KHL

Eeli Tolvanen scores highlight-reel goal, continues to excite Predators fans (Video)

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One of these days Eeli Tolvanen will finally hit the ice with the Nashville Predators. The 2017 first-round pick is currently with Jokerit of the KHL, but since the team is in the middle of the Gagarin Cup playoffs, fans in Music City will have to wait a little longer before he arrives in North America.

Tolvanen gave hockey fans everywhere another taste of his talents on Friday with a beautiful solo effort — his second goal of the game — in overtime to close out Jokerit’s opening round series against Sochi:

The 18-year-old Finnish winger has said it is his intention to sign a contract with the Predators whenever Jokerit’s season is over. General manager David Poile echoed those sentiments recently, according to The Tennessean.

“If we ever get Tolvanen, and he’s good enough to play and it’s this year, that’ll be great,” Poile said. “But in the future, when I look at our depth chart, Tolvanen certainly is going to get every opportunity to play on our top two lines. That’s just another addition that should pan out really good for us.”

Should they advance to the Gagarin Cup Final, it’s possible that Tolvanen won’t arrive until mid-to-late April, which could potentially be late in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or early in second round. Given what the kid has produced so far at his age, his addition this season could serve as a positive injection into a Predators team that has eyes again on a deep playoff run.

Tolvanen scored 19 goals and recorded 36 points in 49 games for Jokerit this season, the best numbers for a player 19 and younger in KHL history, per Elite Prospects. Representing Finland in the PyeongChang Olympics last month, he finished tied for second in scoring with three goals and nine points as they reached the quarterfinals of the tournament before being knocked out by Canada.

He’s given fans plenty to get excited about, and Tolvanen is still developing and has big dreams.

“I’m too far away from them, they’re elite snipers. When I was young, I dreamt about shooting like Ovechkin,” he said in an interview with the KHL’s website in August. “Hope that one day I could be at his level.”

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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.

Predators make Mike Fisher signing official, bolster center depth

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Nearly a month after his surprise return, the Nashville Predators officially announced that Mike Fisher has a signed a deal for the remainder of the season with a pro-rated $1 million salary.

The 37-year-old Fisher retired over the summer after 17 seasons in the NHL to spend more time with his family. When he decided to make a return he needed to sign a contract with the Predators by Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline in order to be eligible for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I really didn’t think I was going to do it, to be honest,” Fisher said during the press conference last month announcing his return. “It was pretty much a no, but as it got closer and then I had some other conversations, that turned (into) a yes.”

Fisher never stopped watching Predators games while enjoying retirement and that’s when he started getting the itch. His wife, singer Carrie Underwood, kept asking him what he was going to do. “She wanted me to do it. She’s usually right,” he said.

This acquisiton at the trade deadline gives the Predators more depth down the middle. There’s Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok all being options for Peter Laviolette at center, with possibilities for the wing as well. They saw how important it is to have capable bodies in that position during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

“I just thought about the opportunity, how good this team is,” Fisher said. “Thought a lot about the run last year and what could be. … The closer I got towards it, the (more) I thought it would be such a great opportunity. … I’m ready for it.”

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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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.

Rinne, Predators hand Blues their sixth straight loss in 4-0 win

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The thought of the St. Louis Blues missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs a couple months ago would have been brushed fiercely, and with good reason.

Even with a packed infirmary, the Blues managed to hang with the big boys atop the Central Division, a testament to their depth. Everything was pretty much status quo, what we’ve come to expect from the Blues as a perennial playoff team with lots of talent.

And then the wheels fell off.

The Blues lost their sixth straight game on Sunday, a 4-0 defeat to a Nashville Predators team that they previously shared a table with in the NHL’s toughest division.

Now, the Blues are now fighting for a playoff spot. They sit a point behind the Anaheim Ducks for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference and two points back of the Minnesota Wild for third in the Central Division.

The Blues are now 0-5-1 in their past six and have scored two goals or fewer in seven of their past 10 games, including being shutout twice. The once-reliable scoring well has dried up. St. Louis was shutout 4-0 on Friday night against Winnipeg in an embarrassing effort. Sunday’s wasn’t much different.

Nashville, meanwhile, continues to cruise and regained sole possession of top spot in the Central Division, two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets with a game in hand.

The win also put the Predators a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for tops in the Western Conference and two points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning at the summit in the NHL.

Along with Sissons’ goal, Kevin Fiala notched his 20th to five the Preds a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

Everything went right for the Preds, even when they were shorthanded.

Watson’s shorty made it 4-0 after Scott Hartnell gave Nashville a 3-0 lead 1:20 into the second period.

That nice orange-red circle in front of Jake Allen is pretty telling.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, was solid in the crease for the Predators, picking up his sixth shutout of the season and 49th of career in a 27-save performance.

The Predators, who have now won four straight, get their stiffest challenge yet against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. On the line is first place in the division, a spot both teams will likely duke out for heading down the home stretch.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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

Trade: Blue Jackets welcome back a familiar face in Mark Letestu in three-way deal

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Trade deadline day could be a snoozefest at this rate.

The trade: Predators acquire Mark Letestu from the Edmonton Oilers for Pontus Aberg. Predators then trade Letestu to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Why the Predators are making this trade: Picks are nice. Teams like draft picks. Aberg also hadn’t played in 10 days and his future in the Music City was in doubt. Perhaps the deal is part of a bigger plan for general manager David Poile, who apparently are in the running for Erik Karlsson. (Wouldn’t that be something.)

Or maybe another conspiracy?

Why the Oilers are making this trade: Two words: Fire. Sale. The Oilers need to dump pending unrestricted free agents and get something in return. Aberg is the return. He wasn’t a fit on a very strong Predators team but perhaps could offer something to the Oilers going forward. He has one year left on a two-year, $1.3 million deal.

Or maybe not:

Why the Blue Jackets are making this trade: The Blue Jackets needed help in their bottom six and get some with veteran center Letestu, who will likely be hungry to perform as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Letestu knows the area well, having played parts of four season with the Blue Jackets. He has eight goals and 19 points in 60 games this season.

Perhaps some further context as well:

Who won this trade: Another one of these even deals, for the most part. Blue Jackets get depth, Predators grab a pick. But what do the Oilers gain in Aberg? He’s a cheap player going forward, but his metrics aren’t great. Maybe a change of scenery will help. Edmonton got something for a pending UFA, so that’s something.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker


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

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

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WATCH LIVE on NBC – 12 PM ET

PROJECTED LINES

St. Louis Blues

Forwards

Ivan BarbashevPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennVladimir Sobotka

Alexander SteenPatrik BerglundNikita Soshnikov

Scottie UpshallKyle BrodziakDmitrij Jaskin

Defenseman

Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo

Jay BouwmeesterColton Parayko

Vince DunnJordan Schmaltz

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

Nashville Predators

Forwards

Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Kevin FialaKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Scott HartnellNick BoninoCalle Jarnkrok

Miikka SalomakiColton SissonsAustin Watson

Defenseman

Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban

Alexei EmelinYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker


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