Nashville Predators

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

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Tuesday, as the Nashville Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Chicago Blackhawks this far out of the playoff picture at this point of the season. Coming out of the All-Star break, the ‘Hawks find themselves four points back of Colorado for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The Avs also have a game in hand.

Making up four points isn’t insurmountable, but what complicates the matter is that they’d have to leap over four teams to get there.

The ‘Hawks are coming off a 5-1 win in Detroit in their last game before the All-Star break. They’re back on the road starting tonight, and they’ll also visit Vancouver and Calgary before the end of the week. These next three matchups won’t be easy, especially without starting goaltender Corey Crawford, who is still out because of vertigo-like symptoms.

Crawford has the green light to work out, but he still hasn’t received clearance to participate in on-ice workouts just yet.

“We’re optimistic he can have a good week here and get on [the ice] later in the week,” head coach Joel Quenneville said of his goalie, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He’s around; you see him. You think he’s close to getting on the ice, so he’s showing all the signs that he’ll be helping us at some point.”

But will he be back in time to save Chicago’s season?

As for the Predators, they’re not battling for their playoff lives like Chicago is, but they’re in the hunt for top spot in the Central Division. Heading into tonight’s game, the Preds are one point behind the first-place Winnipeg Jets, but Nashville has three games in hand.

The 2017-18 season has gone well for the Predators, which is scary considering they’ve dealt with some serious injury troubles all year. Ryan Ellis missed most of the first half of the season, Filip Forsberg has been out for 10 games and Viktor Arvidsson missed some games, too.

Forsberg ditched his non-contact jersey on Monday and he was practicing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson.

With everyone getting healthy, the Preds could be ready to pull away from the rest of the division pretty soon. Another run to the cup final could also be in the cards for this team.

“We always try to get better, and there’s always room for improvement,” defenseman Roman Josi said, per the team’s website. “We had a good first half and played some really good hockey, but I think there’s still room for improvement and hopefully we can play our best down the road.”

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

PHT Midseason Report Card: Central Division

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Now that the All-Star break has arrived it’s time to look back at the first half of the 2017-18 NHL season. Our team-by-team report cards will look at the biggest surprises and disappointments for all 31 clubs and what their outlook is for the second half, including whether they should be a trade deadline buyer or seller.

  • Chicago Blackhawks

Season Review: They’ve dealt with Corey Crawford being injured twice and Jeff Glass has been one of the heartwarming stories this season. But sitting last in a notoriously tough Central Division is unfamiliar territory for the Blackhawks. They’ve simply underperformed given the talent they possess. Grade: D-

Biggest Surprise: Alex DeBrincat. The second-round pick in 2016 has been sensational in his rookie season with 17 goals and 32 points in 49 games played. His 17.2 percent shooting percentage is stellar, and he’s defying the (perceived) odds at 5-foot-7, 165 pounds.

Biggest Disappointment: Brent Seabrook has been a healthy scratch and Jonathan Toews is well off point-per-game production and Duncan Keith hasn’t scored a goal since last March. But Chicago’s biggest disappointment is a team effort. They’re simply too inconsistent. Scoring droughts have plagued this team this season and their power play is fourth-worst in the league.

Trade Deadline Strategy: The Blackhawks won’t have to worry about a disappointing first-round exit this year as they’re unlikely to get into the playoffs as it stands. It might be time to give that roster a small detonation. Stan Bowman has worked his genius to keep his team’s competitive in the past. Now he may have to work that genius to get his team back to that.

Second half outlook: The Blackhawks have all the talent to work their way out of the basement in the Central. They’re only four points adrift of a playoff spot, but that can seem like 10 in a division that is as stacked as it is. That success hinges on the health of Corey Crawford, who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Until he’s able to return, things don’t look great.

