The Nashville Predators decided to stick with largely the same roster they had a year ago.
That group was good enough to have one of the league’s best records throughout the first three-quarters of the 2014-15 season but ultimately did no better than second place in the division and a first-round playoff exit.
Collectively, therefore, this team will have to find a way to be better than it was.
Here is what the Predators need from each individual for that to be the case:
• Mike Ribeiro: Lead the team in assists. Whether he plays with James Neal, Filip Forsberg or both he needs to be the facilitator he’s always been and allow those guys to score.
• Mike Fisher: Fight the effects of time. He’s 35 years old and missed 23 games last year. This team cannot afford for him to finally act his age.
• Cody Hodgson: Forget last season. He averaged 18 goals and 39.7 points over a three-year span before he slipped to six and 13, respectively, in 2014-15.
• Paul Gaustad: Win faceoffs. Whatever points he scores, the toughness he provides are secondary to the need for him to get possession of the puck for a team that relies on that very thing.
• Filip Forsberg: Avoid the sophomore slump. He has to be even better than he was last season when he had 26 goals and 63 points if this team is going to take a step forward.
• James Neal: Stay healthy. He has shown he can score from almost anywhere on the ice. He can’t do it from the sideline, which is where he was for 15 games last season.
• Colin Wilson: Keep it steady. His career thus far is a study in streaks. He finished last season on a playoff hot streak but he has to avoid the lengthy scoring droughts that have happened all too frequently.
• Craig Smith: Go forward. There’s no questions about his speed or his ability to finish. He has to make sure his intensity does not waver as it sometimes has in the past.
• Viktor Arvidsson: Keep it simple. He can skate and he can shoot. As long as he does those two things he can figure out the rest in his first NHL season.
• Calle Jarnkrok: Stay flexible. He’ll start the season as a wing but if a center gets hurt or slumps he will be the first to fill in. So he will have to change positions smoothly.
• Gabriel Bourque: Production. He is going to give effort but he dipped from .39 points per game in his first 108 NHL appearances to .19 per game last season. No one expects him to lead the team in scoring but he has to chip in.
• Eric Nystrom: Defense. He can do a lot of things but his primary role will be as a checker on the fourth line – and he must do it well.
• Austin Watson: Seize the opportunity. The 2010 first-round pick has waited a long time for his opportunity. He might not get another one with Nashville.
• Shea Weber: Leadership. There’s no doubt what he’ll deliver on the ice but the captain since 2010 needs to hold the rest of the team more accountable on the bench and in the locker room.
• Roman Josi: Prove last season was no fluke. His style of play has taken away from Weber’s offense, which is OK as long as he remains one of the NHL’s highest scoring blue liners.
• Seth Jones: Continue to grow. The fourth overall pick in 2013 has had his rough spots. There were fewer last season than his first. He needs to reduce that number even more.
• Ryan Ellis: Score more. He’ll never recreate the absurd point totals he produced in junior hockey but this team counts on its defense to score more than most – and there’s more Ellis can put up more than 27 points as he has each of the last two years.
• Mattias Ekholm: Make a name for himself. He’s been somewhat overlooked among this group but he has the size, skill and surprising toughness to be a star in his own right.
• Barret Jackman: Quality minutes. He shouldn’t have to play more than 10-12 minutes per game. In that time he has to provide high quality defense and penalty killing.
• Victor Bartley: Stay ready. There’s a reason he’s the seventh defenseman on this team, but he’s also given teammates and coaches reason to trust him when he is needed.
• Anthony Bitetto: Toughness. There’s plenty of skill in Nashville’s defense group but there are times when real grit is needed. Bitetto can be that guy.
• Pekka Rinne: Consistency. Typically, he’s a slow starter who plays his best late. Last season it was the reverse. He needs to play well throughout and deliver occasional great performances.
• Carter Hutton: Start fast. He typically plays better once he gets some regular action. If things go according to plan, he’ll only see spot duty.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators’ roster continued to get smaller Thursday.
Veteran forward Cody Bass, who has spent the majority of his career in the American Hockey League, once again is headed to that league.
The Predators reassigned the 28-year-old to Milwaukee, which left them with 24 players on the NHL roster. The regular season limit is 23.
Bass signed as a free agent in July. He has appeared in just one NHL game over the past two seasons and 49 for his career. Since 2005-06, though, he has appeared in 272 AHL games, during which time he has racked up 537 penalty minutes with 46 goals.
