Struggling Predators moving closer to rebuild in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Just three seasons removed from hoisting the Presidents’ Trophy, the Nashville Predators find themselves on the verge of rebuilding.

The only question is when does the NHL’s winningest general manager start tearing down what he’s built.

David Poile wants to see how the Predators fare over a stretch against the Central Division’s best. Poile recalled earlier this week Nashville’s run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, which the Predators followed by winning the Presidents’ Trophy the next season.

Rebuilding isn’t a word Poile wants to use, not the GM who built this franchise from the ground up starting with expansion.

“Obviously at the start of this season we were perfect fodder for any conversation for trades and a rebuild, and that’s going to continue until we either climb higher in the standings or we actually make a trade,” Poile said Tuesday on ESPN 102.5 The Game.

Yet Nashville is just 1-8 against the top three teams in the Central Division after a 5-4 loss to Florida on Thursday night. After winning four of five to show signs of improvement, the Predators have lost two straight. Injuries to defenseman Ryan Ellis and goalie Juuse Saros don’t help either.

Nashville currently is sixth in the Central Division, nine points out of the last playoff spot. The Predators are 24th overall with a 10-13-0 record.

The team that created Smashville showing off the likes of Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill with catfish chucking the signature lucky charm can’t match that star power on the ice.

Nashville is 28th scoring an average of 2.35 goals a game, and only five teams are giving up more goals per game than the Predators’ 3.17. The Predators also rank 28th in 5-on-5 play.

They’re also last trailing after both the first and second periods. The Predators have been outscored 52-22 through the first two periods combined, though they have a 30-21 edge in the third.

“There’s something we have to fix and pretty quick,” said forward Filip Forsberg, the Predators’ leading scorer with 22 points in 23 games.

It’s been an issue all season. Nashville has led after the first period only three times this season and is 1-2 in those games. Forward Viktor Arvidsson, who had three assists Thursday night, said they know they can play better and just need to play that way for 60 minute instead of the final 20.

“I don’t know why we’re not doing that,” Arvidsson said.

Poile made a rare in-season coaching change in January 2020, firing Peter Laviolette and hiring John Hynes a day later. Hynes has had to coach through the NHL’s pause, a restart that Nashville lost its best-of-five qualifying series to Arizona in four games.

Hynes has been trying to get the Predators to start games better. He said Wednesday they had to understand they can’t “dip our toe into the water” to see how a game might go.

“We seem to be a reactionary group,” Hynes said. “We’re going to go in the game and see how the game’s going to be played. That’s not how you get off to a good start.”

Hynes’ job security also is in question. He’s 26-24-1 through 51 games. Asked if he’s concerned about his job after the latest loss, Hynes said no.

Once Poile decides it’s time to rebuild, defenseman Mattias Ekholm could be the first traded. He has nine points in 16 games, including four goals in four games, earning $3.75 million a year through next season. Forsberg has another season left at $6 million. Forward Mikael Granlund will be a free agent.

But Nashville will be limited by some of the contracts Poile gave out.

Ryan Johansen, who scored his first goal this season Thursday night and has only five assists, is being paid $8 million a year through the 2024-25 season. Center Matt Duchene also is getting $8 million through the 2025-26 season. Yet Duchene has just eight points in 23 games with a minus-11 rating.

Poile wants to see what happens through an eight-game road trip ending March 21 at Dallas.

“This next stretch of games playing against the Carolinas, Floridas and Tampa Bays are really going to show us whether we’re one of the top teams in our division, a playoff team or possibly that we’re not,” Poile said.

Scroll Down For:

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.