  • Colorado Avalanche

Season Review: Early on, the Avs season seemed to go as expected. They hit the lowest of lows last season, so some improvement was expected, but to be in a playoff spot at the All-Star break was something anyone would have thought. Of course, 10-game winning streaks are helpful, as is the ridiculous play of Nathan MacKinnon. Grade: B

Biggest Surprise: Mikko Rantanen is a point-per-game player. Nathan MacKinnon is having that breakout season many had been waiting for (and should be up for the Hart Trophy). Alex Kerfoot has had a great rookie campaign. Sam Girard is turning bona fide NHL defenseman. But Jonathan Bernier has been integral to the team’s recent success, highlighted during their 10-game winning streak where Bernier collected nine straight wins. He’s sitting with a .919 save percentage and is looking like the Bernier that played for the 2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Biggest Disappointment: Matt Duchene is gone, and thus, so is the easy pick here. Some might point to Tyson Jost, but he’s been injured and thus is a little behind where some might have pegged him at the mid-way point. Nail Yakupov’s name could work here, but his career has been a disappointment.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Colorado is a young team that’s still rebuilding. They got a king’s ransom for Matt Duchene. If the Avs keep climbing up in the Division, it’s conceivable that Joe Sakic looks for some depth, but staying the course with a team that’s showing some positive signs should be the focus. The Avs aren’t winning the Cup this year.

Second Half Outlook: This team has found some much-needed chemistry and is gelling as a young squad. That bodes well for a good second half of the season if they can continue. But young teams can have young-team problems. Consistency down the stretch could be an issue and the Avs are by no means a lock for a playoff spot. A 10-game winning streak only got them to the second wildcard spot. The tough part now will be keeping it.

  • Dallas Stars

Season Review: The Stars have been a great home team this season, but have only begun to get things in order on the road, where they stumbled during the first two months of the season. Still, the Stars have worked their way into the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference thanks to improvements in team defense and goaltending.  Grade: C+

Biggest Surprise: John Klingberg is a good defenseman. We knew this coming into the season. But to be in the running for the Norris might have been a stretch back in September. But that’s where Klingberg is at the moment, leading NHL defenseman in points (and sitting second on the Stars, behind Alexander Radulov and ahead of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin).

Biggest Disappointment: This one is easy: Jason Spezza. Spezza is forging a path to a career-worst year in terms of production. Early this month, he was made a healthy scratch, a coach’s decision by Ken Hitchcock stemming then from a five-game spell with no points and low ice time. Factor in that he’s counting $7.5 million toward the cap and the picture becomes even more clear.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Buy if it makes sense, but don’t sell assets. The Stars have a goalie in Ben Bishop and other talents they can build around going forward.

Second half outlook: The Stars play 11 games (including a six-game road trip) away from American Airlines arena in March and April. Given their position at the moment and coupled with their away record, it would appear that will be their biggest test in the second half if they can maintain where they are at the moment.

  • Minnesota Wild

Season Review: Spinning the tires. The Wild could be given a pass after some of the injuries they’ve dealt with – Devan Dubnyk and Zach Parise come to mind. It is a team that finished second in the division with, largely, the same roster, so the talent is there. Grade: D

Biggest surprise: Matt Dumba makes some bone-headed plays. And then he makes some plays that leave you scratching your head, in a good way. He sits only behind Ryan Suter in terms of points and he’s averaging nearly 23 minutes per night. If he keeps it up, he’ll record a career-year in goals and assists.

Biggest disappointment: Marcus Foligno. He’s played better as of late, but that doesn’t excuse a rocky first half that saw him in the press box in December. The 26-year-old was supposed to bring depth to the lineup when the Wild acquired him in a four-player deal on the eve of free agency last year.

Trade Deadline Strategy: So many teams on the cusp of a playoff spot in this division that it’s hard to sort out which teams should buy and which should sell. The Wild have the talent to be much better than they are. We saw that last season. Perhaps a depth player or two on the cheap would help.

Second half outlook: Getting better away would certainly help. The Wild are one of four teams tied on 57 points and tied for the second wildcard spot, with Colorado holding the tiebreaker at the moment). The Wild have eight home games in February, which bodes well given their 17-4-4 record at Xcel Energy Center. But they have two big road games to start the month in Dallas and St. Louis and play Colorado twice in March. Those will be pivotal. The Wild are getting healthy and that could spell trouble for other teams around them on the bubble.