He had seven penalty minutes, three hits and two blocked shots in the most recent preseason contest, a 5-2 loss to Columbus on Tuesday. His nine penalty minutes are third on the team this preseason and he is one of three Nashville players who has been assessed a fighting major.
The Nashville Predators took a good, long look at Steve Moses on Tuesday.
Now there’s no telling when anyone will see him in a Predators uniform next.
The free agent forward, who led Russia’s KHL in goals last season, was one of three players reassigned to Milwaukee (AHL) on Wednesday. Also sent down were forward Colton Sissons and goalie Juuse Saros, which reduced the current roster to 25 players, two more than the regular season maximum.
Moses (pictured) logged 17:04 of ice time in Tuesday’s 5-2 preseason loss to Columbus at Bridgestone Arena. Only two Nashville forwards, Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg, saw more action. Moses’ evening included 2:54 of ice time and three shots on goal but he failed to register a point and finished with a minus-2 rating.
He appeared in four of six preseason games but had just one assist with no goals and a minus-4 rating.
Sissons is one of three other Nashville players who appeared in four preseason games. The 2012 second-round draft choice had two goals and plus-1 rating but logged a team-low 9:58 of ice time against Columbus.
The Predators’ final preseason game is Saturday at Columbus.
Mitch Korn, the Nashville Predators long-time goalie coach, hasn’t forgotten his time with the franchise – or anywhere else he’s been.
If his memory ever does start to fade, he will have plenty of reminders.
The Washington Post gave a detailed look Tuesday at Korn’s house in Florida, which he recently turned into a personal museum of sorts. According to the Post, Barry Trotz, for whom Korn worked in Nashville and now works with in Washington, and other Capitals coaches recently were the first to get a look the massive memorabilia display.
“If you look around, there’s family moments, team moments, moments in his life where it’s almost a documentary of the really important things to Mitch,” Trotz told the paper. “It’s a total man cave and it’s exceptional.”
From the Post story:
There’s the photo of the stitched-up Gerry Cheevers mask Trotz gifted him when they left Nashville, with the grease-pencil note about how Korn turned “scars into stars.” There’s the picture of Sabres goaltenders Hasek and Steve Shields smiling next to Korn, short enough that he stood between them on a ladder, and the replica shot with Pekka Rinne and Carter Hutton, two Predators reared from relative obscurity.
There are, in the most impressive wing of the house, the three wooden lockers, shipped to Florida last January, each crammed with tokens from his three NHL stops, such as jerseys, mugs, pucks, passes, glasses, bobbleheads and, hung inside the relatively empty Washington stall, red gloves from the 2015 Winter Classic.
Korn was the Predators goaltending coach for their first 16 years before he followed Trotz to Washington. Before Nashville, he spent seven seasons in the same role with the Buffalo Sabres.
“This is really my entire life,” Korn said. “My whole story is here.”
The Nashville staged a split squad scrimmage Saturday at Ford Ice Center.
Then they split their squad. Twenty-two players were reassigned, the majority of which will start the season at Milwaukee.
That reduced to 28 the number of players still in Predators camp. That’s five more than allowed for the start of the regular season.
A look at who remains and what decisions likely must be made:
Locks: Mike Fisher, C; Mike Ribeiro, C; Paul Gaustad, C; Cody Hodgson, C; Filip Forsberg, LW; James Neal, RW; Colin Wilson, LW; Craig Smith, RW; Calle Jarnkrok, RW; Eric Nystrom, RW.
Still battling: Steve Moses, RW; Gabriel Bourque, RW; Austin Watson, LW; Viktor Arvidsson, LW; Colton Sissons, C; Cody Bass, RW; Jamie Devane, RW.
Analysis: Moses is basically assured a roster spot because he has a one-way contract. It’s notable that Arvidsson (pictured) gets to stick around while Kevin Fiala already has been sent down, which might be a sign that he’s staying. Bourque almost certainly gets the benefit of the doubt because of his experience, which likely leaves Watson and Sisson to fight for one for one spot.
Locks: Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Barrett Jackman, Victor Bartley.
Still battling: Anthony Bitetto.
Analysis: Bitetto has played well and deserves a longer look, but it’s highly unlikely he will unseat Bartley for the seventh spot. If someone gets hurt, though, he’s ready to go.
Locks: Pekka Rine, Carter Hutton.
