Timonen's 'long journey' ends with Stanley Cup celebration

Those who are still bitter that the Chicago Blackhawks knocked out the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs can take solace in the fact that Kimmo Timonen went out a winner.

The veteran defenseman concluded his 15-year NHL career, which began with Nashville during the inaugural 1998-99 season, by hoisting the Stanley Cup as a member of the Blackhawks. He almost did not play this season because of blood clots discovered last summer but decided he had to make more run at it.

Chicago won its third championship in six years when defeated Tampa Bay 2-0 in Game 6, but it was the first title for Timonen, who was traded to the Blackhawks by the Philadelphia Flyers late in the season and who still ranks as one of Nashville’s all-time best players and good guys.

"It's been a long journey," Timonen said, according to USA Today. "I can tell you that. Last August I didn't know if I could play anymore, but my desire was so deep inside that I wanted to give it one more shot. But obviously doctors said, 'Hold on boy.'"

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews made good on a pregame promise and handed the Stanley Cup first to Timonen, who played in three of the six Stanley Cup finals games and 18 of the Blackhawks’ postseason contests this year.

“He said, 'Holy something,' and he skated off really fast," Toews said. "I kind of expected him to get fired up, maybe raise his heart rate a little bit this morning. ... It's awesome. It's awesome to win but also more than anything to win for guys like that."

Originally a 10th round draft pick (250th overall) in 1993, Timonen played 1,108 NHL games, the first 573 with the Predators. He became the third captain in franchise history when he got the job at the start of the 2006-07 season and is the team’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 301 points (79 goals, 222 assists).

He said he started to get emotional Tuesday when the Blackhawks went up by two goals late in the third period.

“I was crying a little bit," Timonen said. "Tears were coming out of my eyes because I knew it would be hard to score two goals against (our) team.

"I don't know what to say. … It's been unreal."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 16, 2015 2:34 PM

Predators' latest goalie prospect doesn't look, think like others

Juuse Saros can’t see over opposing players the way so many recent Nashville Predators goalies do.

That’s OK, though, because the fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft can see into the future, so to speak. His ability to read and anticipate the play more than compensate for his 5-foot-11 frame and make him someone the Predators consider a top prospect.

Saaros signed an entry-level deal with Nashville on Tuesday and will play in North America this fall after two seasons in the Finnish Elite League.

“Our scouts really believe that he is so much ahead of the play that he anticipates and he’s waiting and he takes away angles and shots,” assistant general manager Paul Fenton told the Nashville Post recently. “And he can control rebounds. He’s about as elite a mind as we’ve ever had. … It’s hockey sense. It’s sense for the game. It’s the way he just processes everything. This kid has that type of mindset where you make a play and he’s already waiting for you over there.”

Nashville selected Saros 99th overall in 2013. In prior years, the franchise drafted 6-foot-4 Marek Mazanec (sixth round, 2012), 6-foot-5 Magnus Hellberg (second round, 2011) and 6-foot-6 Anders Lindback (seventh round, 2008).  All have backed up 6-foot-6 Pekka Rinne.

“You’ve seen what our track record has been over the years,” Fenton said. “We’ve drafted bigger goaltenders but this is the exception to the rule. I really believe that he could some day be a starter in the NHL.

“He’s one of those guys that can really read the play and yet he doesn’t cheat. It’s just knowing where it’s going and he’s waiting for it.”

Saros became the fourth goalie in 40 years named Rookie of the Year in Finland’s top league when he went 16-16-8 with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage in 2013-14. Last season he was 13-18-16 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

The 20-year-old was Rinne’s backup for Finland and the 2015 World Championships. He stopped all 22 shots he faced in his only appearance, a victory over Slovenia during pool play.

“Our guys think that this kid has one of the most elite minds of anyone we’ve ever drafted,” Fenton said. “We think that this kid can be a star goaltender.”

