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NHL on NBCSN: Predators look to move into Central’s top spot vs. Kings

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

There’s no better time than now for the Nashville Predators to re-take the lead in the Central Division.

The Winnipeg Jets hold a one-point lead over the Predators and still have two games in hand (three after tonight), but the Jets have been wallowing in a bad slump at the moment, leaving the door open for Nashville to waltz right on through if they can down the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday on NBCSN.

The problem for Nashville is they haven’t played particularly well, either, with five wins in their past 10 games (Winnipeg has four). A three-game losing streak last week has been met with wins in two of their past three games most recently, but the Preds got rolled 5-1 in Vegas over the weekend before bouncing back in the third period to beat the Dallas Stars 5-3 on Tuesday.

“We just had more speed, more attitude, and we just worked harder,” Roman Josi said. “We weren’t happy with the way we played in Vegas, and we had two days here to sit on it. We knew we had to play a lot harder to be successful, and we did that tonight.”

Like the Jets, Nashville could use a piece or two at the trade deadline to cover off its consistency issues. The Preds have already added size to the lineup with the acquisitions of Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod. Boyle’s scored twice already in his new threads and has been the net-front presence that was lacking in the lineup.

“If we can improve our club we’re going to do that,” general manager David Poile said. “I’m comfortable with what we have and filling the holes I thought we had.”

Poile might be saying the right things, but it’s obvious his team could use more scoring. Viktor Arvidsson‘s 26 goals in 38 games have been a revelation, especially since he missed nearly two months with a broken thumb.

But one player can’t carry the load forever. And some of Nashville’s top names aren’t helping the cause at the moment

Filip ForsbergSeven goals in 19 games since returning from injury.
Ryan Johansen: 11 goals in 60 games.
Craig Smith: Two goals in his past 18 (is third on the team with 16 goals)

The scoring issues up front have been less of a concern thanks to the success they’ve found on the backend.

Only the San Jose Sharks (172) have more points by defensemen than the Preds (163).

Josi and Matthias Ekholm sit second and third on the team in points, with Josi on his way to a career-year if he can keep it going. He has 13 goals already (career-high is 15) and is sitting at 49 points (career-high is 61). He’s averaging 0.79 points per game.

He’s caught fire recently, too, scoring five goals and adding eight helpers in his past 10 games.

Alex Faust (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen with Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.


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

P.K. Subban gets a warm tribute during his return to Nashville

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It would have been silly for Nashville Predators fans to boo P.K. Subban during his return to “Smashville.”

Subban didn’t choose to be traded from Montreal to Nashville, and he didn’t elect to be sent from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils, either.

Sports fans aren’t always so rational, though. Really, it makes sense: spending so much money, time, and emotional energy on a game isn’t exactly the most rational thing to do. So there was some concern about how Subban would be received, especially since he’s already booed in an honestly uncomfortably large number of NHL arenas already.

Subban and others can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as while not everyone greeted Subban with open arms in as literal a way as Roman Josi did with their hug on Saturday, the team gave Subban a fantastic welcome back tribute video:

Not only does that video include some of Subban’s great moments during his three seasons with the Predators (that Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Norris Trophy win), it also captures some of the off-the-ice qualities that make Subban so fun and entertaining (and make people sometimes get perplexingly, maybe troublingly mad about him). He got up and decided to sing some Johnny Cash upon arriving in Nashville, was a fantastic charitable presence, and was a lot of fun.

(No Listerine was spilled in the making of the ad, but you can’t have it all.)

Anyway, good on the Predators and their fans for welcoming P.K. back.

As a reminder, Montreal Canadiens fans greeted him with love upon his return, too:

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.

Avs’ rising star Cale Makar shaken by hit from Bruins’ Marchand

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The Colorado Avalanche have done a masterful job, for the most part, when it comes to rolling with injury-related punches to key players such as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They have to hope that Saturday didn’t send another such haymaker their way.

Rising star defenseman Cale Makar (who just fell under a point per game on Saturday with 28 in 29 contests) was clearly shaken up by a hard hit by Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

It didn’t seem like a heinous hit by Marchand, although there are some who wonder if it was a bit high.

Either way, Makar’s reaction is troubling. You can see him shake his head multiple times following the hit, which gives the impression that he could have suffered a concussion. That doesn’t guarantee that Makar did, but it’s a situation to watch — and one the Avalanche should absolutely be careful about.

The Avalanche ended up beating the Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.

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.

Laila Anderson, bone marrow donor attend Blues game

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If it got a “little dusty” at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday, that’s understandable, because the continued story of Laila Anderson meeting Kenton Felmlee, her bone marrow donor, is sure to make most get a case of heightened allergies.

(Is that a leak from the ceiling? /Sobs)

Anyway, Felmlee was Anderson’s guest during Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs – St. Louis Blues game, giving the two another chance to bond, and beyond that, for Anderson to thank Felmlee for helping her in her battle with the rare immune disease HLH.

It’s great stuff, even if the actual Blues game isn’t going so great for St. Louis.

This longer clip from their first meeting earlier this week is worth watching, unless you don’t want people to see you openly weeping’n’stuff:

(Personally, I’d say it’s worth it.)

MORE ON LAILA ANDERSON AND THE BLUES:

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.

Canucks’ Miller scored an awesome water bottle breaker in OT

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Over time, you can become jaded as a sports (and specifically hockey) fan.

Stories about abusive coaches, lockouts, fans booing players for simply no longer being on their teams — it can sap some of the joy of the game.

Thankfully, we have highlights, and I can’t think of many simpler joys than someone scoring a goal and absolutely obliterating the goalie’s water bottle in the process. (As long as no one gets too dehydrated in the making of such films.)

Vancouver Canucks winger J.T. Miller did it one better on Saturday: he scored an important goal that way. Miller presented the ultra-rare OTBBGWG (overtime bottle-breaking game-winning goal) as the Canucks beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-5 in OT.

Bask in the glory of that goal in the video above this post’s headline. Here’s a fun alternate angle:

By the way, Miller continues to be a deadly offensive weapon for the Canucks. This one-goal, one-assist output extended his current point streak to an impressive eight games (5G, 6A for 11 points). Overall, Miller has 31 points in 30 games during his first season in Vancouver.

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.