As expected, Preds hit the road with an extra forward

After mentioning the demotion of Viktor Arvidsson to Milwaukee, he was then given a 24 hour stay of execution (or he managed to fly to Milwaukee just to learn he had to fly back) when Calle Jarnkrok came up ill prior to the Penguins game this past Saturday. Arvidsson did skate a regular shift with Cody Hodgson and Gabriel Bourque, but was then re-assigned to the Admirals after the game.

Forward Mikko Salomaki, who scored a goal in his lone NHL game last season, has been recalled by the Preds for the current road trip. He will wear 20, which is significantly better than the #67 he's worn previously.
Forward Mikko Salomaki, who scored a goal in his lone NHL game last season, has been recalled by the Preds for the current road trip. He will wear #20, which is significantly better than the #67 he’s worn previously.

The addition is Mikko Salomaki, whose rookie tournament jersey I had worn to all previous home games this season. Salomaki will wear #20, last worn by former Preds defenseman Anton Volchenkov. It is assumed he will not fall down nearly as much as the lumbering Russian blueliner, or the fleet Swedish forward he replaces.

The Preds begin a four game road trip, with three games in California (San Jose on Wednesday night, Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, and Anaheim on Sunday night) and a flight to Minnesota to face the Wild on Thursday, November 5th, before returning home for a Saturday game against the Blues.

P.S. I wrote a solid 500 words on the Mattias Ekholm extension, and my computer crashed. Ekholm got 6 years and over 22 million dollars. If he wants to buy me a new computer, I’m up for it 😉

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Pens outlast Preds in OT, point taken…

On a night when what seemed to be an abnormal amount of Penguins fans were flocking to Bridgestone Arena, the Predators were frustrated by a 2-1 overtime loss at the hands of Phil Kessel, with an assist from the stick of Evgeni Malkin into the skates of Filip Forsberg.

Battling to a scoreless first period, the Preds reeled off a solid five minutes of hockey on the penalty kill as rookie Austin Watson received a major boarding penalty about five and a half minutes into the game. The “major” call was borderline, as Watson used his shoulder to send Pens defenseman Brian Dumoulin into the glass. The Predators PK was brilliant, allowing Pittsburgh just two harmless shots that Pekka Rinne turned aside effortlessly. In the five minute span, Craig Smith had an excellent shorthanded chance, but as with many Preds shots tonight, hit Penguin goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury squarely in the pads.

Veteran Center Paul Gaustad wins key faceoffs for the team in all three zones on the ice. Often, Coach Laviolette will send
Veteran Center Paul Gaustad wins key faceoffs for the team in all three zones on the ice. Often, Coach Laviolette will send “Goose” out for a draw, even with one of the top 2 centers already on the ice. PHOTO COURTESY: David McCargar

Chris Kunitz scored the first goal of the game, seconds after the Penguins had killed off a tripping penalty to Malkin, who played chippy all night long, continually jabbing and jabbering at Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm. After a sluggish first period from a shot perspective (Preds had just 5 to Pittsburgh’s 7), the teams traded 28 shots in period two, with the Preds outshooting the Pens 17-11. The big problem from my perspective was the Predators inability to get in the line of Fleury’s vision. Someone needed to out-Hornqvist former Pred Patric Hornqvist, who often found himself getting pushed or whacked by Preds goalie, Rinne.

Third period action was both breathtaking and captivating as Nashville took a decided territorial advantage, playing long stretches both without a whistle, and deep in the Penguin zone. With the team’s unbeaten streak at home on the line, the Preds once again fired 17 shots at Fleury, and unlike period two, one did find its way behind the goal line to knot things up. Former Penguin, James Neal, lit the lamp for his sixth goal on the young season, firing a wicked shot that flew just under the crossbar at the 11:27 mark for the equalizer.

Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis has missed one game this season, but teamed with Mattias Ekholm, the two offer solid defense and some good offensive upside as well. PHOTO COURTESY: David McCargar
Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis has missed one game this season, but teamed with Mattias Ekholm, the two offer solid defense and some good offensive upside as well. PHOTO COURTESY: David McCargar

With one more minor to the Pens (Ian Cole went off for hooking with less than five minutes to go in regulation,) the Preds got a number of chances, but could not put the go-ahead goal behind Fleury, and the 3 on 3 overtime was called into effect yet again. Unlike the previous efforts, where nothing was solved until the shootout, this time just 41 seconds into OT, Kessel lit the lamp sending what felt like half the building home happy, and the home team fans disappointed, despite a stellar effort from the Preds.

Some housekeeping notes included the “recall,” of Milwaukee Admirals forward Viktor Arvidsson, who may or may not have actually flown to Wisconsin yesterday, but did have the opportunity to dress for the Preds due to an illness to forward Calle Jarnkrok. Arvidsson, playing on a line with Cody Hodgson and Gabriel Bourque saw 7:40 of ice time and was a minus one, with a couple of shots on goal. Again, he looked easily moved off the puck in the defensive zone, and he, as well as a few other Preds had excellent scoring opportunities thwarted with skipping pucks, off sides, or general buffonery. Also, sent to the Admirals on a conditioning assignment was defenseman Anthony Bitetto. Having dressed in one game for the Preds this season, Bitetto was in the lineup for the Admirals 4-2 loss tonight, going minus 3. Admiral goals came from Stevie Moses (his first North American goal,) and Max Reinhart, who also led the team with 4 shots. Juuse Saros took the loss in nets, as Milwaukee falls to 1-3 in its first four games this season.

Arvidsson sent to Milwaukee. Will we see a forward recalled?

Less than 24 hours after I purchased the Viktor Arvidsson game worn jersey from the game in which he netted his first NHL goal, he’s been shipped to the AHL to hone his craft a bit more, and start playing a little better without the puck. Yes, the little ball of rocket fuel was dynamite as he darted and dashed and created a wide variety of energy-laden drives towards the opposition’s net, but he also fell down a bunch, and passed the puck directly onto the stick of guys not wearing Preds jerseys a bit too often for the coaching staff’s liking.

Yes, I now own that jersey. See #38? That's Viktor Arvidsson. He gets to play in Milwaukee now. Sorry, Arvy. I thought you were a little ball of energy. See you soon, I hope. PHOTO COURTESY: David McCargar
Yes, I now own that jersey. See #38? That’s Viktor Arvidsson. He gets to play in Milwaukee now. Sorry, Arvy. I thought you were a little ball of energy. See you soon, I hope. PHOTO COURTESY: David McCargar

Arvidsson, my favorite Pred because of his insanely hyperactive skillset, will spend some time with Kevin Fiala, Stevie Moses and the boys in Milwaukee, and should see his way back to Smashville when we finally tire of either Gabby Bourque, Cody Hodgson or even Eric Nystrom (though my guess is that Nystrom would get hurt before he got shipped to Siberia, Alberta, or Manitoba…) One man seemingly safe from any type of demotion is Austin Watson, who, late-bloomer that he is, actually got just the right amount of seasoning in the American League to be an effective National League bottom six forward. Skating with Paul Gaustad and Nystrom, Watson has looked right in place sending a beautiful pass over to Nystrom for the first goal of the game on Thursday night. He’s also chipped in with a goal, (his second in the NHL, having scored on a RIch Clune pass two seasons ago during his first cup of coffee with the Preds.)

So, the Preds, allowed to carry 23 players on their active roster, are down to 22, carrying only the two spare defensemen, Anthony Bitetto and Victor Bartley on their roster, with nary a spare forward in sight. Of course, it’s not like anyone in Milwaukee has earned the right to sit and eat NHL press-room cuisine. The Admirals, having played a league low three games to date are currently 1-2 and have given up 14 goals, while scoring just 6. The highly touted prospects, like Fiala, last season’s KHL goal scoring leader Moses, and always-on-the-bubble, Colton Sissons have combined for no goals, no assists, and are a combined minus-8. Hardly the thing a Preds front office exec would consider promotion worthy. But, that being said, it’s odd not to have a spare forward around in case of an injury. Say one of the Preds 12 guys up front pulls up lame in warmup or practice. That would only mean adding a 7th D to the game time mix, and honestly, with the three pairings the team has going right now, that extra guy, save for taking a few turns on the fourth line up front, would see very little action.