  • Nashville Predators

Season Review: The Stanley Cup finalists from last year have picked up where they left off, currently trailing the Winnipeg Jets by one point for tops in the division. They’re playing great at home (16-4-3) and have picked up points in 17 of 24 road games (13-7-4), a drastic change from this team a year ago. They have Pekka Rinne playing great along with the litany of talent in front of him, which is scoring at a better pace than last season. Grade: A-

Biggest Surprise: Kevin Fiala had 16 points in his rookie season last year. This year, he’s nearly doubled that in eight fewer games. The addition of Kyle Turris has certainly helped, making that line (with Craig Smith) a potent option that’s providing a secondary scoring threat. Fiala’s season including a nine-game point streak in December.

Biggest Disappointment: Perhaps the only disappointment on this Preds team is that Ryan Ellis has only been limited to nine games after offseason knee surgery. He returned earlier this month.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Bolster. The Preds Stanley Cup window is still wide open. Perhaps another player for bottom six depth. Not much needed on a team this good.

Second half outlook: More of the same. The Preds have been solid against their own division with a 10-3-2 record and just need to stay the course.

  • St. Louis Blues

Season Review: Man, did this team every navigate some tough injury problems to start the season, something that speaks to the depth in St. Louis.  Grade: B-.

Biggest Surprise: Brayden Schenn has been nothing short of spectacular since getting traded last year. Schenn, currently at the NHL All-Star Game, leads the Blues with 50 points and is tied for the team lead with 21 goals. Schenn hit 59 points in 80 games a couple years back. He looks set to smash that career-high.

Biggest Disappointment: The team waived Magnus Paajarvi this week, so scratch that idea. Jake Allen deserves a mention. Carter Hutton is sitting on a .943 save percentage this season while Allen is only sporting a .909. Hutton is the backup and producing numbers that Blues’ fans hoped Allen would. Also, where is Alexander Steen?

Trade Deadline Strategy: With all their injury problems, a couple of depth players wouldn’t hurt just in case.

Second half outlook: Jaden Schwartz’s return after missing two months is a huge boon for the Blues. Schwartz had 35 points in 30 games before busting his ankle. Now, with the line of Schenn, Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko back together, domination could ensue once again.

  • Winnipeg Jets

Season Review: The best team heading in the to All-Star break. Yes, the Winnipeg Jets. What’s got them there? Great goaltending, for starters. A season worthy of a Hart Trophy nod for Blake Wheeler as well. And they’re just finding ways to win games, especially ones that, in the past, they would find ways to lose. Grade: A

Biggest Surprise: Undoubtedly Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets went out and got what they thought would be their No. 1 netminder in Steve Mason during free agency. Yeah. Not in Hellebuyck’s house. The second-year starter is in the Vezina conversation and is at the NHL All-Star Game along with Pekka Rinne. Who in Winnipeg thought the former would be the same conversation as the latter at the end of last season?

Biggest Disappointment: Dustin Byfuglien. It took him nearly half the season to score his first goal and has just two at the All-Star break. Couple that with some interesting defensive decisions and you have the makings of one of his worst seasons of his career, statistically speaking and otherwise.

Trade Deadline Strategy: Buy. The Jets have a legitimate shot at making a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They seemingly have all the tools: a rededication to team defense, a high-scoring offense, great netminding and one of the best power plays in the league. They could probably use some depth on their fourth line and perhaps a seventh defenseman with playoff experience.

Second half outlook: Keep on keeping on. The Jets haven’t strung together a big losing streak this season, something that’s derailed them in the past. They basically play all of February at home at Bell MTS Place, which has become a fortress for them this season. The Jets just need to keep doing what got them to the summit of the division in the second half. Oh, and they’ll get Mark Scheifele back sometime next month. 

Previous: Atlantic Division / Metropolitan Division

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

Arvidsson has goal, assist as Preds edge Oilers 2-1


The Nashville Predators came into Tuesday as a team slightly struggling.

They had only won four of their past 10 games and the injury to Filip Forsberg had affected the likes of Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson to the tune of just three goals in their past 11 games.

