Viktor Arvidsson

Goalie goal! Rinne scores goal as Predators get first win for Hynes (Video)

If the Nashville Predators are going to turn their season around under new coach John Hynes they are going to need better play from their goalies. Pekka Rinne provided that on Thursday night in a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks by not only stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced, but by also scoring the first goal of his career in the closing seconds.

That is correct, friends. We have a goalie goal!

Just after Nick Bonino scored an empty-net goal to give the Predators a two-goal lead, the Blackhawks pulled goaltender Corey Crawford for a second time in a desperate effort to get back in the game.

It gave Rinne the opportunity to do this.

Rinne’s rare company

With that, Rinne becomes the 12th different goalie in NHL history to be credited with a goal. He is the first since Mike Smith during the 2013-14 season. Rinne is just the seventh of those goalies to score their goal by actually shooting the puck in the net. The others were credited with goals by being the last player to touch the puck on an opponent’s own goal.

That was the perfect way to wrap up a huge win for the Predators.

The Predators needed this win

Not only is it their first win with Hynes behind the bench, but it is also two huge points in the standings as they try to make up ground in the playoff race. They now sit four points behind the Winnipeg Jets with two games in hand. Given those games in hand, as well as their consistently strong 5-on-5 play this season, there is definitely still a path to the postseason here.

They just need more performances like tonight from Rinne. Not necessarily the goal, but the way he helped slam the door shut in the third period.

After jumping out to an early 3-0 lead, the Predators had to hang on as the Blackhawks mounted a furious rally. Rinne stood tall, and they even got a clutch effort from their penalty kill in the final minutes when Chicago had a chance to tie the game.

Along with Rinne and Bonino, the Predators also received goals from Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, and Colin Blackwelll. Blackwell’s goal is his first in the NHL.

Related: Predators name John Hynes head coach 

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 Ducks on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Anaheim has lost three straight games and six of their last eight (2-5-1). They currently sit in last place in the Western Conference, 10 points outside the 2nd Wild Card. They saw their run of six-straight playoff appearances snapped last season, and are in jeopardy of missing out on the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-00 to 2001-02 (three straight seasons). In their last game at Arizona, the Ducks dropped a 2-1 lead, allowing three goals in the third period to lose 4-2.

For a second straight season, the Ducks are at the bottom of the scoring charts in the NHL. After finishing last in the league last season (2.39 goals/game), they are currently 30th in the league in scoring (2.49 goals/game – only DET is averaging fewer).

Speaking on Thursday, GM David Poile said that while he is not planning on firing head coach Peter Laviolette, there may be changes ahead if the Predators do not improve as the trade deadline approaches in February.

“I met with [Laviolette] this morning,” he said. “We had a long talk about lots of different situations going forward. I’m not contemplating making any coaching change at this time… We’ve really got some soul searching to do right now. I have to do some real thinking about where we’re going for the rest of this year… Right now, we’re not in the playoffs and I’m open for business, if you will… I guess the point I’m saying today is, sitting here outside of the playoffs, we have for the last several years been buyers at the trading deadline. If we don’t improve here shortly, we might be a seller for the first time in a number of years. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but as I said, I am open for business and I’m certainly going to be willing to listen to different teams’ thought processes on any of our players at this point.”

Ryan Ellis was placed on Injured Reserve on Friday after the defenseman took an elbow to the head from Dallas’ Corey Perry less than three minutes into the Winter Classic. Ellis needed help leaving the ice and did not return to the game, while Perry was handed a five-game suspension for elbowing. Ellis is tied for second on Nashville with 28 points and has averaged 23:24 TOI per game this season. Alexandre Carrier was called up from the AHL on Friday, with Jarred Tinordi, who was recalled from Milwaukee on Dec 26, expected to see some time in the lineup.

With his defensive partner Ryan Ellis sidelined, even more pressure will be on captain Roman Josi to produce. Josi, who signed an 8-year, $72.472M contract in October, leads the Predators in points (14G-27A, 41 points) and is averaging 25:36 TOI per game this season (fourth in NHL). Josi enters Saturday’s game against Los Angeles riding a career-long eight-game point streak (7G-8A, 15 points), which includes five multi-point games. Only one defenseman in franchise history has ever had a 9-game point streak (Shea Weber in 2010-11). Josi was selected to the All-Star Game this season, the 3rd selection of his career (second straight).

