Predators aren’t satisfied with just making Western Conference Final

5 Comments

Expectations for the Nashville Predators have been growing for some time.

They were one win away from reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago and then pulled off a highly polarizing, controversial trade in the summer, acquiring P.K. Subban from Montreal in exchange for Shea Weber.

It’s a deal that rocked the hockey world at the time and is still being discussed with plenty of fervor almost 11 months later, mainly because Subban and the Predators are still in the playoffs, and Weber and the Habs are not.

General manager David Poile has made some bold moves — beyond last year’s blockbuster involving Subban and Weber, two right-shooting star defensemen. He acquired Ryan Johansen from Columbus but had to move a promising young blue liner in Seth Jones to make it happen.

He has locked Filip Forsberg, once a young prospect the Predators acquired in a steal of a trade from Washington four years ago and now a significant scoring threat in Nashville, to a long-term contract, and has built a strong nucleus of good young players on the roster.

Losing in the second round was, a year ago, considered moving in the right direction for Poile and the Predators.

They took another step Sunday, advancing to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history, moving past the Blues in six games. That followed a clean sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks, the No. 1 seed in the conference going into the playoffs.

“I think we took a big step today for this organization and this city, but that’s not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” Subban told The Tennessean.

“We’ve worked really hard to put ourselves in a good position. There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played, but we should enjoy this today. It’s a hell of an accomplishment for this organization.”

It’s not like the Predators stormed out of the gate in October, but despite any regular season struggles encountered along the way, they have really found their stride, especially through two rounds of the playoffs.

There are many different reasons for the Predators’ surge this post-season. For starters, Pekka Rinne continues to provide stellar goaltending. In 10 games, he has a ridiculous save percentage of .951 and has only twice allowed more than two goals in a single game. Of the teams remaining in the playoffs, Nashville has the second best penalty kill behind New York, and the fourth best power play.

Their leading goal scorers, at least right now, are both defensemen. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi share the team lead in goals with four (Ellis has nine points and Josi has eight). In fact, production from their blue line has been key and that continued in this series.

Ellis, Josi and Subban have 24 points between the three of them in the playoffs. Josi factored into the goal scoring Sunday, before the trio of Forsberg, Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson got involved by teaming up for the eventual winner early in the third period.

“Right now it means everything,” Rinne told NHL.com. “We haven’t gone further than this before. Obviously it’s a great feeling, but there’s a lot of work left.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.