Forsberg scores two, Predators outlast Blackhawks in overtime

How nice is it to have Filip Forsberg back, Nashville?

After missing more than a month because of injury, Forsberg re-entered the fray earlier this week and in his second game back, produced two goals, including the clincher in overtime to down a stingy Chicago Blackhawks team 4-3 on Wednesday Night Hockey.

The Predators are flying, now 5-0-1 in their past six games — including three straight — after losing six straight and back on top of the Central Division, one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets.

For a stretch, Nashville looked human. Injuries took their toll and the slump ensured.

It’s only within the past week that they’ve been running with a few more cylinders. Before that, it was Nov. 18 when the likes of Forsberg, P.K. Subban and Viktor Arvidsson, for example, suited up in a game together.

Alex DeBrincat continued to abuse the back of the net, scoring his 21st of the season. He has goals in each of his past three games and seven in his past 10.

His goal tied the game briefly late in the first period, only to be countered eight seconds later by Arvidsson’s 13th.

Patrick Kane continued his red-hot play with two more assists, pushing his point total to 21 (nine goals, 12 assists) in his past 12 games.

Forsberg scored his first goal since Nov. 21 In his second game back after missing more then a month because of injury, Forsberg was flying in the game and was rewarded on the power play with a top that beat Blackhawk’s goalie Collin Delia top corner.

The Blackhawks are now 1-3-1 in their past five games after going 5-1-0 in their previous six games. It might be time to stop sleeping on them, however. They’re five points back of a playoff spot, which is still a mountain to climb, but it’s no Everest. Chicago has found their game despite not having Corey Crawford behind them.

That game helped them earn a point in this one. They pulled the game to 3-2 on Jonathan Toew’s 18th, a shorthanded goal with 20 seconds left in the second period and then found an equalizer with 2:21 left in regulation on an Artem Anisimov strike.

The Predators head to Columbus on Thursday to play Game 5 of a six-game road trip. They’ll face the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets next week, with the latter set up to be one of the biggest games in the Central this season.

Chicago hosts the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.


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

After dealing with racist taunts, team gets invite to Capitals game

via Divyne Apollon Sr.
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Devante Smith-Pelly and John Carlson extended a special invitation for the Washington Capitals’ Jan. 14 game against the St. Louis Blues.

Those invitees are the Metro Maple Leafs, a youth hockey team in the Maryland area. The Metro Maple Leafs gained national attention when they rallied around teammate Divyne Apollon II (pictured to the left of his father and sisters), who endured terrible racist taunts.

The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak described the awful comments about a week ago:

So Divyne, 13, the only black player on his Maryland hockey team, wasn’t prepared for the monkey sounds another team’s players made at him. And the n-word. And the constant chants of “Get off the ice! Go play basketball!”

While Dvorak reports that there wasn’t a response from referees on hand or the opposing team’s coach (either by choice or because they didn’t hear the slurs sent Apollon’s way), Apollon’s teammates responded with anger, eventually getting into fights that ended up getting Apollon suspended for the remainder of a youth tournament.

Once parents of the players found out about the incidents, they circulated these stickers, which ended up on players’ sticks:

Clearly, Apollon’s experiences made an impact on the Capitals, including Smith-Pelly and Carlson. They ended up releasing this video inviting Apollon and his teammates to that upcoming game on Jan. 14:

Yeah, it would be tough to keep that a secret, indeed.

Smith-Pelly elaborated on the invitation to Taryn Bray of the Capitals website.

“For me to meet him [Divyne] and look him in the face as someone who’s gone through it and can talk to him and share my experience is important to me,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s a pretty gross thing to be happening.”

DSP makes a great point: as uplifting as it is to see Apollon II receive passionate support from his teammates and this nice gesture from the Caps, it’s painful that such ugliness continues to surface.

Earlier this week, P.K. Subban delivered an inspirational video of his own on the subject after hearing about racist incidents.

After reflecting upon the situation, Apollon’s father admitted to Dvorak that he’d “grown numb” to such experiences.

Here’s hoping that the hockey community grows to the point where such incidents end up in the ugly past, but until then, it’s heartening to see Subban, Smith-Pelly, and others lending what must be priceless support for young hockey players like Apollon.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks face off against Predators on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks 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.

