Nashville’s forward depth is about to get its biggest test of the season.
On Thursday, the club placed wingers James Neal — who’s missed the last three games with a lower-body injury — and Eric Nystrom on injured reserve, recalling forward Miikka Salomaki from AHL Milwaukee to fill the void.
Neal, who sits second on the team in goals (13), hasn’t played since a 3-2 win over St. Louis on Dec. 30 — a game in which he scored twice. Nystrom, who has nine points in 39 games this year, played 12:50 in Tuesday’s win over Carolina and assisted on Roman Josi’s game-winner in the third period, so it’s unclear exactly what’s ailing him at the moment.
As for Salomaki, he was taken in the second round (52nd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but has yet to make his big league debut. The Finnish forward has 16 points in 26 games for Milwaukee this season, and finished fifth among AHL rookies in scoring last year with 50 points.
As mentioned above, the Neal/Nystrom injuries really thin out Nashville’s forward group. During the morning skate in advance of tonight’s tilt versus Dallas, Craig Smith took Neal’s spot on the top line next to Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro, while Salomaki skated on a wing with Calle Jarnkrok and Olli Jokinen.
Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher and Mark Arcobello also rushed together, as did Gabriel Bourque, Paul Gaustad and Viktor Stalberg.
Two more players have been fined $2,000 by the NHL for diving, and they are Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist and Florida’s Vincent Trocheck.
Nyquist and Trocheck join Nashville’s James Neal, who last month became the first player to receive supplemental discipline as part of the league’s crackdown on embellishment.
According to the NHL, Nyquist was first issued a warning following an embellishment “incident” in New Jersey on Nov. 28. His second citation, which earned him the fine, came Dec. 29 in Boston when Bruins forward Chris Kelly was called for tripping at 15:55 of the second period.
Trocheck earning his warning Dec. 12 in Detroit and his fine Jan. 4 in Washington when Capitals d-man Brooks Orpik was called for slashing at 11:04 of the third period.
Nashville Predators GM David Poile’s unusual longevity came into the spotlight on Dec. 16 when he oversaw his team’s 3-2 shootout victory over Boston. It was 1,171st win as a general manager, which gave him sole claim on second place on the NHL’s all-time list, behind only Rangers GM Glen Sather (1,278 wins).
“It’s one of those things later on when you’re retired and look back on your career, it’s going to be very meaningful because it’s guys like Glen Sather, Harry Sinden and Cliff Fletcher,” Poile told the Tennessean. “It’s a pretty nice accomplishment that certainly reflects longevity for sure, obviously with a lot of good coaches and a lot of good players.”
Poile, who served as the Washington Capitals general manager before coming to Nashville, has managed to turn the Predators into a team that’s able to compete on a budget. From 2003-04 through 2011-12, the Predators made the playoffs in seven out of eight campaigns, although they never advanced beyond the second round.
They also haven’t made the postseason since, which prompted Poile to fire long-time bench boss Barry Trotz and replace him with Peter Laviolette. Poile also attempted to address the team’s offensive shortcomings by bringing Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, and Derek Roy on board. Combined with the emergence of Calder Trophy frontrunner Filip Forsberg and Nashville has been respectable enough offensively to allow its superior defense and goaltending to win games. The Predators entered the break with a 22-9-2 record.
Nashville Predators forward James Neal was the first player to be fined and publicly named under the league’s new diving rules; however, he certainly won’t be the last.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was penalized twice for embellishment in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
According to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox, 22 players have been warned for embellishment this season. Under the new rules, the first instance results in a warning subsequent incidents result in fines.
Here’s the breakdown:
Cox shed light on how the process works:
Here’s how the system works: every Monday morning, they all get together, nine voters in all. Some from player ops, some from hockey ops. They look at these videos. There’s nine voters, you need six of them to say ‘yeah that’s diving’ before they issue a warning.
It’s uncertain whether Malkin is one of the 22 who have received a warning, but at the very least, he could be receiving a warning this week.
Nashville Predators forward James Neal won’t play against the Minnesota Wild tonight because he’s sick, the Tennessean’s Eric Stromgren reports.
Neal didn’t travel with the team to Minnesota, according to Stromgren. As usual, it’s unclear what type of illness is sidelining Neal, so we can’t cancel out the dreaded mumps.
Update: We’ve been through the “it’s not the mumps … oops, it’s the mumps” drill before, but head coach Peter Laviolette told Stromgren that it’s not. Take that for what it’s worth.
Neal, 27, has 11 goals and 19 points in 30 games during his first season with the Predators. Nashville has seemingly avoided many of the headaches other NHL teams have been plagued by sickness-wise, but we’ll see if they go through their own troubles now, too.