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Predators have one big problem to solve

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Some NHL teams are closer to being perfect than others, but no group of players is without flaw. The Nashville Predators are off to a great start. They’re tied for the best record in the NHL at 13-5-1, but the Preds have a huge issue they’re going to have to address sooner or later.

When it comes to goals scored, they’re currently ninth in the NHL with 62. When it comes to goals against, the Predators (44 goals allowed) only trail Winnipeg by one for top spot. So, what’s the glaring weakness? It’s the power play, which currently ranks dead-last in the NHL at 10.8 percent. No other team is below 12.7 percent this season. Yikes!

The Predators are heading into this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Kings on a three-game losing skid. They’ve dropped one-goal decisions to Anaheim (shootout), San Jose and Arizona. During that stretch, they’ve gone 0-for-15 on the man-advantage. You think a power-play goal here or there would have made a difference in three one-goal games? Definitely.

A perfect example of that came on Monday night in Anaheim. The Preds went 0-for-7 on the power play in that one, including a 4-on-3 man-advantage in overtime. Sometimes scheme is the issue, but other times it’s just about the opponent’s aggressive penalty kill, or their goalie. In overtime, it was all about Ducks goalie John Gibson, who stoned Ryan Johansen right in front of the net.

As TSN’s Travis Yost pointed out earlier this week, one of the major issues might be how much ice time their defensemen are getting on the man-advantage. Many teams have opted to use four forwards on the power play this season, but the Preds aren’t typically one of them. Because they’re loaded with defensemen like P.K. Subban (now injured), Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, they feel like those players are the best options in that kind of scenario. Now that Subban’s been placed on injured reserve, they could decide to hand more ice time to their forwards.

Of the eight power-play goals they’ve scored this season, three have come off the stick of Filip Forsberg. No other player has more than one. And just one of the eight goals has been scored by a defenseman, and that’s Josi.

“I thought we started to get some looks in the overtime,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after Monday’s game against Anaheim, per The Tennessean. “We could’ve won the game a bunch of times on the power play and it just didn’t go for us, so that’s where we’re at right now with it. It’s gotta be better.”

The good news for Nashville, is that they’re going to be home for the majority of the remaining days in November and early December, which means they’ll have ample practice time to work on this significant issue. Eight of the Predators’ next nine games will be at Bridgestone Arena. The only road game they’ll play between now and Dec. 3 will be in St. Louis.

Imagine how dangerous the Preds will be if they get their power play sorted out? That’s a scary thought.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Thornton’s 400th goal helps Sharks win wild one over Predators

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The game of the night (and maybe the year so far!) was in San Jose on Tuesday where the Sharks were able to come away with a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators.

Along with the win, it was also a huge night for Joe Thornton as he reached a personal milestone by scoring his 400th career goal.

Have a look!

That goal could not have come at a better time as it also happened to be the game-winner and put him in some pretty exclusive company.

By joining the 400-goal club, Thornton becomes just the 11th player in NHL history to score at least 400 goals and 1,000 assists. The other players on that list are Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Ron Francis, Marcel Dionne, Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, and Ray Bourque.

Every player on that list is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame, with the lone exception being Jaromir Jagr … only because he was still playing in the league as recently as a year ago and is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. Once he is, he will be a first ballot entry.

Just as Thornton should be.

But let’s get back to the game itself for a second because this one was crazy.

In the first period it looked like the Sharks were going to run the Predators out of the building by scoring three goals in the first 16 minutes to race out to an early three-goal lead. But the Predators were able to respond in the second period with three consecutive goals of their own (including two from Filip Forsberg), and then managed to take the lead early in the third period thanks to a Rocco Grimaldi goal.

Just as the Sharks looked to be on the verge of squandering two points, Joe Pavelski scored his second goal of the game to tie it with just under seven minutes to play in regulation.

It only took 13 seconds for Thornton to follow it up with his winning goal.

Sharks goalie Martin Jones did not have a great game overall, but he did make some huge saves down the stretch after Thornton’s goal to help preserve the win

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Predators visit Avalanche on Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

This week’s Wednesday Night Hockey doubleheader wraps up with a rematch from the first-round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Nashville Predators visit the Colorado Avalanche.

It is sure to be an exciting matchup between two top Central Division teams as the Predators roll into the game owning the league’s best points percentage (22 points in 14 game) and best goal differential (plus-17). After reaching the Stanley Cup Final two years ago and then coming back a year ago to win the Presidents’ Trophy the Predators are once again on track to be one of the best teams in the NHL and a top-tier Stanley Cup contender.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, are doing their best to show that their surprise playoff appearance (after completing an incredible one-year turnaround in the standings) was no fluke. They enter play on Wednesday in one of the two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference and just one point back of Minnesota for the second spot in the Central Division.

They boast the NHL’s third-best goal differential (plus-12) and one of the NHL’s top lines with the trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog leading the way. Rantanen entered Wednesday as the league’s leading scorer with 24 points, two points ahead of Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid. MacKinnon is third in the scoring race with 21 points while Landeskog is 12th with 18 total points. His 11 goals are tied for the second most.

Puck drop in Colorado is 10 p.m. ET.