Jun 16, 2015 11:41 AM

Timonen relishes final opportunity to play for Stanley Cup winner

Thus far, Kimmo Timonen’s only chance to be part of a Stanley Cup champion was ruined by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now, the veteran defenseman’s last chance to play for a winner is as a member of the Blackhawks.

The 40-year-old whose NHL career started with Nashville and who remains one of the franchise’s all-time greats talks about the end of his career as this year’s Stanley Cup finals is ready to start. The Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning begin their seven-game series Wednesday (7 p.m., NBC).

From the Philadelphia Daly News:

“After everything I went through, this is the reason - and the only reason - that I came back," Timonen said. "We still haven't won anything, but we have a really good chance to do something special. It would be a perfect way to leave this game."

Nashville traded Timonen to Philadelphia in 2007 and he was with the Flyers in 2010 when they lost to Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals. He remained with that franchise until late this season when he was dealt to the Blackhawks at the NHL’s trade deadline despite the fact that he had not played a game during the regular season. Blood clots had kept him out since the start of training camp.

He appeared in 16 games down the stretch for Chicago and was in the lineup for their first 15 playoff games, including all six of the first-round series with Nashville.

He was a healthy scratch for the final two games of the conference finals with Anaheim, which creates a little drama about his situation, if the Blackhawks win their third Cup in six years. In order for a player’s name to be engraved on the Stanley Cup he must play at least 41 regular season games or one Finals game for the winning team.

"Am I frustrated and kind of surprised at that? Yeah, oh yeah," Timonen said about being a healthy scratch. "But this isn't about me. It's about the team and winning and I've got to be ready if there's a chance I play in the Finals. I'm going to stay positive and help this team any way I can. But it's been tough. I can't lie to you."

Timonen played 573 games for Nashville, which is a little more than half of his career total (1,108) and ranks fourth in franchise history. He also is one of only four players ever with at least 300 points with the Predators and ranks second only to Shea Weber in career power play goals (66).

Next season he plans to take a job in Philadelphia’s front office but for now he is happy he joined the team he and the Flyers could not beat back in 2010.

"It was a long battle for me to get to this point," he said. "I'm going to try to enjoy every minute of it. I know it's going to end in two weeks, either way."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jun 3, 2015 3:01 PM

Housley not New Jersey's choice for new head coach

Phil Housley was not the New Jersey Devils’ choice after all.

Following a weekend of conflicting reports about that franchise’s interest in the Nashville Predators assistant for its head coach vacancy, the Devils hired John Hynes on Tuesday.

The 40-year-old Hynes was head coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate, for the past five seasons. In that role he worked with New Jersey general manager Ray Shero, formerly the Penguins general manager.

Like Housley, Hynes has deep ties to USA Hockey.

Since they entered the NHL in 1998, the only changes to the Predators’ coaching staff have been made from within. Assistant Paul Gardner was fired following the 2002-03 season and his replacement, Peter Horachek, was fired to make room for Housley in 2013. Head coach Barry Trotz was fired last year, and two of his assistants, Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn, subsequently were not re-signed.

Housley likely will get an opportunity to be a head coach at some point. This was not it.

Jun 2, 2015 12:13 PM

Predators might be looking for new assistant coach soon

It seems certain that Nashville Predators assistant Phil Housley is a candidate to become the next New Jersey Devils had coach.

The question is how serious a candidate.

On Saturday, a report from The Newark Star-Ledger said that the 51-year-old was the top choice. A day later, Sportsnet reported that the Devils denied that was the case.

Former Predators assistant general manager Ray Shero is the new Devils GM and the one who will make the hire.

From The Star-Ledger report:

Shero has done an extensive search to find the right coach for the Devils, considering Guy Boucher of SC Bern in Switzerland, Washington Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton AHL coach John Hynes, but Housley has emerged as the leading choice.

“Some pretty strong denials (Sunday) from New Jersey,” Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night in Canada. “So you never know what they’re going to do.”

