After blowing a 3-0 lead and losing their series opener against Chicago in OT, the Predators appear to be making some lineup changes.
Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, acquired from Toronto just prior to the trade deadline, look as though they’ll play tonight after sitting out Game 1. Franson, who had been dealing with an upper-body injury that lingered from the regular season, said he feels ready to get back into action for the first time since Apr. 9.
As for Santorelli, an injury to Mike Fisher looks as though it’ll play in his favor. Head coach Peter Laviolette wouldn’t confirm the move, but it’s expected Santorelli — who’s posted four points (one goal, three assists) in 22 games with Nashville — will get in ahead of ’14 first-rounder Kevin Fiala, who also sat out Game 1.
“He brings a lot of speed to the lineup,” Laviolette said of Santorelli, per The Tennessean. “He’s capable of contributing offensively. He’s a reliable player. We can use him on the penalty kill. I think he’s been an effective player for us in the role we’ve asked him to play in. If Mike gets in there, tonight, we have no question he’ll be able to do the job.”
Manchester forward Brian O’Neill has been named the Les Cunningham Award winner as American Hockey League MVP, the league announced on Friday.
O’Neill has scored 22 goals and leads the AHL with 56 assists and 78 points in 69 games heading into the final weekend of the regular season. His plus-28 rating leads all AHL forwards and ranks second overall, and he is tied for the league lead with 26 power-play points. Powered by O’Neill, the Monarchs are third in the league in offense (3.19 goals per game) and first in power-play efficiency (21.0 percent), and have clinched their first Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s regular-season points champions.
O’Neill has strung together three separate scoring streaks of at least seven games each this season, and his five-assist night at Portland on Dec. 17 established AHL season highs for both assists and points in a game. He was selected to participate in the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic but missed the event due to injury, and last week was voted a Second Team AHL All-Star.
O’Neill, 26, signed with the Kings in 2012 following a stellar four-year career at Yale, during which he scored 163 points in 138 games. He spent time with L.A. during training camp last fall before returning to Manchester, where he’s played extensively over the last three seasons.
It’ll be interesting to see if O’Neill can parlay the Cunningham Award into NHL success. Last year’s winner, Texas’ Travis Morin, played six games for Dallas this year and the winner two seasons ago, Tyler Johnson, has gone on to become a budding star in Tampa Bay.
Montreal will definitely be without one of their top-10 scorers tonight in Game 2 against Ottawa, as P.A. Parenteau has been ruled out with an upper-body injury.
The Habs might be without a second as well.
Max Pacioretty, who missed Game 1 with a lingering ailment from the regular season, is questionable for tonight’s tilt. The Habs’ leading goalscorer this season with 37 tallies, Pacioretty did participate in today’s morning skate.
“He had a good practice yesterday, and this morning I know he felt really good,” head coach Michel Therrien told reporters on Friday. “But I can’t confirm if he’ll be there tonight or Sunday.”
Parenteau, who had 22 points in 56 games this year, had been playing on a line with Devante Smith-Pelly and David Desharnais. The trio went scoreless in Wednesday’s win over Ottawa.