[WATCH LIVE – 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche
Where: Pepsi Center
When: Wednesday, November 7th, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Predators-Avalanche stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PREDATORS

Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenRyan Hartman
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Frederick GaudreauNick BoninoKevin Fiala
Zac RinaldoColton SissonsMiikka Salomaki

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Anthony BitettoYannick Weber

Starting Goalie: Pekka Rinne

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Sheldon Dries – Alexander KerfootColin Wilson
Matt NietoCarl SoderbergMatt Calvert
Gabriel BourqueVladislav KamenevMarko Dano

Patrik NemethErik Johnson
Ian ColeSamuel Girard
Nikita ZadorovTyson Barrie

Starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Golden Knights visit Predators on NBCSN

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

Vegas started slowly out of the gate losing four of their first five games, but seem to have righted the ship by going 4-1-1 in their last six games. Including this game in Nashville, six of their next seven games are on the road where they are 2-3-0 this season.

Meanwhile, the Predators won seven of their first eight games to start the season, but have now dropped two of their last three. Their rough patch could continue into November, as Nashville has a difficult upcoming schedule, including a west coast road trip

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne has missed the last four games with an undisclosed injury. He has been practicing with the team, but has yet to be activated off IR. Rinne, who will turn 36 on Saturday, left in a win over Calgary on Oct. 19 shortly after colliding with Kevin Fiala. Predators GM David Poile said the netminder is close to returning. Juuse Saros will start on Tuesday.

The Golden Knights will start Malcolm Subban in net, which will make for a nice sub-plot as he faces off against his brother, P.K.

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Vegas Golden Knights at Nashville Predators
Where: Bridgestone Arena
When: Tuesday, October 30th, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Golden Knights-Predators stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith
Tomas HykaErik HaulaAlex Tuch
Ryan CarpenterCody EakinTomas Nosek
William CarrierPierre-Edouard BellemareRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabbColin Miller
Shea TheodoreDeryk Engelland
Jon MerrillNick Holden

Starting goalie: Malcolm Subban

PREDATORS
Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Ryan Hartman – Nick Bonino – Kevin Fiala
Miikka Salomaki / Frederick GaudreauColton SissonsZac Rinaldo / Rocco Grimaldi

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Matt IrwinYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Luck hasn’t been going Vegas Golden Knights’ way

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

A 5-5-1 record would be exhilarating for most sports teams in their second year of existence, but for the Vegas Golden Knights, it’s an exasperating start.

Part of that is obvious: the Golden Knights took the NHL by storm in their inaugural 2017-18 season, winning the Pacific Division by a mile and making it to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Raising the bar isn’t the only reason why things have been frustrating for Vegas, however.

As many expected, the Golden Knights’ run of good luck has cooled off, but they haven’t fallen off in quite the way many forecasted.

[Golden Knights – Predators preview.]

Instead of being exposed as pretenders, so far, it seems like Vegas has been suffering rotten luck. This isn’t just about the unfortunate injury of newly acquired center Paul Stastny, who could be out months, either.

Nope, instead it’s mainly been cruel, old-fashioned bad puck luck.

Perhaps this is the Golden Knights’ true “welcome to the NHL” experience, then. Many teams have felt Vegas’ pain over the years: showering opponents with a barrage of shots, only to not find the net, see the other goalie vastly outplay yours, or a combination of the two.

You can break down Vegas’ robust underlying numbers in both fancy and simple ways, with a simple conclusion: they’ve performed better than their 5-5-1 record would indicate.

Most simply, the Golden Knights have massively outshot their opponents so far in 2018-19, generating 35.1 shots per game (fourth-best in the NHL) while only surrendering 24.1 shots against per game (second-best in the NHL).

Deeper looks continue to shine a positive light on Vegas’ early play.

Using even-strength stats from Natural Stat Trick, you can see that the Golden Knights are a top team in multiple categories. Here’s a quick snapshot of their impressive work, as part of the top 10 teams sorted by Corsi For Percentage:

Team corsi for% high danger% shooting% save%
Carolina 61.25 60.62 7.29 91.84
Vegas 59.84 60.1 5.05 89.81
San Jose 58.56 58.85 6.67 90.09
Florida 54.3 50.74 8.33 89.95
Arizona 53.14 50.26 5.99 94.42
Tampa Bay 52.71 56.89 7.59 90.57
Calgary 52.65 45.35 8.66 91.53
Chicago 52.16 43.93 8.13 92.26
Boston 52.08 54.36 7.92 93.7
Montreal 51.55 46.24 9.09 93.18

The last two categories are key, and hopefully fuel for Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant to keep his foot on the gas. Vegas is pretty much great in the categories they can control: high-danger chances, scoring chances in general, and puck possession.

(Also: The Point Hockey ranks them as tied for fourth-best in generating the most “inner-slot shots” while being the second-best at limiting them, another indication that Vegas is dominating the battle for high-danger opportunities.)

The Golden Knights are almost certain to improve their shooting percentage as the season goes along, and the hope is that Marc-Andre Fleury and their other goalies at least return to a league-average level.

[Filip Forsberg’s going from star to superstar.]

Now, it will be difficult for the Golden Knights to hog the puck on the same level all season long. If nothing else, the pace of play will likely slow during an 82-game season, even for a squad that pushes the pace like Vegas does. It also won’t help to be without Stastny, a center who has been a puck possession wizard basically since people started tracking deeper stats.

Even with those caveats and a disappointing record in mind, the Golden Knights should keep at it, as the numbers indicate that they’re for real.

Of course, just about everyone expected the Golden Knights to run out of bounces last season, so maybe the fix is in against Vegas this time around.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.