Preds fans, at least the ones who are visible on the various fan boards (HF Boards, Facebook, et al) are usually clue-impaired when coming to conclusions (after all, the vast majority of them gave Watson a snowball’s chance in hell to make the NHL team all together…) and see it as “Watson beat out Arvidsson for the job” when frankly, yes, they each played three of the first six games, but played in completely different roles. Arvidsson played with Hodgson and

, while Watson has slotted in with Gaustad and Nystrom. Bourque became the swing guy moving up from the fourth line to the third on nights when Arvy didn’t slot in. Right now, Coach Laviolette seems happy with the fit having Bourque on the third line, but after seven pointless games, and a minus-4, it’s only a matter of time before the team needs to look for greater production from the entire third line (which may be considered the fourth line if Gaustad, with Nystrom and Watson start accruing more ice time.

For the moment no one should argue that six of seven wins hardly means time for radical change, but Patience will be wearing thin, and the clock will begin ticking on Hodgson, Jarnkrok and Bourque. Jarnkrok has looked pretty strong on the penalty kill, especially teamed with Forsberg. The two do a lot of buzzing around and causing commotion in all zones. Hodgson, the reclamation project has looked more or less invisible through most of his shifts during this young season. At 1 year, 1 million dollars, he is another in a long line of chances Poile has taken over the past few years. Some pan out (Ribiero), and some don’t (Roy, and of course so far, Moses) but he can’t be faulted for giving a guy who had an obvious skillset just a couple seasons ago, make his way into a permanent spot in the lineup. Time will tell if he can get on track and become a productive member of Smashville.

Center Cody Hodgson is pointless through seven games this season. He hopes not to be pointless much longer. PHOTO COURTESY: David McCargar
Center Cody Hodgson is pointless through seven games this season. He hopes not to be pointless much longer. PHOTO COURTESY: David McCargar

Tonight, the Pens. A team which has had success on Bridgestone ice. We will be watching carefully as Crosby, Kessel and Malkin try to break out of their horrible starts to this NHL season. Hope you can make it. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and I’ll throw out the occasional tweets from the game!

Preds win fourth home game in four tries… after roasting Ducks, will face angry Penguins next

On a night we saw the Preds dispose of the Anaheim Ducks, fans made sure they showed some fight against Breast Cancer. A beautiful pink/purple hue flooded the ice before the game.
On a night we saw the Preds dispose of the Anaheim Ducks, fans made sure they showed some fight against Breast Cancer. A beautiful pink/purple hue flooded the ice before the game.

A frustrated Anaheim Ducks team arrived at Bridgestone Arena hoping to continue their winning ways, following a 4-1 victory against the Wild on Sunday. However, they finished their evening’s work on yet another improbably low note, falling to 1-4-1 on the season. After a fairly dull first period, the Predators overwhelmed Anaheim with a strong second period, blowing the game open with a 3-0 lead on goals from Eric Nystrom, Ryan Ellis, and Mike Ribeiro. Matthias Ekholm and Colin Wilson added third period tallies as the fans were treated to candy (second period “Goo Goo Goal,” and ice cream (third period 10oz. Frosty from Wendy’s.) What stood in the way of the fans completing THEIR hattrick, getting a donut (earned when the Preds post a shutout vs. their opposition,) was a third period goal from Duck forward Jiri Sekac. Probably just as well, the caloric intake was off the charts at Bridgestone, and with 37 more regular season games to go, it can only be assumed that without proper monitoring, the collective weight of Preds fans should increase significantly by season’s end in April. This is not the healthiest bunch to begin with (grin, and for the record, weighing in at almost 240, I consider myself one of the unhealthy throng.)

 

The Preds kept their game pretty simple, and although team scoring leaders James Neal and Filip Forsberg were kept at bay throughout the night, it was the forward line of Ribeiro, centering Craig Smith and Wilson that seemed to more than pick up the slack, providing consistent offensive presence throughout the contest. Defensemen Ellis (returning from a one-game absence due to injury) and Ekholm both added goals, and kept Anaheim on their heels for much of the evening.

