The 13th has not been a lucky date for James Neal.
The National Hockey League fined the high-scoring forward $2,000 on Wednesday for a second violation (the two occurred exactly one month apart) of revised rules on diving and embellishment.
The $2,000 fine comes following a second violation. The first earns the player a warning.
According to the league, Neal got his warning after he was called for embellishment against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 13. The fine came after he once again was called for the penalty, this time late in the game last Saturday (Dec. 13) at San Jose.
From the NHL:
Citations are issued by the National Hockey League Hockey Operations Department, which tracks all games, logs all penalties for diving or embellishment and flags all plays not called on the ice that in its opinion were deserving of such a penalty. A Citation is issued once Hockey Operations, through its internal deliberations, is convinced that a player warrants sanction.
Fines increase $1,000 with each subsequent violation up to a maximum penalty of $5,000.
Neal is second on Nashville with 11 goals and third with 19 points. He also has 23 penalty minutes, most among Predators forwards.
Nashville does have a game Jan. 13 (vs. Vancouver at Bridgestone Arena) but no others on the 13th.
The Nashville Predators’ shootout victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday lifted David Poile to second place in all-time wins by an NHL general manager.
It was the 1,171st victory of his career, which moved him ahead of long-time Bruins boss Harry Sinden. The man to catch is Glen Sather who won 1,279 with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.
Poile won 594 with the Washington Capitals (1982-97) and has added 577 as the only general manager in Predators history.
“It’s an impressive feat and I know that the coaches and players and staff – not only in the present but in the past – certainly appreciate all he does for our organization,” coach Peter Laviolette said following Tuesday’s victory. “He’s shown an incredible way to deal with people, put together good teams and find success. And that’s not easy to do year-after-year. So congratulations to him.”
Of course, Poile is still well behind those two – and a lot of others in the hockey world – when it comes to the wins that matter most.
Sather was general manager in Edmonton from 1980-2000 (he doubled as head coach for the first half of that tenure) and won five Stanley Cups in seven seasons. He has been GM of the New York Rangers since 2000 and put together the team that won the Eastern Conference last season but fell to Los Angeles in the Cup finals.
Sinden, the first general manager ever to amass 1,000 wins, won the 1970 Stanley Cup as Bruins head coach. As GM he sent five teams to the Stanley Cup finals (1974, 77, 78, 88 and 90) and was in his current role, senior advisor to the owner, when the Bruins won it all in 2011.
In 32 full seasons as an NHL general manager Poile never has sent a team to the Stanley Cup finals. In fact, he has had 21 playoff teams but only the 1989-90 Capitals made it as far as the conference finals.
Peter Laviolette insisted it was not luck.
It certainly was not a display of high-end skill.
Either way, the Nashville Predators were more than happy with Mike Fisher’s power-play goal Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins. Shea Weber’s wrist shot from the top of the circle bounced off Fisher, who was positioned in front of the net, and tied the score with 30 seconds remaining in the second period.
The sides traded goals in the third and Nashville eventually won 3-2 in a shootout, much to the delight of the sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
“I know it’s a bounce but actually that’s a set,” Laviolette, Nashville’s first-year coach, said of Fisher’s goal. “That’s what most teams do in sort of a 1-3-1 [alignment] is try to get pucks to the top or off of a flank, bring it to the net and hope that the goaltender is screened or it hits something or redirects off something or you can put in a rebound goal.
“So while it seems a little bit lucky, it’s actually what we work on.”
Truth be told, no one associated with the franchise would have cared had it been a lucky bounce or anything else. As long as it went in.
It was the second power-play goal of the season at home. The first came in the season-opener against Ottawa (Oct. 9), more than two months and 13 full appearances at Bridgestone Arena ago.
The Predators still have the Western Conference’s worst power play — an 11.5 percent success rate — and have converted just 11 times overall. Around the league, there are five players who each have eight power-play goals of their own.
“Right now, it’s kind of a situation where guys might be squeezing their sticks because they want to overdo do it and make sure we’re making a difference,” Weber said.
To that end, Fisher recently was moved to the first line on the power play between James Neal and Filip Forsberg specifically to be the guy who was willing — and able — to get to the front of the net and stay there. His career-high is 10 power play goals in a season (2009-10 with Ottawa). With Nashville, though, he’s never had more than five.
In nine games this season since he returned from an offseason Achilles injury, Fisher now has two goals — both on the power play. That ties him with three others (Forsberg, Weber and Craig Smith) for the team lead in that regard.
“I have to make sure goalies aren’t seeing everything and I can do all I can to get second chances and get to pucks and create havoc in front,” Fisher said. Guys are doing a great job moving around.
“We feel like it’s just a matter of time before we really break out … It’s about everyone just gelling and meshing and finding spots and getting comfortable and making sure we’re not too predictable.”