Arvidsson got his game back on track on Tuesday, however, grabbing the game-winner and assisting on the Nashville’s first goal of the game in a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on NBCSN.

Viktor Arvidsson had his hand in both of the Predators’ first-period goals.

Arvidsson made the perfect screen in front of Cam Talbot, allowing the rebound off P.K. Subban‘s point blast to squirt back out in front, where Craig Smith deposited behind Talbot for a 1-0 lead.


Arvidsson picked up his second point of the period just over seven minutes later.

And it came from Arvidsson lurking around the net once again, and a little luck.

Roman Josi‘s point shot was stopped by Talbot left arm, but the rebound smacked Adam Larsson in the face and dropped to the stick of Arvidsson, who needed just a tap to put the puck across the goal line.

The Oilers awoke from their slumber in the second period, and the pushback produced an immediate result.

McDavid took a pass at the Nashville blue line and then did what McDavid is known for, getting by Mattias Ekholm with relative ease with his first step and then scoring low to cut Nashville’s lead in half.

The Oilers gave a valiant effort after the first period, and poured on the pressure with the net empty, but it was much ado about nothing as the game clock read zeroes.

Another tick in the loss column for perhaps the most disappointing team through the first half of the season.

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

WATCH LIVE: Oilers vs. Predators on NBCSN

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Edmonton Oilers


Patrick MaroonConnor McDavidLeon Draisaitl

Milan LucicRyan Nugent-HopkinsJesse Puljujarvi

Jujhar KhairaRyan StromeMichael Cammalleri

Drake CaggiulaMark LetestuZack Kassian


Andrej SekeraKris Russell

Darnell NurseAdam Larsson

Oscar KlefbomMatt Benning

Starting goalie: Cam Talbot

NHL on NBCSN: Oilers hoping ‘bounces’ start going their way vs. Predators

Nashville Predators 


Pontus AbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Kevin FialaKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Scott HartnellNick BoninoColton Sissons

Miikka SalomakiCalle JarnkrokAustin Watson


Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban

Alexei EmelinYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

NHL on NBCSN: Oilers hoping ‘bounces’ start going their way vs. Predators

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues as the Edmonton Oilers visit the Nashville Predators at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

The Predators and Oilers are two teams living different lives in the NHL this season. After impressive 2016-17 campaigns, Nashville remains a contender for another year in the Western Conference while Edmonton is looking to use the second half to salvage a disastrous season — one that has seats getting pretty hot.

While they currently sit third in the Central Division, the Predators are having some issues of their own at the moment. They’re 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and two of their top stars are some difficulty scoring, all while their top point-getter, Filip Forsberg, is out 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury. His absence has negatively affected linemates Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, who have combined for three goals in their last 11 games.


“(Forsberg’s) one of the best players in the league,” Johansen told Adam Vingan of The Tennesean, “so obviously he’s going to make me look like a better player and make (Arvidsson) look like a better player and make our line altogether better.”

It’s going to take a lot to make the Oilers better. Where to start? First, if things are to improve, it’s going to be with head coach Todd McLellan behind the bench. General manager Peter Chiarelli gave him a vote of confidence this week and isn’t planning on making any changes.

The team that was seventh in scoring last season is 15th as we approach the All-Star break. Their power play has dropped from 22.9 percent last season to 16.1 percent through 43 games. The penalty kill? It’s an ugly 71.5 percent, which is the 8th-worst output of all-time since the NHL started tracking the stat.

“It starts with a couple of shifts, then a full period, then a couple of periods, then a game,” said forward Zack Kassian via the Edmonton Journal. “That’s how you build momentum. “If you’re looking for excuses that’s normally when you’re not working hard enough. When you’re working hard and things are happening you tend to get bounces. We’re not getting bounces right now.”

The trade deadline arrives on Feb. 26. At what point does Chiarelli make the decision to either look toward next year or try and throw his team a life line by making a trade or two to try and spark the lineup? This is Connor McDavid‘s final year on the cheap. Next year, his cap hit jumps up to $12.5 million and the challenge to ice a competitive roster around him begins.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.