play for chunks of time, particularly in the third period.
  • Stars fans lost a lot of their ability to vent about that negated goal after Tyler Seguin got away with what likely should have been at least a double-minor (if not a major?) high-sticking penalty on Jared Spurgeon:

(Spurgeon returned to the game, so that’s a good sign despite all the blood.)

  • Jamie Benn broke his pointless slump, but he took a huge hit late in the contest:

Benn scored later on, so he’s seemingly OK, yet wow.

It’s the sort of game that probably left the somewhat-struggling Stars a little extra winded.

***

So, yes, it was a low-scoring game. Plenty of happened as Minnesota finally held onto a lead against Dallas and won 2-1 tonight.