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

WHAT: Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks
WHERE: Honda Center
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 5, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Predators-Ducks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PREDATORS
Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisMikael Granlund
Rocco GrimaldiNick BoninoCraig Smith
Yakov TreninColin BlackwellAustin Watson

Roman Josi – Yannick Weber
Jarred Tinordi – Mattias Ekholm
Dan HamhuisMatt Irwin

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

DUCKS
Adam HenriqueRyan GetzlafSam Carrick
Max Jones – Sam SteelOndrej Kase
Max Comtois – Isac Lundestrom – Jakob Silfverberg
Nicolas DeslauriersDevin ShoreCarter Rowney

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Cam FowlerErik Gudbranson
Jacob LarssonKorbinian Holzer

Starting goalie: John Gibson

Alex Faust and analyst Brian Hayward will call the action from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

NHL Power Rankings: Flames on the rise

NHL Power Rankings Calgary Flames
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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings the Metropolitan is still the league’s most dominant division, the defending champs are still picking up wins, while the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers both hit a little bit of a slump to fall a few spots.

One team on the rise has been the Calgary Flames as they have collected at least one point in 10 of their past 11 games and are finally starting to make a move in the standings. They are 6-1-0 since Geoff Ward took over behind the bench, Johnny Gaudreau is starting to break out of a slump that saw him go 10 consecutive games without a goal earlier this season, and even Milan Lucic has chipped in offensively after going 27 consecutive games without a goal to open the season.

Given the lack of a truly dominant team in the Pacific Division this season they are still right in the thick of that race even after their slow start.

They make a move up to No. 7 this week.

Where does every other team sit this week?

To the rankings!

1. Colorado Avalanche. The league’s best top line is united again, they have scoring depth, they have a young superstar on defense, and they have earned a point in 14 of their past 17 games. The best team in hockey.

2. Washington Capitals. John Carlson is still putting up absurd numbers and one of the most impressive offensive seasons ever for a defenseman.

3. New York Islanders. They will not score a lot of goals, but they give up nothing. It is working for them. Again.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins. They just keep finding ways to win and looking really good while doing so. Tristan Jarry has been their big star in recent weeks as he continues to earn playing time over Matt Murray.

5. St. Louis Blues. David Perron has stepped up in a big way to help fill the void offensively left by the absence of Vladimir Tarasenko.

6. Carolina Hurricanes. His performance is getting overshadowed by Carlson’s points production in Washington, but Dougie Hamilton is putting together a Norris-caliber season for the Hurricanes.

7. Calgary Flames. They have collected 19 out of a possible 22 points in their past 11 games to climb to within two points of first place in the Pacific Division. They are one of the hottest teams in the league.

8. Boston Bruins. Over an 82-game regular season even the very best teams are going to go cold on occasion. The Bruins hit one of those stretches lately. Nothing to be concerned about.

9. Winnipeg Jets. Every year there is that one team whose success comes out of nowhere and makes no sense. The Jets are that team this season.

10. Dallas Stars. No team in the league gives up fewer goals per game than the Stars. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin are having outstanding years in net.

11. Minnesota Wild. Eric Staal recorded his 1,000th career point over the weekend, a testament to his longevity and productivity. But it’s not just about playing for a long time, either. He was a truly dominant offensive player early in his career. You might think this spot is too high for the Wild, but they have been one of the league’s best teams for the past month-and-a-half.

12. Arizona Coyotes. They have the defense and goaltending. They just need a little more offense.

13. Vegas Golden Knights. They were always better than their early record indicated. Now the results are starting to show up to prove it.

14. Philadelphia Flyers. The most hot-and-cold team in the league. They enter the week having lost four out of five while being outscored by a 20-10 margin.

15. Tampa Bay Lightning. Do you know what would really help here? If Andrei Vasilevskiy started to play like the Vezina caliber goalie that he is.