Friedman added that a decision likely will be made early this week.

If not now, Housley is going to be an NHL head coach. He is one of the most accomplished American-born players in the history of the game, having played just shy of 1,500 career NHL contests. He has been a successful head and assistant coach with multiple U.S. national teams and has extensive experience in the high school ranks.

The Predators hired him in 2013 to work with the team’s young, emerging defensemen. The results with Roman Josi, Seth Jones and others have been promising.

If the Devils hire him, it will be the first time the Predators have had an opening on their coaching staff that they did not create themselves.

Jun 1, 2015 2:37 PM

Predators, NHL roll out 2016 All-Star Game logo

It remains to be seen which players will take part on the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

The contest does have a look, though.

The Nashville Predators and NHL unveiled the logo for All-Star weekend, Jan. 30-31 at Bridgestone Arena. Featuring a guitar pick design that is becoming increasingly common in local sports branding, the emblem also includes a nod to the state flag (three stars) as well as other symbols tied to Nashville’s unique identity.

From the official NHL release:

Designed by Fanbrandz and NHL Vice President of Creative Paul Conway, the 2016 NHL All-Star logo pays homage to the city of Nashville’s deep roots in country music and the Predators navy blue-and-gold team colors, which honor the city of Nashville’s seal and flag. The typography, inspired by Nashville’s music scene and the neon signs on Broadway and Music Row, instantly connects the NHL celebration to Music City.

“We’re very excited to not only tie in the Predators colors but the feel of Nashville into [the logo],” Nashville Sports Council CEO Scott Ramsey said, according to the Predators’ website. “I guess we’re about eight months away from the event, and we really think it represents our city and our event very well.”

Beginning Tuesday, Predators season ticket holders will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for 2016 NHL All-Star events.

“Nashville is an iconic city, both as the home of country music and an exciting hotbed for hockey,” Brian Jennings, NHL Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President said in the league’s official release. “We’re thrilled to bring NHL All- Star to Music City for the first time ever and feel that the new logo truly celebrates the city’s passion for music and for its hometown Predators.”

May 31, 2015 10:40 PM

Report: Radulov eyes return to NHL -- with a different franchise

Alexander Radulov’s agent says the mercurial forward would like to play in the NHL again once his current KHL contract expires.

Just not for the Nashville Predators.

Yury Nikolayev told the Russian website championat.com that Radulov’s preference would be to play for Colorado, specifically coach Patrick Roy, upon completion of his contract, which has one remaining season.

Google Translate offered the following interpretation of the Russian report:

CSKA forward Alexander Radulov could go to the NHL at the end of the upcoming season of the KHL and SKA captain Ilya Kovalchuk - two years later, when both contracts will end in Russia, according to the players agent Yuri Nikolaev.

"Remember, when Sasha played in the Quebec junior league and gathered there all the incredible trophies, who became his coach? Patrick Roy, who now heads the "Colorado". So, Roy phoned Sasha and says that he is waiting for the next season. Yes, he can leave after next season.”

Radulov played for Roy for two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after the Predators drafted him 15th overall in 2004. He scored 227 points in 127 games for Quebec, including 152 (61 goals, 91 assists) in 2005-06.

His last appearance for Nashville consisted of nine games at the end of 2011-12 (plus eight more in the playoffs), which satisfied the final year of his NHL entry-level contract after he had played four full seasons in the KHL.

May 29, 2015 6:48 AM

Free-agent-to-be Franson willing to return to former team — again

Apparently, Cody Franson is not the adventurous sort or in search of new horizons.

Back in February, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Franson to the Nashville Predators, the only other NHL franchise of which he had been a part.

That deal did not work out as planned, and the Predators do not intend to try to re-sign the 27-year-old defenseman, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in July.

So where would he like to end up? Back in Toronto.