After a losing six straight games (0-5-1) in December, Nashville has rebounded with a five-game point streak (4-0-1) since New Year’s Eve. Their latest win was an impressive 4-0 victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday. Rinne had 18 saves in his third shutout of the season.

Filip Forsberg returned to the lineup on Monday after missing 17 games with an upper-body injury. The team was 8-7-2 without him. Monday was Nashville’s first game since Nov. 10 with Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and P.K. Subban all in the lineup.

The Blackhawks have climbed out of the basement of the NHL by going 7-4-2 since mid- December, but still have several teams to leapfrog if they want to make the playoffs. Still, they have become a tough out, as evidenced by their 4-3 loss to the Conference-leading Flames on Monday.

Patrick Kane has been red hot with 19 points (9G, 10A) in his last 11 games. He also has had multi-point games in four of his last six games. Jonathan Toews had a six-game point streak snapped on Monday, but still has 39 points (17G, 22A) in 45 games overall. Toews is on pace for 71 points and 30 goals, which would be his most productive season since 2010-11.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Predators-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

[P.K. Subban sends inspirational message to young fan after racist taunts]

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Alex DeBrincat – Jonathan Toews – Dominik Kahun
Artem AnisimovDylan Strome – Patrick Kane
Brandon SaadDavid Kampf – Drake Caggiula
John HaydenMarcus KrugerBrendan Perlini

Duncan KeithErik Gustafsson
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy
Brandon Davidson – Henri Jokiharju

Starting goalie: Collin Delia

PREDATORS
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin FialaColton SissonsCraig Smith
Calle JarnkrokNick BoninoAustin Watson
Ryan HartmanFrederick GaudreauRocco Grimaldi

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
P.K. Subban- Mattias Ekholm
Matt IrwinDan Hamhuis

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from United Center. Kathryn Tappen hosts NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones, as well as NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

MORE: Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat can’t stop scoring

Summer coaching changes paying major dividends across NHL

By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

It wasn’t the 15-hour flight to China for training camp that had general manager Brad Treliving’s head spinning.

It was the pace of Bill Peters’ first practice as coach of the Calgary Flames.

”I was tired watching it,” Treliving said.

Peters has lost no time in helping the Flames improve and reach first place in the Pacific Division during his first season. In fact, the six teams that hired a new coach over the summer are all doing well – certainly when compared to the five that have dumped coaches already the season. Those clubs are a combined 47-60-11 since making those moves.

Peters and Todd Reirden, who took over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals from Barry Trotz, will coach in the All-Star Game on Jan. 26 with their teams leading their respective divisions at the halfway mark.

Jim Montgomery’s Dallas Stars are third in the Central Division and Barry Trotz’s New York Islanders a point out of a playoff spot with extra games to play, while the New York Rangers are overachieving under David Quinn and the Carolina Hurricanes are taking steps forward after Rod Brind’Amour replaced Peters.

For Reirden and Brind’Amour, the challenge was moving up from a role as a longtime assistant. Capitals and Hurricanes players say the transitions have been smooth because each coach hasn’t altered his approach.

”(Reirden is) a completely different person, different personality, different style and I think he’s stuck to who he is,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. ”What’s helped him is just staying true to what we all expect out of him.”

With almost the same roster back, Washington was expected to make the playoffs and take a good shot at repeating. Expectations were fuzzier for the Flames, Islanders and Stars.

Calgary had alternated making and missing the playoffs under coaches Bob Hartley and Glen Gulutzan before Peters took over. The Flames’ 58 points have them tied atop the Western Conference and trailing only the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning in the overall NHL standings, a big testament to Peters’ puck-hounding style and straightforward communication.

”He’s a great coach,” star winger Johnny Gaudreau said. ”He knows how to win. It doesn’t matter if you’re top line, bottom line, if you’re not playing well you’re not going to be on the ice. He’s not going put you over the bench there. He expects a lot out of his players and it’s been great playing for him this year.”

Trotz has had a similar impact with the Islanders, bringing much-needed structure to a team that missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and lost point-a-game center John Tavares to Toronto in free agency. Veteran GM Lou Lamoriello said with any coaching change three or four players get better and three or four get worse; he thinks Trotz has gotten the most out of a team far different than what he had in Washington.

”He’s extremely detailed, very consistent in his approach as far as planning, execution, system and delivery,” Lamoriello said of Trotz. ”He has an outstanding delivery to the players as far as no highs, no lows and holds them accountable to what is being asked of them.”

