Anton Blidh

Wild will seek spark anew from surging Fiala when NHL’s back

4 Comments

Frozen by the virus shutdown but not forgotten was Kevin Fiala‘s emergence, a surge that gave the Minnesota Wild a glimpse of the go-to scorer they have lacked for much of their history.

Emelia Parise will remember it as well as anyone.

Zach Parise‘s daughter became quite the fan as her father’s teammate racked up 14 goals and 12 assists over the last 18 games before NHL play was halted. When school was still in session earlier this year, Parise’s 6-year-old twins, Emelia and Jaxson, took part in a pick-a-local-sports-hero project with their classmates who were well aware of Parise’s occupation.

”I’d say 90% of them wrote Zach Parise’s their favorite. Except for my daughter. She wrote Kevin Fiala,” Parise said recently. ”So that’s how things are going in my household right now.”

Who could blame her? The 23-year-old left wing had already matched his career best with 23 goals and blown by his personal assists record (31). Fiala leads the league with four game-winning goals.

”He’s been playing awesome for us,” Parise said. ”He was on a tear before this thing ended up happening, so hopefully he can keep that momentum.”

If the 2019-20 season ever resumes, Fiala’s sequestering spot at his summer home in Gothenburg, Sweden, ought to help him recapture some of that mojo. There, society has operated under fewer restrictions, allowing Fiala the opportunity for daily ice time. He has skated with fellow NHL players Anton Blidh, Pierre Engvall and John Klingberg to try to stay in shape.

”It’s very important for me to be consistent and just continue like I finished, if it continues or if it’s going to start next season, you know?” Fiala said on Wednesday on a video conference call with reporters. ”I’m comfortable I can do that.”

He later added: ”I don’t want it to be just one season. I have a lot of work to do, and I’m still a young player. My career is hopefully still long.”

The only pure scorer with true take-over-a-game ability the Wild have had in their two decades is Marian Gaborik, who had 38 goals in 2005-06 and 42 in 2007-08. The only other Wild player to ever top the 35-goal mark was Eric Staal, with 42 goals in 2017-18. Whenever the NHL gets the green light to stage games again, the spotlight will be on Fiala as he attempts to continue his development into the top-line star the Wild have been waiting for.

”He’s the guy where fans are starting to get out of their seats now,” goalie Alex Stalock said last month before the shutdown. ”Not only can he do it, with the moves and be a defenseman, but the puck finds the back of the net, and that’s not easy to do.”

Fiala’s production in February and March provided some validation for former general manager Paul Fenton’s otherwise unsatisfying 15 months on the job. Acquired just before the trade deadline from Nashville for another underperforming first-round draft pick, right wing Mikael Granlund, Fiala finished with only 13 goals in 83 games between the Predators and the Wild.

This season started similarly slow for him, as the Wild fell immediately into a big hole in the Western Conference standings. Fiala didn’t score until November. Over a 17-game stretch from Dec. 17 through Feb. 1, he had only one goal. He began to find a groove after that, though, with those slick stick skills and keen ice vision coming to the surface and helping the Wild climb back into the playoff chase.

When coach Bruce Boudreau was fired on Feb. 14, the promotion of Dean Evason to replace him gave Fiala the comfort of a familiar voice who already knew his game inside and out. They played three seasons together in the AHL in Milwaukee, Nashville’s primary affiliate.

”Honestly, I didn’t have the patience sometimes, so we got sometimes into a fight,” Fiala said, ”but when I look back, I was always happy I did it that way, and I was happy he was my coach, because he taught me a lot of things.”

Evason’s bid to shed the interim tag and become the next bench boss has been held up by the pandemic. His connection with Fiala sure won’t hurt his candidacy.

”The team was rolling,” Fiala said. ”We had some huge wins in the end, and just one point right now outside of the playoffs, especially with that start we had, we want to get back.”

WATCH LIVE: Bruins visit Red Wings on NBC

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After beating Buffalo on Thursday to snap a nine-game losing streak, the Red Wings lost 2-0 at Columbus on Friday. Detroit was outshot 44-16 against Columbus, the second time in the past three games that the Red Wings have been held to just 16 shots. They have now been shut out in three of their last four games.

The Red Wings, perennial contenders during their recent 25-season playoff streak, are headed towards missing the postseason for the fourth straight year. They are currently in their longest playoff drought since 1979 to 1983, when they missed the postseason in five straight seasons.