“I enjoyed playing in that city and definitely I’m hopeful that Toronto’s in the mix come July 1,” Franson told TSN Radio 1050 over the weekend. “My phone will definitely be on and hoping that they’re one of the teams that calls.”

Nashville drafted Franson in the third round in 2005 and he made his NHL debut with the Predators four years later. The Predators traded him Toronto prior to the 2011-12 NHL season and in three-plus seasons he worked his way on to the Maple Leafs top defense pairing.

He has played 400 career NHL games – 236 for Toronto, 164 for Nashville.

“This is new territory for me,” he said. “I’m excited to kind of really just get it over with and find out where I’m going and start gearing towards the next season. I’ve been off for a few weeks now, taken my time off and getting back in the gym here.

“When you start getting back in the gym, it’s that time to start looking forward to the next season. With being in free agency, you don’t know where that’s going to be. July 1 can’t come quick in enough.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

May 27, 2015 6:42 AM

Disappointing end to first season in Washington doesn't dampen Trotz's optimism

Apparently his defense-first system was not the only thing Barry Trotz took with him to Washington.

The former Nashville Predators coach brought his optimism as well.

His first season as the Capitals coach ended Wednesday night with a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Yet rather than wallow in the disappointment of the moment, the likes of which he never encountered in all his time with the Predators, Trotz sounded a triumphant note in the earliest moments of his sudden offseason.

“We went after this game,” Trotz said, according to The Washington Post. “There was no nervousness in our part. We went after the New York Rangers in their own barn and almost pulled it off. I said to them all year, defeat is not your undertaker, it should be your teacher. And I’ll tell you what, we learned a lot. … You’re going to see the Washington Capitals back here again.”

Every game in the series was decided by a single goal. Two, including the season finale, were decided in overtime.

Each of the last three times he guided a team to the postseason, he got to the conference semifinals but no farther. With Nashville, he lost in six games to Vancouver in 2011 and in five games to Phoenix in 2012.

This time he got all the way to Game 7 with the Capitals. However, that was after his team won three of the first four games. New York won the final three and became the first team to overcome 3-1 playoff deficits in consecutive years. New York did the same thing against Pittsburgh in 2014 en route to the Eastern Conference title.

Trotz is now 19-32 in the playoffs as a head coach. He won seven games this year, which was more than he ever won in any of his seven playoff trips with Nashville, and faced two Game 7s, which was two more than during his time in Nashville.

“You saw two very good teams go nose-to-nose, with just inches, an inch here, an inch there,” Trotz said. “I think everybody here probably predicted seven games, and you got it.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

May 14, 2015 5:34 AM

Rinne's World Championships shutout streak reaches record length

It is now Pekka Rinne’s record.

The Nashville Predators goalie held Belarus scoreless into the second period Monday and eventually ran his shutout streak at this year’s IIHF World Championships to 237:05, a modern era tournament record.

He eventually allowed two goals but made enough stops in a shootout to help Finland to a 3-2 victory on the next-to-last day of pool play. Rinne is now 3-1 (plus a shootout win) with a 1.19 goals-against average at this year’s event.

“There is a reason why Rinne is a Vezina candidate in the U.S.” Finnish forward Tuomo Ruutu said, according to the IIHF website. "He is a top notch goaltender and one of the best, if not the best in the game."

The previous record was 206:26 in 2004 by Slovakia’s Jan Lasak, who at the time was a Predators’ prospect.

After an opening loss to the United States, Rinne posted three straight shutouts. He finally allowed a goal at 5:09 of the second period. That one gave Belarus a 1-0 lead. The next, with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, forced overtime.

Finland has 14 points, tied with Russia for second place in Group B, one point behind first-place U.S.A., and has clinched a spot in the elimination round, which begins Thursday.

“Rinne has been unbelievable,” Finland’s captain Jussi Jokinen said. “Playing the way he has gives our team so much confidence. We will need him for sure the rest of the way.”

(Photo: IIHF Images)

May 11, 2015 10:54 PM