In Dallas, top-line center Tyler Seguin said Montgomery has done a good job of giving players rest, sometimes opting for video work instead of practice. Despite an uproar over pointed comments made by CEO Jim Lites about the performance of Seguin and captain Jamie Benn, the Stars hold a wild-card spot in Montgomery’s first NHL season after five years at the University of Denver.

Quinn spent five seasons at Boston University before GM Jeff Gorton hired him to coach the Rangers, and the returns on that decision are already positive. His job isn’t to get New York into the playoffs right away but rather instill good habits. He is also occasionally scratching players young and old to set a standard for quality of play.

”He’s trying to set a tone of accountability here,” Gorton said. ”I think he’s been consistent to who he is, and his philosophy is if guys aren’t doing the job, then I’ve got to put guys in that are going to do it.”

Consistency and familiarity have helped Brind’Amour with the Hurricanes, who lack scoring punch and have a league-worst nine-year playoff drought. The players respect his legendary work ethic.

”When he says it, you know he’s done it and it makes you want to do it, too,” defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said. ”When he talks, he commands the room and I think he’s a guy you really like to play for.”

JOHNNY HOCKEY

No player in the NHL is hotter right now than Gaudreau , who’s earning every bit of his ”Johnny Hockey” nickname. His 16 goals and 35 points in 18 games are the most in the league since Dec. 1 and inside the organization show the progression of the 25-year-old into an all-around superstar.

”There’s a maturity to his game,” Treliving said. ”He’s had a real defensive consciousness this year. Not that he hadn’t in the past, but when he doesn’t have (the puck), he’s tracking to get it back.”

TIGHT METRO

The top four teams in the Metropolitan Division – the Capitals, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Islanders – were separated by just six points. That could mean a Trotz vs. Reirden showdown in the first round, Washington-Pittsburgh again or any combination of first-round matchups among teams that look evenly matched.

”It’s a challenge and it forces you to be on your game all the time,” Reirden said.

BANGED-UP PREDATORS

Nashville has dealt with major injuries to several key players. Defenseman P.K. Subban missed 19 games before Christmas, winger Viktor Arvidsson missed 24 of 25 and winger Filip Forsberg missed 17 in a row before returning Monday. Nashville endured a six-game losing streak in December but has somehow thrived amid injuries in the stacked Central Division.

”There’s no sense crying about it,” coach Peter Laviolette said. ”We’ve got to win hockey games.”

GAME OF THE WEEK

The Boston Bruins visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on ”Hockey Night in Canada” Saturday in what could be an Atlantic Division first-round playoff preview.

LEADERS (through Tuesday)

Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 30; Assists: Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), 50; Points: Kucherov, 71; Ice time: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), 26:38; Wins: Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas), 25; Goals-against average: Robin Lehner (Islanders), 2.18; Save percentage: Jack Campbell (Los Angeles), .930.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

P.K. Subban sends inspirational message to young fan after racist taunts

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P.K. Subban is pure class.

Sure, you can argue to the nth degree about who Subban is on the ice. He’s a polarizing player at times.

But when it comes to the man off of it, there are no arguments: Subban is an exceptional human being. And this was once again on display on Monday on Reddit.

A person with the Reddit username u/hockey7676 posted to the r/hockey subreddit. The post wasn’t long, but said, “My 13 year old son has been dealing with a lot of racist taunts this year. He received a text message Saturday night from his favorite player PK Subban.”

Attached to it was the video message that Subban sent the boy — who was identified in the message only as ‘Ty.’

His message? Keep moving forward.

“As long as you’re still breathing in this world, you gotta believe in yourself,” Subban said. “And let nobody tell you what you can and cannot do, especially if it’s because of the color of skin.

“In this world, some things happen that we don’t understand. That’s OK, we don’t have to understand it. All we need to do is understand ourself, believe in ourself and keep trying and keep pushing forward.

“I just want to tell that when you’re playing hockey, you play because you love the game and you want to play. Let nobody take that away from you.”

The Reddit post was up to 1,200 comments as of Monday night.

Subban’s off-ice heroics have been well-documented.

In 2016, while still a member of the Montreal Canadiens, he pledged $10 million over the next seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

While in Nashville, he’s set up a program called Blueline Buddies, which aims to break down barriers between police and youths in the area.

[MORE: Forsberg’s return just what the Predators needs]


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