Predators need help beyond top line after three-game skid

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Nashville Predators’ sizzling 13-3 start to the season is a distant memory. The defending Presidents’ Trophy winners have lost three straight and seven of the last 11 on their home ice called Smashville.

Part of the problem is only the top line is scoring with any regularity.

It’s enough to possibly force general manager David Poile into another big move before the NHL trade deadline Feb. 25. Fans are lighting up social media wanting something to change to snap the Predators out of struggles that have dropped them to eighth overall in the league standings. After winning the Central Division a year ago, Nashville is second with 71 points – four behind Winnipeg.

Goalie Pekka Rinne believes the losses could possibly help the Predators in the long run.

“I feel like everybody feels the urgency and desperation …,” Rinne said Wednesday. “I mean you look at the standings and we still up there, but you don’t want to feel comfortable in our division. We just got to play better. That’s the bottom line. Get results …, and individually we all need to be just consistent, myself included, but it’s going to come. And hopefully we can look back in a little bit and … (see) that we grew from it and we learned from it.”

The Predators dropped their third straight game Tuesday night 3-2 to Detroit , which came in next to last in the NHL in points. Coach Peter Laviolette put them through practice Wednesday working on a few issues, like a power play that has produced just three goals in 49 opportunities over the past 14 games. Nashville also has allowed the first goal in 31 of its 59 games.

Still, Laviolette said he liked how the Predators played their last couple games with a 5-4 overtime loss to St. Louis on Sunday followed by the loss to Detroit.

“There’s 10 different things that could’ve helped us or made us better,” Laviolette said. “It could’ve been a face-off, it could’ve been a power-play, a penalty kill, a better third period. An opportunity that goes in the net instead of not going in the net. There’s a bunch of little things I think that can happen. … We did a lot of good things in the last two games and the results didn’t come our way.”

They could use more production beyond the JOFA line of center Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. Johansen leads Nashville with 52 points in 57 games, while Arvidsson leads the team with 25 goals in just 35 games. Forsberg is second with 20 goals in 42 games because of injuries. Arvidsson has been on a tear since returning from a broken thumb scoring 11 goals in 11 games along with an NHL-best 17 goals since Dec. 31.

There’s a drop-off after that.

Craig Smith, who has not missed a game this season, ranks third on the Predators with 16 goals.

“It’s a work in progress,” Smith said. “I think we’re doing a lot of the right things. We get a bounce here and there to feel good. But it’s all about the process. Right now we like the way we work, we like the way, I guess the details of the game we’re doing a lot of the right things.”

Nashville has 23 games left, starting Thursday night hosting Montreal. The Predators lead third-place Dallas by eight points in the division and know teams like St. Louis and Minnesota are pushing too.

“Consistency is something that we need to work on,” Forsberg said. “But at the same time, we’ve seen our highs. If we can keep going, I think we’ll be fine.”

NHL on NBC: Predators look to get back on track vs. Blues

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. 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.

The Predators have a comfortable cushion ahead of the teams below them in the Central Division as they chase the Winnipeg Jets for the top spot, but losses like they had on Saturday could catch up to them if they don’t quickly get back on course.

Having won five of their last seven, they don’t have to worry about the hard-charging Blues yet being 13 points ahead of their Sunday opponents and nine points up on the Dallas Stars, who sit in the third place in the division with two games in-hand. But with St. Louis on a roll, evening out their weekend home-and-home series following the Blues’ 3-2 win on Saturday will help them leapfrog Winnipeg should the Jets fail to get a win in Buffalo.

“Not good,” said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette after Saturday’s loss. “They were faster. We didn’t play the game fast enough, didn’t have enough attitude in the game, and not enough guys on the rope either. It just wasn’t good; wasn’t a good day.” 

St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes and added a third midway through the second period.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

“The effort in the first two periods was not good enough,” said defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “They were dicating the play, they were all over us. [Sunday], we need more like we played in the third. I thought we stepped it up a little bit and we were more on the attack. We were skating harder, we were more physical, and that’s something that we need to do more [Sunday].”

Nashville won’t have much time to sit and stew about their effort with Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. ET matinee. They likely won’t be facing red-hot Jordan Binnington, so that’s a bonus for their chances, and they’re already eager to exact some revenge.

“Pekka kept us in that game, but our first 40 minutes were just not good enough,” said Predators forward Ryan Johansen. “The good thing is we are right back at it [Sunday] against the same team, and the work we brought in the third period is what we need tomorrow for the whole game.”

John Forslund (play-by-play), Joe Micheletti (analyst) and McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass analyst) will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. McHugh, Milbury and Jones will anchor studio coverage.