16. Toronto Maple Leafs. They had a great west coast road trip that saw them take six out of eight points. Thankfully for them the Atlantic Division has been so bad this season that their slow start did not totally bury them.

17. Buffalo Sabres. They enter the week in second place in the Atlantic, have one of the league’s best players who is playing the best hockey of is life, and have still lost more games (18, including overtime and shootout games) than they’ve won (16). If they make the playoffs Jack Eichel will be in the MVP discussion. He should be even if they do not.

18. Vancouver Canucks. Quinn Hughes is going to be a superstar, but he needs a lot of help on the blue line if the Canucks are going to take the next step in their rebuild.

19. Montreal Canadiens. Shea Weber is having an absolutely monster season and can still be an impact player.

20. New York Rangers. Artemi Panarin just keeps getting better and more productive. He is worth the price of admission all by himself.

21. Edmonton Oilers. They are trending in the wrong direction as this season starts to look disturbingly similar to the 2018-19 season.

22. Nashville Predators. They really miss Viktor Arvidsson. But will his return be enough to salvage what is one of the league’s most disappointing teams?

23. Florida Panthers. Joel Quenneville and Sergei Bobrovsky have not yet solved their goal prevention issues. When it comes to the former there is only so much a coach can do with the talent they have to work with. When it come to the latter, they have a lot of reason to be concerned given that contract.

24. San Jose Sharks. They clearly needed to change something, but a goalie is still probably the bigger priority over the coach.

25. Ottawa Senators. Anthony Duclair has been an incredible find for them and is showing what he can do with a real chance.

26. Anaheim Ducks. They have used eight players age 22 or younger this season, with six of them playing in at least 18 games. It is not a particularly good team, but at least they are giving their future a chance to play.

27. Chicago Blackhawks. They are a long way from contending again, and that loss on Saturday may have been rock bottom for them this season.

28. Los Angeles Kings. Jonathan Quick put together a couple of decent games for the first time this season. Does he have more of that in him?

29. Columbus Blue Jackets. John Tortorella was livid with his team’s effort against an undermanned Penguins team this past week, and for very good reason. It was bad. Then they followed it up by losing to Ottawa in overtime the next day. 

30. New Jersey Devils. Maybe it was time for a new voice behind the bench. That could be true. It is also true that the team given to him wasn’t good enough to compete.

31. Detroit Red Wings. They are four points behind New Jersey, the second-worst team in the league, even though they have played in three more games.

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.

NHL on NBCSN: Goaltending, special teams driving Predators’ early struggles

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Neither the Nashville Predators or Tampa Bay Lightning are where they expected to be in the standings entering Tuesday’s game in Nashville.

Both are on the outside of the current NHL playoff picture, and both have regressed significantly from where they have been in recent seasons when they were among the top teams in the league.

The Lightning are still trying to shake off the disappointment of last year’s playoff failure and figuring out how they have to play, while also trying to find some consistency in their overall performance. The offense is starting to get back on track, and they have shown some signs in recent weeks that the team that won 62 regular season games a year ago is still lurking around and ready to show itself. They are not where they want to be yet, but they are getting closer.

The Predators are not without their issues, either.

Despite their slow start, the Predators have actually been one of the league’s best 5-on-5 teams and are near the top of the in pretty much every objective measure, including total shot attempts, scoring chances, and even goal differential where they own a plus-12 mark entering Tuesday. They are controlling games at even-strength, mostly dictating the pace of play, and playing like the contender they are supposed to be when all sides are equal.

Big picture, that is a great sign because you need that sort of 5-on-5 play to consistently win and compete for a championship.

[COVERAGE OF PREDATORS-LIGHTNING BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What is holding them back so far has been the performance of their goaltenders and their special teams units, and those two areas kind of overlap.

Goaltending and the penalty kill. The duo of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros has been one of the league’s best over the past three years, but has not played anywhere near that level this season.

Both own sub-.900 save percentages entering Tuesday’s game, and their biggest struggles have come with the Predators shorthanded. Their performance in those situations is absolutely sinking the team’s penalty killing unit as it enters Tuesday’s game with a 75 percent success rate (26th in the league).

