What’s wrong with Franson in Nashville?

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On Feb. 15, Preds GM David Poile made a big splash ahead of the trade deadline, acquiring a pair of former faces — ex-Nashville forward Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson — from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While Santorelli was a nice depth pickup, Franson was the key to the deal. The 27-year-old had six goals and 32 points in 55 games at the time of the trade and was averaging more than 21 TOI per night; upon pulling the trigger, Poile called Franson “a veteran defenseman who could play in all situations,” adding he’d “seamlessly fit into our team.”

The transition has been anything but.

From the Tennessean:

In the past five games, he has been benched twice. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday, Franson didn’t take a shift in the third period, receiving a season-low 7:15 of ice time. Saturday, Franson’s last shift ended on Stars forward Colton Sceviour’s goal at 7:28 of the third period, a play in which he failed to clear the puck from in front of the crease.

Franson is averaging nearly six fewer minutes of ice time per game with the Predators than he did with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Here’s the Sceviour goal in question:

Franson’s boxscore for the Dallas game was ugly. His 12:26 TOI was the second-lowest among d-men — only Victor Bartley, who played up front, received less — and Franson was the only Predator to finish with a minus rating (-2).

Digging beyond the traditional boxscore, Franson’s struggles are even more evident. He finished with the worst possession metrics (Corsi and Fenwick) on the team and, for a offensive-minded defenseman, his one shot attempt is startling — though to be fair, Franson’s power-play time has fallen since joining the Preds (Franson got no man advantage time at all versus Dallas, though it could be a chicken-or-egg situation… is he struggling because he’s not getting the power-play time, or is he not getting the power-play time because he’s struggling?)

At the simplest level, one can chalk this up to being a bad fit. Franson had far more opportunities on Toronto’s blueline than he does in Nashville, where the likes of Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Seth Jones are firmly entrenched in the top-four.

It’s also fair to suggest that, despite Poile’s optimism about familiarity, switching teams and conferences mid-season is more difficult a task than originally thought; consider Devante Smith-Pelly in Montreal, who scored his first goal in 18 games on Sunday, nearly a full month after coming over from Western Conference powerhouse Anaheim.

But the Franson situation is a bit more complex. It could be alleged he (and Santorelli, to a certain degree) have actually disrupted team chemistry — the Preds were 38-12-6 at the time of the trade, and just 9-10-4 since. Also, whatever offensive flair Franson had as a Maple Leaf has almost entirely escaped him as a Predator, as his points-per-game average has fallen from 0.47 to 0.14.

The big question moving ahead, of course, is if Franson will be dropped from the lineup. Nashville dressed seven defensemen on Saturday and had an eighth, Anton Volchenkov, sitting as a healthy scratch, so there are options for head coach Peter Laviolette to tinker with.

There are also questions about Franson’s future as he heads to unrestricted free agency this summer. How big an impact will this slump have on his market value? Could this be the case of a player that, having seen what Toronto’s become, is just a guy that put up really good numbers for a really bad team?

The Preds are off to the postseason, so Franson will have a few more chances to try and turn things around. But given his deployment over the last few weeks, it’ll be interesting to see how big — or, small — an opportunity it’ll be.

WATCH LIVE: Rangers vs. Bruins on Hockey Day in America

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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Boston looks to be headed to its fourth straight postseason and potentially its first division title since 2013-14, when they won the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points. They have finished second in the Atlantic in each of the previous two seasons behind the Lightning.

New York sits seven points out of the East Wild Card and enters this matchup on a season-high four-game winning streak after a 3-1 victory at Columbus on Friday to close a three-game road trip. On this run, the Rangers have scored three-plus goals in each game and allowed just six goals total.

After scoring a hat trick against Montreal on Wednesday, David Pastrnak scored again against Detroit on Saturday. He leads the NHL with 42 goal this season and is second in the league with a career-high 82 points. He’s the first Bruin to surpass the 40-goal mark since Glen Murray scored 44 in 2002-03 and Pasta is now on pace for 58 goals – which would be the most by a Bruin since Phil Esposito led the league in goals in 1974-75 (61).

