Predators’ confidence not shaken after Game 5 blowout

2 Comments

PITTSBURGH — When the Nashville Predators lost the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins they had every reason to remain confident in their game.

They were not only the better team at times and carried the play for extended stretches against the defending champs, but they had a great chance to win both games. In the end, they did not, but the process was still in place and they ended up getting the results over the next two to even the series.

None of that was not the case on Thursday night in their 6-0 Game 5 loss that turned into a blowout within the first 10 minutes.

As a result they are now facing elimination for the first time this postseason and have to win on Sunday night in Nashville to extend the series to a seventh game.

They do not seem phased by the situation and remain confident in their ability to defend home ice at Bridgestone Arena where they are 8-1 this postseason and have yet to lose a game in regulation.

“The real hockey starts now,” said Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.

“You’re in the Stanley Cup Final, this is what it’s all about. It’s about going back and forth and back and forth. At the end of the day we’ve already parked this game, we are focussing on Game 6 in our building. We know the energy is going to be there. We know we are going to play our best hockey and we’re going to come back with an even better performance.”

It would be difficult for them to follow up Thursday’s game with a worse a performance. For the Predators, it was probably their worst overall game in what has been an otherwise dominant postseason.

Coach Peter Laviolette was adamant that his team will be ready for Sunday.

“Our guys will be ready,” said Laviolette.  “I’m telling you, there is a lot of confidence in that room. We have a lot of confidence in our home building. We have a lot of confidence in the way we played this year and we have a lot of confidence in the way we’ve played in the playoffs. Think about it, you’ve played over 20 games and there are probably two games where we could have played better. This was one of them. Our guys will respond.”

In a sign of just how quickly things can get flipped upside down in a best-of-seven series the big question for the Predators now once again drifts back to starting goalie Pekka Rinne.

After a tough start to the series in Games 1 and 2, including a Game 2 performance that saw him be replaced by Juuse Saros, Rinne bounced back with two spectacular showings on home ice and seemed to have the series trending in Nashville’s favor.

Then on Thursday everything fell apart in the first period and it was once again Saros going back into the game.

Even with that performance and having to switch goalies twice in the first five games of the series Laviolette and the Predators remain firmly behind their starter. Especially given the way he played earlier this postseason when he was one of the biggest keys to their success.

“I know we have to be better in front of him,” said Laviolette. “If you go back and look at the goals and the way they scored, we gave up the power play early on. The next two we need better coverage. There are things we can do better in front of him. I don’t think they were bad goals. We’ll look to clean that up and be better the next game. Our guys have a tremendous amount of confidence in him we have to be better in front of him.”

Rinne was asked about his confidence level after the game.

“Good,” he said. “Feeling good. Obviously disappointed with the game. That was a huge game, we came here well prepared and we did not have it tonight. As a team we just have to feel confident playing at home.”

There is almost no question that Rinne will be back in net for Game 6, especially after Juuse Saros gave up three goals of his own after replacing him.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
2 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.