The Predators’ PK unit is near the top of the league in limiting shots and chances against, but the Rinne-Saros duo has managed only a pitiful .785 save percentage on the shots they have faced while shorthanded. No other team in the league has a save percentage lower than .811 in those situations, while the league average is around .864. You can have the best penalty killing unit in the league, blocking shots, limiting chances, and even scoring the occasional shorthanded goal, but if your goalie can not get you a save none of it will matter.

The power play still can’t score. The 2018-19 Predators had one of the worst power play units we have seen in recent NHL history. They were terrible in the regular season (scoring on just 12.9 of their power plays, worst in the league) and a complete embarrassment in the playoffs, going 0-for-the-series in their Round 1 loss to the Dallas Stars. It was a momentum killer, a game-wrecker, and a unit that brought down the team’s overall offensive performance.

Not much has changed this season.

While the unit has found the back of the net a little more regularly and shown some improvement, they still find themselves 26th in the league entering play on Tuesday. The injury to Viktor Arvidsson (maybe their best pure goal-scorer) is not going to help, but even with him it is a unit that could probably still use one more impact player and finisher up front. Matt Duchene has been a great addition, but they still don’t have a lot of great finishers that can drive that unit.

Tonight’s studio coverage will be hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter. John Forslund and Pierre McGuire will call the action from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

In addition, NASCAR champions Kyle Busch (2019) and Joey Logano (2018) are scheduled to make guest appearances during tonight’s NHL coverage as part of NBC Sports and NASCAR’s “Nashville Takeover” this week, highlighted by the NASCAR Awards from Nashville this Thursday night on NBCSN.

Busch will join pre-game coverage and Logano will join McGuire ‘Inside-the-Glass’ during the second period. Busch also made a guest appearance on last night’s WWE Raw event on USA Network.

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.

Bortuzzo on suspension: ‘I’m not a malicious player’

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When the St. Louis Blues visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night they will be getting veteran defenseman Robert Bortuzzo back in the lineup following his four-game suspension for repeatedly cross-checking Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson in the back a little more than a week ago.

That incident has received plenty of attention not only because Bortuzzo is a repeat offender, but also because Arvidsson was injured as a result of the play and will remain out of the Nashville lineup for several more weeks.

Bortuzzo spoke on Monday ahead of his return to the lineup and said that while the cross-check was “maybe a little excessive,” his intent is never to injure an opponent. He was also asked if multiple offenses has caused him to develop the wrong kind of reputation around the league.

“I’m going to play the game hard,” Bortuzzo said, via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford. “I feel like I do a good job of walking the line. I’m not going to go through all my instances. I’m sure it’s easy to dissect things for other people.

“The temperature of the game is high at times. Again, I’m not a malicious player. I’m not out here trying to injure people and I stand by that. It’s a game I have to play, on that edge, and I’m proud of the way. I play hard without being malicious.”

The problem for Bortuzzo here is that it is very easy for other people dissect things because he keeps giving other people things to dissect. He has an extensive track record of cross-checking incidents, including one on New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson that was virtually identical to the one that earned him his most recent suspension.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was asked about the Avridsson play on Monday ahead of their game, and on top of calling it a “horse [expletive] play,” he added this, via the Daily Herald:

“Nothing against guys that play hard,” Toews said. “That’s why I love playing this team (the Blues) because they play us hard all the time. But to me (the NHL is) doing everything to get rid of head shots and get rid of head injuries, but that to me seems like an intent to injure.

“Just because it’s not contact on a guy’s head doesn’t mean it’s not just as severe. So I thought it was pretty bad.”

On top of these two incidents there was a cross-check away from the play last year that injured Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, a cross-check against Boston’s Jordan Szwarz that resulted in a fine, and that incident with Dallas’ Esa Lindell in last year’s playoffs where Bortuzzo became frustrated with his opponent flopping.  The bottom line here is this is now three times he has been disciplined for cross-checking incidents (two fines and a suspension) on top suspensions for two different kinds of infractions.

The tape does not lie, and he is very much a repeat offender which is going to put a pretty big target on his back in the eyes of the league. If he steps over the line again the next suspension could be significant. 

Related: Blackhawks will be shorthanded for game on Monday

Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.