Igor Shesterkin has opened eyes in recent weeks as the potential heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist. After starting his career in the KHL, Shesterkin had been with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) this season before the Rangers called him up in early January. Shesterkin won his first two NHL starts and has gone 6-1-0 with a 2.18 GAA & .941 SV% thus far in his Rangers career, making 40+ saves in three of his six wins.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 3 P.M. ET ON NBC]

WHAT: Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
WHERE: Madison Square Garden
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 16, 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciKarson Kuhlman
Anders BjorkCharlie CoyleDanton Heinen
Joakim NordstromSean KuralyChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon

Starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak

RANGERS
Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Artemi PanarinRyan StromeJesper Fast
Phil Di GiuseppeFilip ChytilKaapo Kakko
Brendan LemieuxBrett HowdenGreg McKegg

Brady SkjeiJacob Trouba
Brendan SmithMarc Staal
Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

Starting goalie: Alexander Georgiev

NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

Coverage shifts to NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET for a Central Division battle as Ryan O’Reilly and the St. Louis Blues head to Music City to battle Roman Josi and the Nashville Predators.

Hockey Day in America pre-game coverage begins at noon ET on NBC from the plaza outside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Host Liam McHugh and analysts Keith Jones, Anson Carter, and Brian Boucher will anchor pre-game, intermission, and post-game coverage throughout the day.

Military veterans take to the ice with ‘Sled Preds’

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NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

United States Marines Ben Maenza, Joseph Woodke, and John Curtin met while recovering from serious injuries sustained in the line of duty in Afghanistan. After leaving Walter Reed Military Hospital and going their separate ways, Joseph and John moved to Nashville to bring the group back together.

The trio fully committed to sled hockey playing for the Nashville Sled Preds and have gone from novices in the sport to Paralympic hopefuls. From the hospital bed to the elite ranks of American sled hockey, the men share a bond that looks a lot more like family than close friends.

The “Sled Preds” represent another compelling story as part of “Hockey Day in America.”

NBC Hockey Day in America schedule
Red Wings at Penguins – NBC – 12 p.m. ET (Watch live) – 
John Forslund will call the matchup with Joe Micheletti from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bruins at Rangers – NBC – 3 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Mike Tirico will call the matchup at Madison Square Garden alongside Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

Blues at Predators – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Bridgestone Arena alongside Darren Pang.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Michaels and Tirico recall ‘Miracle on Ice’ in NBCSN special

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NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

Al Michaels may never get tired of talking about “The Miracle on Ice,” and can you really blame him?

NBC Sports will debut a 30-minute special – “Miracle on Ice – 40th Anniversary” – featuring Mike Tirico’s conversation with Michaels on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Michaels and Tirico look back at the U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team’s gold-medal run at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.

As you can see from the video above, Michaels and Tirico set the scene, depicting a tough time in America. That stunning victory gave the country a boost, and created an enduring memory. You don’t get much more “Hockey Day in America” than the “Miracle on Ice.”

NBC Hockey Day in America schedule
Red Wings at Penguins – NBC – 12 p.m. ET (Watch live) – 
John Forslund will call the matchup with Joe Micheletti from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bruins at Rangers – NBC – 3 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Mike Tirico will call the matchup at Madison Square Garden alongside Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

Blues at Predators – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Bridgestone Arena alongside Darren Pang.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships: ‘The ultimate event in grassroots hockey’

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NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

The 15th anniversary edition of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships took place in January. Judging from the video above, the festivities earn the tag “the ultimate event in grassroots hockey.” Clearly, pond hockey carries the spirit of “Hockey Day in America.”

The 2020 edition drew 300 teams and 2,400 players. The sheer variety of players is something to behold, including pond hockey participants from Great Britain and Australia.

One of the highlights of the video profiles Reagan Rust, who uses the cheeky Twitter handle @RonaldReagan__. Rust learned about the opportunity to play via Instagram. Noticing that “The Mighty Drunks” of Nashville needed a player, she pounced on the chance to play pond hockey. As a former Beanpot tournament star, Rust fit right in.

NBC Hockey Day in America schedule
Red Wings at Penguins – NBC – 12 p.m. ET (Watch live) – 
John Forslund will call the matchup with Joe Micheletti from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bruins at Rangers – NBC – 3 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Mike Tirico will call the matchup at Madison Square Garden alongside Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

Blues at Predators – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Bridgestone Arena alongside Darren Pang.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.