The Bruins have won six straight games, outscoring their opponents 21-7. It is their third winning streak of at least six games this season. They have the best defense in the NHL this season, allowing 2.38 goals/game. They have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their last six games during this current winning streak.

David Pastrnak has 38 goals this season (3rd in NHL). However, Pastrnak has just one goal in his last six games as he looks to become the first Bruin to score 40 goals in a season since Glen Murray in 2002-03 (44 goals). Pastrnak, who held a four-goal lead over Auston Matthews as the top scorer in the league on January 12, now sits two goals behind both Matthews and Alex Ovechkin (40 goals).

With Tuukka Rask playing against Arizona on Saturday, Jaroslav Halak is set to start against Detroit. Halak has been excellent as Rask’s backup, going 14-6-6 with a 2.36 GAA and .921 SV% this season.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET ON NBC]

WHAT: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings
WHERE: Little Caesars Arena
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 9, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Red Wings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciKarson Kuhlman
Sean KuralyCharlie CoyleAnders Bjork
Anton BlidhPar LindholmChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykJohn Moore

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

RED WINGS
Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRobby Fabbri
Tyler BertuzziValtteri FilppulaBrendan Perlini
Taro Hirose – Andreas AthanasiouLuke Glendening
Adam ErneChristoffer EhnGivani Smith

Patrik NemethAlex Biega
Madison BoweyFilip Hronek
Trevor Daley – Gustav Lindstrom

Starting goalie: Jonathan Bernier

Mike Emrick and Brian Boucher will call the matchup from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich. Kathryn Tappen hosts studio coverage with Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. 

The good news and the bad news for Roman Josi

1 Comment

Roman Josi told Swiss Hockey News.ch that he suffered a concussion from that Anton Blidh hit you can see in the video above, according to a translation passed along by the Tennessean.

So, that’s the bad news for the Nashville Predators. The good is that he also told that outlet that he might be able to return for the Preds sometime next week.

Josi, 26, has dealt with concussion issues before, making this report a concern for the long-term. Still, the possibility of a return so soon is definitely a positive.

Here’s what the next week and change looks like for Nashville:

Tonight: at Flames
Friday: at Oilers
Sunday: at Wild
Tuesday, Jan. 24: vs. Sabres
Thursday: vs. Blue Jackets

The Predators aren’t out of the West picture altogether, but they need to make the most of their opportunities. Much like the Bolts with Victor Hedman, Nashville’s hanging in there OK without one of their key guys, but every point counts. Getting Josi back would be huge.

More injury problems for Predators as Josi suffers upper-body injury

Getty
5 Comments

Already playing without P.K. Subban on their blue line, the Nashville Predators might have lost another key defenseman on Friday night when Roman Josi had to leave their 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins early in the first period with an upper-body injury.

Josi did not return to the game, and there is no guarantee that he will be available on Saturday when the team takes on the Colorado Avalanche.

The injury happened in the first period when Josi was rocked by a hit from Bruins forward Anton Blidh. It was a play that resulted in Blidh getting a five-minute major for interference.

Have a look.

After the game, Predators coach Peter Laviolette was critical of the play, calling it “late and dirty,” via the Tennessean.

Josi has not missed a game this season for the Predators and even though his offense has dropped a bit (he is on pace for about 41 points after recording more than 60 a year ago) he is still one of their top-two defenders and a key cog on the team. They especially cannot afford to lose him now with Subban already out of the lineup.

Video: Roman Josi hurt after late hit by Anton Blidh

11 Comments

Not long after inadvertently potentially injuring Tuukka Rask with a slap shot, Roman Josi may have suffered an injury thanks to a hit that may or may not have been inadvertently questionable.

(You can decide for yourself after watching the hit in the video above.)

The deliverer of the questionable hit was Anton Blidh of the Boston Bruins, who received a major penalty for interference.

Here’s a GIF of the hit, if you prefer that method:

However you feel about Blidh’s intent … yikes, that doesn’t look good for Josi. The Predators are already down a key defenseman in P.K. Subban, so a serious injury could be an enormous blow to the team’s fledgling playoff hopes.

Considering Rask’s importance to the Bruins, this could be a costly game for both teams.

Update: The Predators announced that Josi suffered an upper-body injury and will not return.