An unpredictable bounce every now and then never hurts either.
“It paid off (Tuesday), going off (Fisher),” Weber said. “Those are the kinds of goals we want to get to hopefully get our power play going and build some confidence.”
The Nashville Predators continue to occupy a spot near the top of the standings.
As they prepare to Tuesday’s game against the Boston Bruins (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena), they are third in the Central Division and fourth overall in the Western Conference with 40 points.
The same is not true of some of their best players in the NHL All-Star Fan Vote. The league released the latest standings Tuesday for the online vote that will determine six players (one at each position) to participate in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.
No Nashville player is among the top five at his respective position. Defenseman Shea Weber (pictured) has received the most votes of any Predators player (226,572) but is well off the pace of the leading vote-getters on defense, Chicago’s Duncan Keith (567,184) and Montreal’s P.K. Subban (460,966).
A look at where the Predators rank:
• Goalie: Pekka Rinne, sixth (195,750 votes)
• Defensemen: Shea Weber, seventh (226,572 votes); Roman Josi, 15th (113,067)
• Forwards: Filip Forsberg, 30th (91,008); James Neal, 31st (90,377)
The NHL All-Star Fan Vote continues through Jan. 1 at NHL.com/vote.
Officially, Tomas Vokoun’s NHL career dates back to 1996-97 and one terrible period (he allowed four goals) with the Montreal Canadiens.
The reality is that he established himself as an NHL goalie on Dec. 12, 2002. That was the day the Nashville Predators, two months into their fifth season of competition, traded Mike Dunham and settled on Vokoun as their No. 1 netminder.
At the time, I wrote a column on the transaction that began with the following assessment: “The difference between Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun is that Dunham expected to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. Vokoun worked to become one.”
Over the next several days, people throughout the organization pulled me aside and quietly complimented me for getting it right. Players. Coaches. Staff members. The players in particular made no secret that they were thrilled to have Vokoun, so often an afterthought, lead the team going forward.
Much changed for the Predators the day of that transaction. So the fact that that Vokoun retired Monday after 15 seasons and 700 games played for five different franchises ought to be celebrated locally.
It’s not a coincidence that the first time Nashville made the playoffs (2003-04) was the first season Vokoun was the No. 1 netminder from start to finish. He played 73 games that season and won 34 of them, at the time a franchise record and still third all-time.
When the Predators faced their division rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, in their first playoff series, it was Vokoun who shunned the accepted level of respect for that team and its star-filled roster. He railed against the idea that Nashville had no chance, irritated numerous Detroit players and changed the very nature of the rivalry.
The Predators beat the Red Wings just nine times in their first six seasons. Over the next six they went 19-17-6 versus Detroit.
He was the first Nashville goalie to record a shutout. To date, he’s the only Nashville goalie to appear in an NHL All-Star Game. He remains the franchise’s all-time leader in games played by a goalie, shots faced and saves.
Often, Vokoun was at his best when he needed to be. Nothing exemplifies that like the time he became the first player in franchise history named NHL Player of the Week, (Dec. 27, 1999-Jan. 2, 2000).
He started the 1999-00 season in Nashville but struggled early and was reassigned to Milwaukee. He was recalled so he could be at home for Christmas rather than alone in a Milwaukee hotel room. There were no plans to play him, but then Dunham came down with the flu. Vokoun started four games in seven days and the Predators won all four, three of them by one goal and the other a 6-0 shutout. He was first star of the game three times and third star in the other.
He never played another game in Milwaukee.
Now he’s done for good. His final NHL experience was with Pittsburgh when he stepped in for a struggling Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2012-13 NHL playoffs, won six games and got them to the conference finals.
It was the last thing anyone expected from him. Naturally, he delivered.
"I can say that it was a successful career," Vokoun said to to the Czech magazine iSport, according to numerous reports Monday on his retirement. "I'm proud of what I did.”
Predators fans should be equally proud as the Predators players were 12 years ago that he was their goalie.
Pretty much anyway you look at it, the Nashville Predators got a bargain when they signed free agent center Mike Ribeiro to a one-year, $1.05 million contract during the offseason.
The Hockey News decided to look at it based on cost per point. In so doing, the publication determined that the 34-year-old, with 25 points in 28 games, is one of the summer’s best bargains.
Making just $1.05 million on a one-year deal with the Predators, Ribeiro has been a revelation as part of a line with James Neal and rookie sensation Filip Forsberg. His 25 points in 28 games, a 73-point pace, hasn’t hurt him become a fixture on Nashville’s top line, either.
With nearly $2 million coming his way courtesy a compliance buyout from the Arizona Coyotes, Ribeiro could afford the cut in salary and the Nashville has been the beneficiary. If he can reach the 73-point mark, which would be his highest point total since 2010-11, each point will have cost the Predators a mere $14,383.
That’s not to say the Predators are playing with house money when it comes to their free agency spending. The same analysis determined that forward Olli Jokinen, playing on a one-year, $2.5 million deal, currently ranks as one of the league’s least cost-effective free agent additions.
Jokinen has two goals and no assists in 29 games.
If this keeps up, by season’s end the Predators, who have been the model of consistency when it comes to turning nothing into something, will have paid the aging winger $416,667 per point.
Nashville’s next game is Tuesday at home against the Boston Bruins (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
Being shut out is a tradition as old as the Nashville Predators themselves.
Recall that Nashville went scoreless in the first game in franchise history, a 1-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Oct. 10, 1998.
So it was noteworthy Saturday when the Predators lost 2-0 at San Jose because it was the 99th time in franchise history they failed to produce a single goal. The fact that they have been shut out at least three times every season they have played means that No. 100 cannot be far off.
A season-by-season look at the number of times the Nashville Predators have been shut out:
Saturday’s result also was interesting in that San Jose has been among the least likely teams to keep Nashville off the scoreboard.
In fact, before Saturday the Sharks had two just shutouts of the Predators, which was fewest among teams that have been in the Western Conference for the majority of the franchise’s existence.
The Sharks, now with three, are tied with Minnesota, Colorado and Edmonton for second fewest among Western Conference teams. Winnipeg has two but was formerly the Atlanta Thrashers and played in the Eastern Conference from 1999-00 through 2012-13.
A look at the teams with the most all-time shutouts of the Nashville Predators:
St. Louis – 14
Dallas – 8
Detroit – 8
Los Angeles – 8
Calgary – 7
Chicago – 6
Anaheim – 5
Arizona – 5
Vancouver – 5
The Predators remain on the plus side of shutouts this season with three in their favor, one more than against them.
All-time, though, that has raised their shutout total to 92. Barring a huge rally, therefore, the 100th against will happen before the 100th for.
The Nashville Predators’ goal differential — one of the NHL’s best — is a custom build.
It has been painstakingly assembled bit by bit, game by game rather than mass-produced in several well-orchestrated offensive outbursts.
The latest example was Thursday’s 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville twice had two-goal leads but ultimately settled for its eighth straight one-goal decision and league-leading 18th of the season. Six of those last eight have been victories.
“We made that one a little tougher than we needed to,” right wing Eric Nystrom said. “That third goal was a little bit of a system break down, but those things happen in a course of a game. We found a way to win that against a great team, and that’s huge for us.”
The Predators are second in the Western Conference with 17 wins, 12 of them by one goal or in a shootout. Only Vancouver, with 18, has more victories.
Nashville’s plus-18 goal differential is five better than the Canucks’ and trails only Chicago among conference foes. Overall, it ranks fourth in the NHL.
PLAYING IT CLOSE
A look at the NHL teams that have played the most one-goal games this season, with record in those games in parentheses:
18 – Nashville (12-4-2)
17 – Anaheim (12-0-5)
17 – Florida (8-2-7)
17 – Ottawa (6-6-5)
17 – Colorado (6-6-5)
16 – Washington (6-6-4)
15 – St. Louis (10-3-2)
14 – Chicago (7-6-1)
14 – Arizona (7-4-3)
Last season Nashville won just 18 one-goal games. At its current pace it will win 39 this time around.
“We’re not trying to play one-goal games, but we are and the good news is our guys are competing till the end and working till the end,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think that that can build something inside of your team. Just the way the division is and the games are, it just seems like nobody really gives an inch out there so you got to fight for all those inches and those inches are usually won in very small amounts on the scoreboard.”
Nashville Predators fans have not seen a lot of Martin Brodeur over the years.
When they have, however, they have observed in action what most of the rest of the National Hockey League has during the past 20 seasons — an exceptional goalie who has carried his team to victory more often than not.
Thursday, though, everyone in the hockey world will see something different when Brodeur plays for the first time for a team other than the New Jersey Devils.
The St. Louis Blues signed the 42-year-old earlier this week and named Brodeur their starter for Thursday’s game against Nashville at Bridgestone Arena (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) following their loss Wednesday at Chicago.
It will be Brodeur’s first game at Bridgestone, where he is 4-1-1 all-time, in more than five years. Overall, he has faced the Predators 13 times and is 7-5-1, including a 15-save shutout early last season (Nov. 10, 2013), the last time he faced Nashville.
MARTY IN NASHVILLE
A game-by-game look at Martin Brodeur’s performances at Bridgestone Arena:
• Nov. 19, 2009 – 28 shots, 26 saves (Nashville 3, New Jersey 2 OT)
• Jan. 19, 2006 – 32 shots, 29 saves (New Jersey 4, Nashville 3)
• Jan. 3, 2004 – 27 shots, 24 saves (Nashville 3, New Jersey 2)
• March 21, 2002 – 27 shots, 24 saves (New Jersey 4, Nashville 3)
• Feb. 29, 2000 – 36 shots, 35 saves (New Jersey 2, Nashville 1)
• April 17, 1999 – 28 shots, 27 saves (New Jersey 4, Nashville 1)
"I just want to have fun," Brodeur said, according to NHL.com. "I've got nothing to prove to myself. I just want to go out and enjoy the season and enjoy the winning way like I was able to do in New Jersey for a lot of years."
Brodeur is the NHL’s all-time leader in games played by a goalie (1,259), wins (688) and shutouts (124) — all with New Jersey. He led the league in wins nine times and was a four-time Vezina Trophy winner.
Even after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Nashville Predators remain near the top of the standings, one point behind Vancouver and Anaheim for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The same is not true of their best players two weeks into the NHL All-Star Fan Vote, which will determine six players (three forwards, two defensemen, one goalie) to compete in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.
Pekka Rinne is fifth among goalies and Shea Weber (pictured) is sixth among defensemen, each with fewer than half the votes of the leaders at their respective positions. No Predators player ranks among the top 25 forwards.
NHL ALL-STAR FAN VOTE
(as of Tuesday)
Carey Price Montreal 204,923
Corey Crawford Chicago 174,466
Henrik Lundqvist NY Rangers 109,662
Marc-Andre Fleury Pittsburgh 81,704
Pekka Rinne Nashville 81,031
Jonathan Quick Los Angeles 73,744
Tuukka Rask Boston 59,352
Jonas Hiller Calgary 58,788
Sergei Bobrovsky Columbus 58,183
Jimmy Howard Detroit 45,357
P.K. Subban Montreal 240,362
Duncan Keith Chicago 208,086
Brent Seabrook Chicago 154,865
Kris Letang Pittsburgh 134,148
Andrei Markov Montreal 119,094
Shea Weber Nashville 113,613
Erik Karlsson Ottawa 104,595
Mark Giordano Calgary 103,011
Drew Doughty Los Angeles 98,044
Zdeno Chara Boston 79,928
Niklas Kronwall Detroit 73,308
Olli Maatta Pittsburgh 58,344
TJ Brodie Calgary 57,867
Roman Josi Nashville 55,168
Ryan McDonagh NY Rangers 46,754
Alex Pietrangelo St. Louis 46,037
Johnny Boychuk NY Islanders 45,289
Jack Johnson Columbus 41,928
Ryan Suter Minnesota 41,278
Mark Streit Philadelphia 40,976
Tyler Myers Buffalo 39,935
Kevin Shattenkirk St. Louis 37,575
Brent Burns San Jose 36,014
Niklas Hjalmarsson Chicago 34,669
Victor Hedman Tampa Bay 30,535
Dion Phaneuf Toronto 27,258
Rasmus Ristolainen Buffalo 23,123
Alexander Edler Vancouver 19,663
Cam Fowler Anaheim 19,516
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona 17,941
Zemgus Girgensons Buffalo 399,356
Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh 218,672
Patrick Kane Chicago 216,261
Jonathan Toews Chicago 212,994
Max Pacioretty Montreal 129,324
Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh 126,430
Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay 106,042
Patrick Sharp Chicago 102,890
Tyler Seguin Dallas 99,982
Tomas Plekanec Montreal 89,729
Pavel Datsyuk Detroit 82,545
Rick Nash NY Rangers 64,505
Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis 59,912
Jakub Voracek Philadelphia 59,145
John Tavares NY Islanders 56,126
Martin St Louis NY Rangers 54,921
Alex Ovechkin Washington 54,319
Alex Galchenyuk Montreal 54,248
Henrik Zetterberg Detroit 54,042
Marian Hossa Chicago 52,620
Jamie Benn Dallas 52,253
Phil Kessel Toronto 49,708
Claude Giroux Philadelphia 47,601
Gustav Nyquist Detroit 45,092
Patrice Bergeron Boston 44,359
James Neal Nashville 43,802
Jaromir Jagr NJ Devils 42,149
Anze Kopitar Los Angeles 40,385
Filip Forsberg Nashville 39,234
Chris Kunitz Pittsburgh 38,656
Zach Parise Minnesota 35,738
Corey Perry Anaheim 33,179
Ryan Johansen Columbus 31,614
Ryan Getzlaf Anaheim 30,466
Tyler Ennis Buffalo 30,140
Nathan MacKinnon Colorado 30,026
TJ Oshie St. Louis 29,611
James van Riemsdyk Toronto 29,218
John Gaudreau Calgary 29,129
Wayne Simmonds Philadelphia 29,083
Voting at NHL.com/vote continues through Jan. 1.