Pressure’s on Poile to add a top center in Nashville

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David Poile needs a top center to skate with newly acquired winger James Neal. He knows it. Everyone knows it. It’s just not clear how — or if — he’ll be able to do it.

The Predators’ general manager has already tried to pick Jason Spezza out of Ottawa, only for Spezza to nix the deal.

Tomorrow, Poile will try again when the free-agent frenzy begins. And despite Nashville’s well-known financial constraints, he says he’s got the budget to play the game.

In fact, Poile can’t afford not to. Not after hiring Peter Laviolette to coach a more up-tempo, offensive-oriented system. And not after selling Neal on the new, “fun way to play” Preds.

“Things are changing here,” Neal said today on a conference call. “We’re going to be a more offensive team. I’ve talked to coach Laviolette. Nothing but a bright future ahead.”

At the moment, Mike Fisher, Matt Cullen, Paul Gaustad, and Colin Wilson are the centers the Preds have got — a collection that doesn’t exactly scream offensive juggernaut.

So, who could Poile go out and get?

The biggest-name center that’s expected to test the market is, of course, Colorardo’s Paul Stastny. However, one would think the Preds would really have to knock Stastny’s socks off, financially speaking, to get him. After all, Stastny has no strong desire to leave Denver, and even if he can’t get a deal done with the Avs, there will be plenty of other suitors for his services. Like the Blackhawks. Would the 28-year-old take less to play for a proven contender like Chicago? If you haven’t heard, the ‘Hawks are in need of a second-line center. And unfortunately for Poile, “come to Nashville and win a Stanley Cup” isn’t a sales pitch he can use. Not like the ‘Hawks could, at least.

Besides Stastny, UFA centers include Mikhail Grabovski, Brad Richards, and Mike Ribeiro. Oh, and if Mathieu Perreault doesn’t accept the Ducks’ offer, him too.

Or, to put it another way, a guy the Leafs bought out, a guy the Rangers bought out, a guy the Coyotes bought out, and a guy the Ducks didn’t qualify.

Take your pick.

Related: Poile reaffirms that Weber’s not for sale

Notable playoff performances on NBCSN: Kane’s hat trick tops Kings

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Hockey Week in America continues Friday with some big-time individual playoff performances.

The Western Conference foes dueled to a Game 7 that went into double overtime. Dallas relied on St. Louis native Ben Bishop and his 52 saves, the 5th-most saves in a Game 7 in history, to nearly defeat the Blues, but St. Louis prevailed 2-1, on the way to their historic 2019 Stanley Cup run.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire called the action from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo.

You can catch Kane’s Game 5 hat trick Friday on NBCSN beginning at 12 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

FRIDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE:
• Kane’s hat trick: Kings vs. Blackhawks (2013 Western Conference Final) – 12 a.m. ET

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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

Notable playoff performances on NBCSN: Bishop, Maroon shine in Game 7

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Hockey Week in America continues Friday with some big-time individual playoff performances.

In a double-overtime thriller between these two Western Conference contenders, Patrick Kane and his series-clinching hat trick propelled Chicago to a 4-3 victory. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks defeated the Bruins to capture the 2013 championship.

The late, great Dave Strader, Darren Pang, and Brian Engblom had the call from United Center in Chicago, Ill.

You can catch Bishop’s 52-save performance and other memorable individual playoff memories Friday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

FRIDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE:
• Bishop’s 52-save effort: Stars vs. Blues (Round 2, Game 7, 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET
• Kane’s hat trick: Kings vs. Blackhawks (2013 Western Conference Final) – 12 a.m. ET

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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

Notable playoff performances on NBCSN: Tavares leads Isles into Round 2

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Hockey Week in America continues Friday with some big-time individual playoff performances.

Trailing by one with less than a minute remaining in regulation with the extra attacker on the ice, Islanders captain John Tavares scored to tie the game at one to force overtime. In the second overtime period, Tavares scored the game-winner, leading the Islanders to a playoff series win in 2016 for the first time in 23 years.

Chris Cuthbert and Ray Ferraro called the matchup from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

You can catch Tavares’ two-goal night and other memorable individual playoff performances Friday on NBCSN beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

FRIDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE:
• Tavares’ big night: Panthers vs. Islanders (Round 1, Game 6, 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs) – 8 p.m. ET
• Bishop’s 52-save effort: Stars vs. Blues (Round 2, Game 7, 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET
• Kane’s hat trick: Kings vs. Blackhawks (2013 Western Conference Final) – 12 a.m. ET

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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

Blues broadcaster ‘symptom free’ after self-quarantine

Longtime St. Louis Blues broadcaster John Kelly, jr. during the St. Louis Blues victory parade
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The quarantine strategy medical professionals have urged society to use have proved effective once again.

John Kelly, a broadcaster for the St. Louis Blues, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and is now symptom free after being self-quarantined for 14 days.

The St. Louis Blues released the following statement earlier Friday.

The St. Louis Blues are confirming that play-by-play announcer John Kelly has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

John has been in self-quarantine since March 13. We are thrilled to report that John is now feeling strong and symptom free.

The health and safety of the entire Blues family remains our core focus during these unprecedented times. We wish John well as he continues his recovery at home.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.