Austin Watson made a brilliant pass to Eric Nystrom, setting up the game's first goal vs. Anaheim on Thursday night. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Austin Watson made a brilliant pass to Eric Nystrom, setting up the game’s first goal vs. Anaheim on Thursday night.
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

It was a beautiful Austin Watson pass to Nystrom that put the Preds up 1-0 early in period 2, and just seconds after the Ducks killed off a penalty, Ellis blasted a shot past Duck netminder Anton Khudobin. Before the second intermission, and again less than 20 seconds after the Ducks successfully killed a penalty, Ribiero netted his first of the season, from Neal and Wilson.

 

Skating 4 on 4 early in the third period, Ekholm activated and found himself going in almost uncontested against Khudobin and gave the Preds a 4-0 lead, and after the Sekac tally, it was Wilson who closed out the Duck scoring, and ending a night Khudobin would probably like to forget.

 

One game of note around the league saw Nashville’s division rivals, Dallas take care of the Penguins in Pittsburgh, 4-1. While Nashville and Dallas remain tied atop the Central Division with identical 6-1-0 records, it’s the Eastern Conference Pittsburgh Penguins that are the Preds next opponent.

 

At 3-4-0, the Pens are led in goal by Mark-Andre Fleury and on offense by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and newly acquired Phil Kessel. Obviously things have yet to start clicking, Crosby has been held off the scoresheet in six of these first seven contests, scoring three points in a single game (goal, 2 assists) vs. Florida on Tuesday. Malkin, with 3 goals and 2 assists, and Kessel, with a couple of goals have yet to find chemistry with each other, and the defense is considered suspect to begin with.

 

Saturday night they ask the fans to “show the gold,” vs. the Pens, but as for me, I’ve worn a white Mikko Salomaki game-worn rookie tournament jersey to four consecutive wins, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to change my shirt and give the Pens any advantage 🙂 Go #Preds!

Preds face off against struggling Anaheim Ducks tonight at Bridgestone Arena

Good Thursday to you. Welcome to my “I can’t just do a weekly blog about a team that plays three times a week” blog.

The Nashville Predators have won 5 of 6 contests in this young season. Tonight, at 7pm, the Anaheim Ducks try to right their ship and possibly save Bruce Boudreau’s head coaching position. The Ducks are just 1-3-1 to start the new campaign, but that one win did come in 4-1 fashion at the expense of the Minnesota Wild this past Sunday. With a few days off to regroup, the team looks to veteran superstars Corey Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf to supply some much needed offense. After all, this is a team that after five games boasts two players leading the team in scoring WITH JUST TWO POINTS. In fact, one of those two players is fourth line winger Mike Santorelli, who along with Buffalo defenseman Cody Franson, were the two Predators GM David Poile acquired at the trade deadline last season. Santorelli put up just four points in his twenty-two game stint in Nashville, and while an adequate player in this league, is not the guy you want co-leading your team in scoring with the firepower usually supplied by guys like Perry and Getzlaf remaining dormant.

Anton Khudobin, who was the winning netminder vs. the Wild is expected to get the start against a Nashville team that has a couple of forwards firing on all cylinders. James Neal has five goals in his last three games, and Filip Forsberg is also clicking at a point-per-game pace after the team’s first six contests.

Expect defensemen Ryan Ellis and Barrett Jackman to return to the Preds lineup, after missing the Tampa game on Tuesday with minor injuries. Forward Austin Watson is also expected to return, with speedy smurf Viktor Arvidsson expected to be a healthy scratch.

New faces on the Ducks include Carl Hagelin, who came over from the Rangers in an off season trade for Emerson Etem. Hagelin, along with linemates Perry and Getzlaf, has just one assist so far this season, and coming off successive 17 goal campaigns is still finding his way on the West Coast.

If you’re not going to be at Bridgestone, but are local to Nashville, Pete Weber will be calling the game on 102.5, and of course Willy Daunic and Stu Grimson handle the television play-by-play on one of those Fox Sports South sub-channels 🙂