Still battling: Juusse Saros.
Analysis: Saros is not going to start the season in the NHL, but it probably does him good to spend as much time as possible watching and working with Rinne.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Nashville predators hosted their annual Skate of the Union Address Saturday at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch.
As usual, the event served as a regular season primer for fans. Chairman Tom Cigarran, CEO Jeff Cogen, General Manager David Poile, President Sean Henry, and Head coach Peter Laviolette addressed an array of topics including the All-Star weekend, the Predators television schedule, and the new 3-on-3 overtime format.
Some highlights from the forum:
• With Nashville hosting the 2016 NHL All Star Game, fans were curious about securing tickets. The franchise only received 8,000 from the NHL, however, it has asked for more. Cogen echoed the best way to obtain tickets for the All Star game was to become a Nashville Predators season ticket holder.
• For the first time in franchise history, all 82 Nashville Predator games will be on television. Four of those games will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN with the remaining 78 locally on Fox Sports Tennessee.
“Having all the games on broadcast, on television, says to me major league,” Cogen said. “(A few years ago) you really needed a nuclear physicist to guide you through ‘were do I find Predators hockey on TV or radio?’ This says to me a maturation of our team, our market, and our community. I’m proud, it says major league team.”
• Starting with the 2015-16 season, the NHL will implement the new 3-on-3 overtime format. With the reaction around the league being somewhat scattered, General Manager David Poile is a fan of the new overtime format.
“I’m really glad we made the change,” Poile said. “I would love to be a fan watching that (3-on-3). I think it’s going to be fantastic for our players and our fans and it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. With the parity in the National Hockey League, we could possibly have a quarter of our games decided in this 3-on-3 situation, so it’s imperative that our players and our coaching staff formulate a game plan to be successful.
“It’s going to be something that we’re all going to have to make an adjustment to, and for sure at the end of the day, you’re going to hear something like, ‘this team made the playoffs because of how good they were in 3-on-3.’”
Laviolette understands that the new 3-on-3 overtime format provides teams with a new challenge and another parallel to game planning.
“We’re figuring out 3-on-3,” Laviolette said. “We watched some video, our video coaches those guys do a lot of work for us. They pulled a lot of video from the American Hockey League of some teams that had some success with 3-on-3 and we watched that and kind of got a game plan from there. We’ve now experienced it a couple of times.”
• The team made its first significant roster cuts over the weekend, which reduced to 28 the number of players still in training camp.
“I think in this final week of preparation I do think we need a game plan,” Laviolette said. “I do think you need a protocol on what you’re trying to do, how long your shifts are, where you’re changing on the bench, and who’s taking the faceoff in the defensive zone. So there are a lot of things that we need to go through and work on a progression and we’ll be ready for that opening night.”
• Everyone on the Predators executive panel understands that each NHL team starts the season trying to accomplish the same goal. They also know that the success of the team last year coupled with the hard work in the offseason have fan expectations at an all time high.
“There are a lot of good teams in this League this year,” Poile said. “The good news is we’re one of those teams. We believe in ourselves, and hopefully the confidence and that experience of what we did last year can take us just a little bit further and get to that promised land.”
After a flurry of preseason games in the early days of training camp it’s back to work for the Nashville Predators. Eventually.
First, they decided to back it down a bit.
“We’ve pushed really hard,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We pushed the pace hard in practices and guys played really hard in games – a doubleheader, a back-to-back situation. Practices have been an hour and a half long, really high tempo. We just have to be cautious with what we’re doing.”
Players were on the ice for the first time last Friday, and Wednesday night they played their fourth preseason game, a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay at Bridgestone Arena. Thursday’s schedule, therefore, consisted of an off-ice session to give everyone a breather.
The Predators are the only team that has played four preseason games thus far.
The next preseason contest is Tuesday against Columbus and the final tune-up is Oct. 3 at Columbus, which means the vast majority of what’s left of training camp will be spent – get this – training.
“Games are always more fun than practice,” defenseman Roman Josi, who played in two of the contests, said. “Obviously, we need some practice time too. We didn’t have a lot of practice time yet. It was good to have a couple games and see what we can work on in the next week in practice.”
