Preds fans, as we try to put last night’s 6-2 train wreck in Detroit behind us and focus on St. Louis coming to town this evening, I thought I’d offer up your Nashville Predators Question of the Week: Should Barry Trotz bench one of the “top” forwards like Montreal’s Bob Gainey has done to Alex Kovalev? And if so, who should sit?
Having been a healthy scratch for most of this season, Nashville defenseman Ville Koistinen has had enough:
Defenseman Ville Koistinen made his return to the Predators lineup Wednesday, but he’s not happy with his overall situation in Nashville.
The blueliner, who’d been a healthy scratch for the previous eight games, said Wednesday morning he’s hoping to be traded. Predators General Manager David Poile confirmed that the team has talked with other teams about Koistinen.
Koistinen, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, had an excellent rookie season last year, but has taken a step backwards, losing his spot on the depth chart to Kevin Klein. It was hoped that he would step into Marek Zidlicky’s role on the Nashville power play, but that hasn’t worked out.
In a rather poetic twist on this morning’s Tennessean article (”Steve Sullivan skates, but not much else”), Sully provided pretty much the only highlights for Nashville in a 6-2 trouncing on the road in Detroit by scoring twice; these are his first official goals since coming back from his back injury a few weeks ago:
Expect Pekka Rinne to return to the Predators net tomorrow night when the St. Louis Blues come to town. In the morning, look for an update on J.P. Dumont, who left the game in the 3rd after getting cross-checked in the back by Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall.
For a more verbose rumination on the game, check out Rachel’s summary at What the Puck.
Having given away a two-point opportunity against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday, the Nashville Predators return to action tonight in Detroit, ahead of a date tomorrow at home against St. Louis, and a road game against the Blues on Saturday (the Wings, meanwhile, are in the middle of a week on home ice). These are the dog days of the NHL schedule, wherein grit and endurance have as much to do with victory as does pure skill, and this critical stretch over the next four days sets up a five-game homestand which will determine whether the Preds are buyers or sellers at the NHL Trading Deadline.
Tennessean update: Dan Ellis gets the start in net, Radek Bonk returns (but might have difficulty with faceoffs), and Wade Belak will be scratched. Ville Koistinen returns to action, in an attempt to bolster the Preds’ pathetic power play.
The matchups on special teams are between extremes: Nashville’s power play is 29th in the league, but Detroit’s PK is 27th. The Red Wing PP is #1, but the Preds boast the #4 PK unit. For Nashville, I say stick Ryan Jones on the top line with Arnott & Dumont; he can crash the net so Dumont will know to just shoot the &*^!ing puck, and he’ll hopefully draw penalties from the Wings defense to boot.
Nashville Predators fans often complain about the lack of quality local media coverage, but in this morning’s Tennessean Jessica Bliss does a fine job with a tough, but fair appraisal of Steve Sullivan’s contribution so far as the Preds attempt a run for the playoffs. The piece is titled “Steve Sullivan skates, but not much else”:
Without a doubt, the fact that Steve Sullivan is skating is remarkable.
The Predators winger missed almost two full NHL seasons with back issues that necessitated multiple surgeries, months of rehabilitation, and all but paralyzed his career.
Still, on Jan. 10, he defied the injury by returning to competition. For more than a month he has injected life into the Predators’ lineup by sparking the offensive output of his teammates.
Now, it’s time for him to the take the next step by igniting his own.
This is something I addressed last week, and it’s a fine line that Barry Trotz needs to walk; Sully needs the ice time to get back into a playing groove, but in the meantime, he’s a liability in 5-on-5 action. My suggestion would be to manage his ice time based on the score. When within a goal, use him mostly on the power play. When the gap is two goals or more, go ahead and play him. Right now, the team can ill afford lost opportunities while waiting for Sullivan to find his scoring touch.
In light of all the talk yesterday about Tampa Bay giving away reams of tickets (over 2,500 per game), I thought I’d do a little digging to see how the Nashville Predators are doing. Since their lease at the Sommet Center and the NHL’s revenue sharing plan each have clauses related to hitting the magic 14,000 average paid attendance mark, the Preds are usually the only NHL team for which the comparison is made against the attendance figure reported in NHL box scores, which includes giveaways.
Our starting point here is two years ago; the Globe & Mail published a (PDF) report which broke down paid vs. total attendance through the end of January during the 2006-7 NHL season. At that point, the average NHL team was giving away 1,194 tickets per game; the Preds were dishing out 1,718, down from 1,815 in 2005-6.
This season, it has been reported that through the first 22 home games, the Preds have averaged 13,744 in paid attendance per game (a 6% rise compared to the same point in 2007-8). Running that up against the published attendance figures for each home game gives us a total attendance average of 14,567. