Predators' scoreless streak reaches record length

Call it the Curse of James Neal.

In their most recent home game, last Tuesday against Anaheim, Neal scored a goal he probably should not have. His shot from the neutral zone (68 feet away) handcuffed goalie Frederik Anderson and ended up in the back of the net.

The Predators got one more goal that night, the game-winner from rookie Miikka Salomaki 13 minutes later, but nothing since.

A 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday made it three straight games (all on the road) that Nashville has been held scoreless. It has been 213:47 — a franchise record — since the Predators scored their last goal. That stretch includes 10 full periods plus part of the second in the victory over Anaheim.

"You try to work through it, but when it happens three times in a row, you're getting pretty frustrated," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said, according to

A look at the longest scoreless streaks in Nashville Predators history:

213:47 – Nov. 20-23, 2015
176:18 – Feb. 9-12, 2013
174:48 – Nov. 6-12, 2013
166:44 – Dec. 4-10, 2000

Nashville has outshot its last three opponents by a combined 93-64 yet has nothing to show for it.

The Predators are tied for fourth in the league in average shots per game (31.1) and third in average shot differential with 4.1 more per game than the opposition. They have fallen to 18th in goals per game (2.55) and 22nd in shooting percentage (8.21 percent).

"I don't think that they're not trying to put it in the net when you end up with 30 quality chances out of 75, 80 attempts at the net," Laviolette said. "The guys are trying to score, and it's not dropping right now. They worked their tails of tonight and again it didn't go our way."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Nov 24, 2015 7:09 AM

This season, Neal hopes hot streak extends beyond October

James Neal knows how to get going.

The trick now is to find a way to keep it going.

The Nashville Predators right wing scored twice in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena, which gave him back-to-back multi-goal games for the first time since November 23 and 25, 2013, when he played for Pittsburgh. He also had two Saturday night at Ottawa.

That surge has made Neal the Predators’ leader in goals with five in the first six games and made him one of seven players tied for second in the NHL, one behind Dallas’ Jamie Benn. It also has carried him to a fast start for the second time in as many seasons since Nashville acquired him in a trade with Pittsburgh.

“I think when you’re in that zone and you’re feeling good you want the puck at all times and you feel like everything’s going to go in when you shoot it,” Neal said. “I don’t know how you can keep that around all year, but I’ll definitely try to.”

He could not do it in 2014-15. Neal scored seven goals in 10 games last October, which turned out to be his best month of the season. He missed 16 games due to injury along the way and never had more than five goals in any month that followed.

In 73 games since he joined the Predators he has scored 28 goals, nearly half of them (12) in October.

A look a James Neal’s goals, month-by-month, during his one-plus seasons with the Nashville Predators:

October – 5 (6 games)

October – 7 (10 games)
November – 2 (13 games)
December – 4 (12 games)
January – 3 (7 games)
February – 5 (15 games)
March – 1 (6 games)
April – 1 (4 games)

The good news for Nashville is that there are four more games before the end of this month, the first of which is Thursday against Anaheim (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena). That means he has the opportunity to equal – or even surpass – what he did last October.

“For me, I want to score. I have to score,” Neal said. “When the opportunities are there you want to bury them and right now I feel like those chances are there. I have to take advantage of that.”

After all, he knows all too well that it won’t necessarily last.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 21, 2015 12:01 AM

Twice is nice for Neal, Predators in final game of road trip

They don’t call James Neal “The Real Deal” for nothing. Saturday night in Ottawa, Neal showcased why he was given the nickname in the first place.

Neal led the Predators to a 4-3 shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators with two goals and the game winner in the shootout Saturday at Ottawa.

The goals were nearly carbon copies of one another. Each time Neal took a Roman Josi pass, drove to the front of the net and buried the puck past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson. 

“It worked the first time and it worked again, so that felt good and it was good to get our power play going,” Neal said, according to “We did a great job, [goalie Carter] Hutton was awesome in net in overtime and the shootout and gave us a chance to win.”

Neal now has three goals in his last two games and has become a force on the power play. Both of his regulation goals against Ottawa came with the man-advantage and doubled the Predators’ number of power play goals this season.

Through Sunday, he is one of 14 players in the league with multiple power play goals.

“He was good for us, he was picking up his pace and moving his legs and physical, physical on the puck, strong on the puck,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s been really noticeable the last few games.”

Saturday’s win gave the Predators two victories on last week’s three-game road trip and helped build some positive momentum for a three game home-stand that starts Tuesday against Tampa Bay and ends Saturday against Pittsburgh, the team that traded Neal to Nashville during the 2014 NHL draft for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.

“We talked about it going into the third period,” Neal said. “You can have one win and two losses going home, and it was a huge third period for us. We had a good win in New Jersey, and I thought we played our best game of the year in Long Island and didn’t get a win, so coming in here and pulling one out was good.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 19, 2015 7:20 AM

What the Predators need from each player on the roster

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)

Oct 7, 2015 7:05 AM

Predators eager to explore plentiful possibilities with forwards

For the most part, the Nashville Predators already know who their forwards will be.

The issue, an unusual one for a franchise with a defense-rich tradition, is who will play which spots, and how much they’ll play.

The top six are established with Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Craig Smith, Mike Fisher, and Colin Wilson. There are options for the bottom with at least seven players competing for those spots.

Newcomer Cody Hodgson is expected to take over as the team’s third line center. With that, Paul Gaustad is the fourth center so it is presumed Calle Jarnkrok moves from center to the wing.

That leaves Gabriel Bourque, Eric Nystrom, as well as rookies Kevin Fiala, Steve Moses, Viktor Arvidsson, Austin Watson and Colton Sissons competing for three roster spots.

Bourque and Nystrom have experience on their side. Fiala (pictured) is the Predators’ top draft pick from a year ago and has expressed confidence he will be playing in Nashville next year. Moses has a reputation as a goal scorer. However, that was in the KHL and there is no telling how he will fare in the NHL or if he can adjust his game.

Then throw in wild cards such as Arvidsson who saw playing time in Nashville last year and Watson who hasn't quite broken through like the Predators have hoped and the competition looks fierce.

“The third and fourth lines would be more defensive but we are looking for a little bit more offense from that third line,” general manager David Poile said recently during an interview with 102.5 The Game. “So (we signed) Hodgson in hopes of giving coach [Peter] Laviolette some different options that he can come up with. Also we’re going to give a player like Kevin Fiala a chance to make the team on a regular basis since he’s a top offensive player.”

Poile feels that Fiala opens doors for the Predators offensively – and opens up even more possibilities for the offensive line combinations.

“So what if he makes it and you have a Wilson or a Smith out on the third line if you will? Poile said. “It could be a great spot to do some things offensively from a matchup standpoint.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Aug 14, 2015 12:01 PM

Third-period scoring bursts work well for Predators against Blackhawks

As a formula for playoff success, there’s no doubt that it’s effective.

However, it does not seem like the kind of thing on which a team can count. Except that the Nashville Predators have done it in the last two home games of their Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks. Not coincidentally, those are the only two games they have won in the series, which Chicago still leads 3-2.

The idea is simple enough. Score three third-period goals and do so as quickly as possible.

In Thursday’s Game 5, all it took was 2:27 to turn a 1-1 nail-biter into a 4-1 joy ride to the finish.

That was the second-fastest collection of three goals in Predators playoff history. The fastest, of course, were the three in the third period of last Friday’s Game 2, all of which went in within a span of 2:19.

“It’s good feeling,” left wing Colin Wilson said. “It’s a fun feeling. It’s fun to get the crowd into it. It gets everybody going, the bench and the players. So to get goals in bunches like that it’s definitely a fun way of doing it.”

The first time they did it, the Predators evened the series with a 6-2 rout after a heartbreaking double overtime defeat in the series opener.

This time they avoided elimination with a 5-2 triumph. The surge started 47 seconds into the third when James Neal scored his second goal in as many games. Wilson followed with a power play goal at 3:02 and Filip Forsberg capped the offensive outburst 12 seconds later with the second of his three goals on the night.

“It was good to get the first one early in the period,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “… Again, just bang-bang right right away. I don’t think that was indication of the game. It was another fast-paced game. We were able just to capture a little bit of offense there in a short period of time.”

That latest triple play came against Chicago netminder Scott Darling, who has been an unlikely hero for his team through the first part of the series.

The first came against the Blackhawks’ other goalie, Corey Crawford, who hasn’t played since Game 2. In that one, Forsberg scored to make it 4-2 at 12:41 of the third. Then came goals by Mike Santorelli (14:28) and Craig Smith (15:00) to put the game out of reach.

“I’m not blaming the goalie,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday. “… It’s not the goalie at all.”

There’s no guarantee that the Predators can do it again, or whether they can even do it on the road. But now both Blackhawks goalies know it’s possible.

“Everyone’s professional. Everyone can put things behind them and I’m sure that’s what (Darling) is going to try to do,” defenseman Seth Jones said. “It’s our job to put more pressure on him in Game 6, put more pucks to the net, put more bodies in front of him make it hard for him.

“… Like you saw, Game 2 we blew them out then we ended up losing two in a row. So you can’t get too high. We can’t get too ahead of ourselves.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Apr 24, 2015 12:34 AM

Predators' playoff scoring coming from previously untapped resources

Regardless of what happens in the remainder of their first-round series with Chicago, the Nashville Predators have established an offensive foundation for playoff series’ to come, either this year or in future seasons.

Eight players have combined to score 11 goals in the first three games and five of those eight never had never scored an NHL playoff goal before last week. Colin Wilson, whose three are one short of tying the franchise record for goals in a playoff series, only had one.

Five of the eight are 25 or younger.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that none of the Predators have scored enough to win more than once thus far. Saturday’s 4-2 loss at Chicago gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 set for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (Fox Sports-Tennessee).

A look at the players who have scored goals for the Nashville Predators through the first three games of their Western Conference quarterfinal series with Chicago and the number of career playoff goals each now has:

Colin Wilson
Goals this series: 3
Career playoff goals: 4

Craig Smith
Goals this series: 2
Career playoff goals: 2

Mike Ribeiro
Goals this series: 1
Career playoff goals: 7

Viktor Stalberg
Goals this series: 1
Career playoff goals: 2

Filip Forsberg
Goals this series: 1
Career playoff goals: 1

Mike Santorelli
Goals this series: 1
Career playoff goals: 1

Roman Josi
Goals this series: 1
Career playoff goals: 1

Mattias Ekholm
Goals this series: 1
Career playoff goals: 1

Ekholm became the latest to get his first postseason goal when he scored 58 seconds into the second period Sunday, 22 seconds after Chicago had taken a 2-1 lead. Ribeiro, who had a relatively whopping six career playoff goals prior to this season, scored Nashville’s first.

While the youngsters have been breaking their postseason maidens some of the more proven performers have yet to break through – or they have broken down. Guys like James Neal and Matt Cullen (11 career playoff goals apiece) have yet to find the back of the net while Mike Fisher (18) and Shea Weber (10) have been lost to injury. Fisher has been out since the second period of Game 1 and Weber was injured in the second period of Game 1.

"I'm just having fun," Wilson, who is currently tied for the league lead in playoff goals, said. "It's fun being in the playoffs and trying to win."

It’s traditionally much more difficult to score in the postseason than it is during the regular season, and for those who hadn’t done it knowledge is power. Now that they know they can do it, it should be easier to do it the next time.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Apr 20, 2015 6:21 AM

Predators deal with disappointment of record-setting playoff defeat

If there were a way to accurately measure emotions, Wednesday’s 2015 playoff opener likely would have set the record for most disappointing postseason loss in Nashville Predators history.

As it is, players, coaches and everyone else who took in the action must decide for themselves the depth of their despair following a 4-3 double-overtime loss at Bridgestone Arena in a game Nashville led by three before the end of the first period and ultimately set several actual franchise playoff records.

“You would rather be sitting in a different position, for sure, but it is only one game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We are going to get ready [and] pull a lot of positives from this game.”

A look at some of what occurred in the contest that lasted three hours and 43 minutes:

• It was the third longest playoff game in franchise history at 87:49 and the second longest postseason contest (by 25 seconds) to a 5-4 double-overtime loss to San Jose on April 11, 2007.

• Nashville’s 54 shots on goal broke the record of 46 set April 30, 2011 at Vancouver (also a double-overtime contest).

• Nashville’s 17 shots in the third period set a record. The previous mark was 16 (twice) and the previous high in a home game was 15 (three times).

• The combined 96 shots on goal (Chicago had 42) easily surpassed the 81 that Nashville and San Jose had in that 2007 contest.

• James Neal tied the franchise record for shots in a game with nine. Patric Hornqvist (April 15, 2011 at Anaheim) is the only other player ever to do so.

• Filip Forsberg’s seven shots on goal set a Nashville rookie playoff record. Alexander Radulov had the previous mark of six (April 11, 2007 vs. San Jose).

• Three goals in one period (the first) tied the franchise record for a home playoff game. The Predators had done it three times previously (it’s worth noting that their only loss in those three games was to Chicago, 5-3 in 2010).

For what it’s worth, players and head coach Peter Laviolette did not seem terribly disappointed when it was over. In fact, they expressed a certain optimism about the things they did accomplish.

“I thought we played a really good game,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “Five-on-five, I thought we had some really good chances to win it. It just didn’t go our way, and we have to move past it. We have to put it behind us. In the playoffs, it’s short term [memory].

“They won and we didn’t. We have to move forward. We can’t dwell on anything.”

Added Colin Wilson, whose two goals also tied a Nashville playoff record (it happened 12 times previously): “Yeah. It’s the big cliché. It’s one game at a time, especially in playoffs. You never want to lose, especially in double overtime. I think we have a great group here and I like the way that we played (Wednesday) night.”

Apr 16, 2015 6:03 AM

Predators missed Fisher in many ways for majority of series opener

No doubt the Nashville Predators missed Mike Fisher on Wednesday.

After all, there is a lot to miss.

“You take a guy out that you could go down a checklist of things that you need from players on the ice,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “From faceoffs, leadership, power play, penalty kill, checking center, offensive center – you just keep checking the box. When he comes out of the lineup that’s big shoes to fill.”

The Predators’ leader in NHL playoff experience (this was his 99th postseason contest) was injured on his first shift of the second period and did not return. Given that the team’s 2015 postseason opener went into a second overtime before Chicago stunned Nashville and a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena 4-3, the veteran center missed more than a full game’s worth of action.

He logged just 5:32 of ice time in a game that lasted more than 87 minutes before Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith ended it at 7:49 of the second overtime. Before he left he won half of his six faceoffs, delivered two hits and had one takeaway.

“That was big,” Laviolette said. “… We used different people in there. Matt Cullen got a lot of it. I thought he did an excellent job jumping up in there and helping fill that position. Certainly, to lose (him) with just a regulation time of two periods that’s a lot. Then to go to a first overtime and the second half of a second overtime, that’s a big piece out of our lineup.”

Cullen opened the game as left wing on a line with center Callae Jarnkrok and right wing Viktor Stalberg. Those two ended up playing less than any of the other Nashville forwards while Cullen spent a lot of time (he played 23:32) in Fisher’s spot, at center between Colin Wilson and James Neal.

Team officials said only that Fisher had a lower body injury. There was no word on his status for the remainder of the series.

Game 2 of the series is 8:30 p.m. Friday (Fox Sports-Tennessee).

(Photo: Getty Images)

Apr 16, 2015 5:34 AM

Reasons to believe: Predators-Blackhawks series

It feels a lot longer than three years ago that the Nashville Predators played their last playoff game.

Regardless, the wait ends Wednesday when Nashville hosts Chicago in the first game of a best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).

Prior to their two-year absence, the Predators had made the postseason seven times in eight years – and had gotten better at it. In each of their last two appearances they made it to the second round.

The question now is whether they will can up where they left off or if they have to start over with a new coach, a lot of new players and an opponent that is well-versed with what it takes to win at this time of year.

Three reasons to believe the Nashville Predators will beat the Chicago Blackhawks in their first-round playoff series

The Best of Times: When Nashville was good this season it was really good. More often than not through the first three-quarters of the schedule the Predators had the best record in the league and looked like it would be this season’s best story. The level of play tailed off down the stretch, but the Predators have shown they can be as good as anybody. All they have to do is show it again.

The Real Deal: With all due respect to Filip Forsberg, who led the team with 26 goals, Nashville never has had a more dangerous shooter than James Neal, who scored 23 times in 67 games. He scored five of Nashville’s 11 goals against Chicago during the regular season and must be a difference-maker in this series. Nashville is a tidy 12-3-3 this season when he scores.

The Laviolette effect: First-year coach Peter Laviolette’s career playoff record is a winning one (43-39) and the last time he took over a team, Philadelphia in 2009-10, he took it to the conference finals in his first year. There’s no doubt his presence injected new life into the franchise at the start of the season. Perhaps he can do the same at the start of the postseason.

Three reasons to believe the Nashville Predators will lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in their first-round playoff series

Fading down the stretch: Neither team finished with a flourish. Nashville was 0-4-2 in its last six and Chicago was 0-4-0 in its last four. However, the Predators were consistently bad down the stretch and won just six of their final 21 games. The Blackhawks won twice as often over that same stretch, which makes their late stumble look more like a deep breath from a team planning for another long playoff run.

Raising Kane: Even if his play is a notch or two below what it was when he had 64 points (27 goals, 37 assists) in 61 regular-season games, his mere presence is a boost to his teammates and creates matchup issues for the Predators. Plus, he’s almost a point-per-game player in his postseason career (91 points in 93 games) so it’s not as if he’s going to be just a guy out there. Kane has been out since Feb. 24 with a broken collarbone and his return comes well ahead of schedule – and exactly the wrong time for the Predators.

Nothing new: Nashville is in the playoffs for the first time in three years and a significant portion of its roster has not NHL playoff experience at all. Chicago has won the Stanley Cup twice in the last five years and last year reached the conference finals after it finished third in the division, as it did this year. With Boston and Los Angeles out, there is no more playoff-proven team in this year’s field than the Blackhawks.

The bottom line

Regardless of seeding and home-ice advantage, the Predators have to be considered the underdogs in their series. They don’t have the consistent scoring among their forwards or the history of playoff success on which to rely that the Blackhawks do.

That’s not to say they can’t win it. If they don’t get off to a good start in Wednesday’s series opener, though, it’s only going to get more difficult.

Apr 15, 2015 2:43 PM