FUN AND GAMES
A look at the Predators’ results thus far this preseason:
Sunday (Game 1): Nashville 5, Florida 2
Sunday (Game 2): Florida 3, Nashville 2 (OT)
Tuesday: Nashville 3, Tampa 2 (OT)
Wednesday: Nashville 5, Tampa Bay 2
Six players have appeared in three of the four games. Five of the six are top young prospects vying for the last few spots on the roster – forwards Kevin Fiala, Steve Moses, Colton Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson and defenseman Anthony Bitetto. The other is a veteran trying to hang on to his spot as the seventh defenseman, Victor Bartley.
Players will be back on the ice Friday – some of them at least. The first significant cuts of camp likely will come first given that Milwaukee opens its training camp Tuesday.
“I think it’s good how the schedule goes,” goalie Pekka Rinne, who played the entire game Tuesday, said. “The first couple days we were able to skate and then played [several] games in a row. Now we have some time to practice again and then play the last few games. I think that’s a good setup.
“Now coaches have to make some decisions and soon the group is going to be way smaller and we can start skating as one team.”
Have the Nashville Predators struck gold with another Russian prospect?
Vladislav Kamenev, a 2014 second round pick of the Predators, showed great promise in his first official taste of the NHL.
Early in the first period of the first half of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Florida Panthers, the 19-year-old forward put the Predators up 2-0 when he took a Ryan Ellis pass and scored from the crease.
“He had a good shot off the wing there,” Ellis said of. “Overall, I thought he was making plays as well and that’s good to see.
“He showed flashes of brilliance out there. He’s kind of your prototypical Russian – great hands, great vision, skates well for a bigger guy and I thought he did great.”
Kamenev spent two seasons in the KHL with the Metallurg Magnitogorsk but terminated his KHL contract in April in order to make the jump to North America.
Thanks in part to the Alexander Radulov debacle, the Predators did not draft a single Russian player from 2005 through 2013.
Radulov, Nashville’s first-round pick (15th overall) in 2004, spent two seasons with the Predators before he signed a contract in the KHL despite the fact that he still had a year left on his entry-level deal with Nashville. He finally satisfied his contract with the team when he played nine games at the end of the 2011-12 season (he also appeared in eight playoff games) but has played exclusively in the KHL since.
Kamenev was their second-round choice (42nd overall) in 2014. They followed with another Russian forward, Yakov Trenin, in the second round this year (55th overall).
Both plan to play in North America this season.
(Photo: Getty Images)
After a return to the playoffs last season the Nashville Predators hope they will be something to see in the coming one.
Franchise officials, in fact, are banking on it.
For the first time in team history all of Nashville’s 82 regular-season games will be on television, the team announced Tuesday.
Fox Sports Tennessee will carry 78 of them, including 40 of the 41 home games. The remaining four contests will be carried nationally on NBC Sports Network, half of which will be against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.
FOR ALL TO SEE
The rundown of 2015-16 Nashville Predators games that will be televised nationally by NBC Sports Network:
Oct. 28 at San Jose
Dec. 29 at St. Louis
Jan. 19 vs. Chicago
Feb. 25 at Chicago
“Each year the Nashville Predators relationship with Fox Sports Tennessee strengthens,” chief operating officer Sean Henry said in a release. “With that growing partnership, fans are able to continue enjoying unprecedented access to watch their team both on the ice and behind-the-scenes. … It’s going to be an exciting season in Smashville, and Fox Sports Tennessee is the premier place for fans to follow along with the Nashville Predators.”
The Nashville Predators have included goalies in their television broadcasts for years.
Now they’re adding one of their former netminders to their radio broadcasts.
Chris Mason will serve as analyst alongside play-by-play man Pete Weber for select games this season, the franchise announced Monday. He will share that role with former coach Brent Peterson, who has been the radio analyst for the past two seasons.
Mason, when he was backup to Tomas Vokoun, was one of the first to do live in-game interviews from the bench. That has become a staple of the television broadcasts as he and others such as Dan Ellis and Carter Hutton have offered lively and insightful comments on the proceedings.
“I love hockey, I love the fans of hockey and this opportunity gives me a chance to stay involved in the sport I have dedicated so much of my life to,” Mason said in a release from the team. “I look forward to this new challenge of broadcasting and being part of the team that gave me my first opportunity to play in the NHL.”
Mason played 135 games for Nashville in three different stints with the club. The Predators traded for him in 1998, claimed him in the 2003 waiver draft and signed him as a free agent.
He concluded his playing career last season in Germany but already had planned to return to Nashville as part of the broadcast crew.
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