Boyle acquisition allows Predators to bolster center depth

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Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season, the Nashville Predators were bounced from the playoffs by the Winnipeg Jets in the second round. As good as their regular season was, the year, as a whole, was a disappointment. Well, general manager David Poile wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

On Wednesday, the Predators acquired veteran forward Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a second-round pick in 2019.

He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

Having quality depth down the middle is one of the keys to winning a Stanley Cup, and the Preds landing Boyle certainly gives them deeper at center. Once Kyle Turris returns from a lower-body injury, Nashville will be able to role out Ryan Johansen, Turris, Boyle and Nick Bonino. Colton Sissons can also play center if need be.

[2019 NHL TRADE DEADLINE TRACKER]

Boyle, 34, has 13 goals and 19 points in 47 games this season. He’s also able to play on the power play and penalty kill, which makes him even more valuable to a contending team like Nashville. Six of his goals were scored on the man-advantage and he’s added a goal and three points on the PK.

This isn’t the first time Boyle has been traded as a rental player. In 2017, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Byron Froese and a conditional second-round draft pick. He ended up finishing his short stint with the Leafs with just three assists in 21 regular season games. He then added two more helpers in six games during the postseason.

The Predators are hoping that he’ll be able to chip in a little more this time around.

After grabbing Boyle, Poile went out and brought back forward Cody McLeod from the New York Rangers, sending a 2020 seventh-round pick the other way.

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.

Saros sets career high with 47 saves as Predators stave off Golden Knights

Associated Press

Try as a team might, sometimes the hot goalie at the other end is just too strong on a given night.

Juuse Saros was that hot goalie, and he stifled the Vegas Golden Knights at nearly every juncture in a 2-1 win for the Nashville Predators on Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN.

Saros made a career-high 47 saves in place of Pekka Rinne, who was given the night off on the last day of hockey before the all-star break. And he was certainly up to the task, stopping 37 straight after allowing his only blemish on the night in the first period.

Ryan Johansen‘s ninth of the season came just 52 seconds into the second period to cancel out Max Pacioretty‘s first-period goal. Johansen returned to the fold on Wednesday after serving a two-game ban for trying to decapitate Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele last week.

Nick Bonino fired home the game-winner past Marc-Andre Fleury 3:01 later. Fleury, to his credit, was his usual self, stopping 25 shots. The run support just never came, despite all of Vegas’ best efforts.

Saros has been on a roll lately, winning four of his past five starts. His season didn’t start the way he would have liked and came into the game with a .908 save percentage. But after Wednesday’s performance, he’ll leave Vegas with a .914.

With the loss, the Golden Knights will have to wait to become the first team in NHL history to reach 30 wins in its first two seasons of existence. Vegas has lost two in a row.

For Nashville, the win puts them level on points (64) with the Jets for the top spot in the Central Division, although the Jets have four games in hand and are currently on their mandated player break. Nashville has won two straight and six of their past 10.

Meanwhile, there was an alleged chomp on the finger(s) of P.K. Subban during the second period. You can read more by clicking the link there, but the quick summary is that Subban accused Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of taking a bite after one of Saros’ saves right at the end of the period. Subban had his hand in Bellemare’s face, and there was no clear angle of the bite, but Subban’s reaction certainly made it seem like something happened.


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

Wednesday Night Hockey: Golden Knights try to stay strong at home vs. Predators

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Predators enter the final game before the All-Star break two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the Central Division lead and powered by the goal scoring efforts of Viktor Arvidsson.

Arvidsson leads the team with 19 goals despite playing just 27 games. He missed three games in November with a lower-body injury, and then in his return to the lineup, he broke his thumb which led to a 21-game absence. He’s currently on pace for a 40-goal season despite missing 24 games to injury. After scoring against Colorado on Monday, he has 11 goals in his last 14 games and is tied with Evander Kane for the NHL lead in goals scored (10) since the calendar turned to 2019.

“He’s the man. I’ve said it a lot, he’s the Energizer Bunny for our team,” said Ryan Johansen. “Every game, he brings it, and it’s contagious for our group. It’s evident when he’s going, our team’s going.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Like last season, the Golden Knights are one of the best home teams in the NHL, though they have lost two of their past three at T-Mobile Arena. They’re 16-5-3 at home this season compared to 13-13-1 on the road. Offensive and defensively their game has been much better in Vegas as they’ve scored 3.29 goals per game and allowed 2.17 goals per game compared to 2.81 goals for and 3.15 goals against on the road.

Some of that goal scoring has come off the stick is the team’s leading scorer, Alex Tuch. His goal on Monday against his old team, the Minnesota Wild, gave him 16 on the season, surpassing his total from 2017-18. Tuch has recorded 39 points in 43 games this season after missing the first eight games in October with a lower-body injury. The production he’s provided so far helped earn him a seven-year, $33.25M extension, which kicks in next season.

Kenny Albert (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Nev.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.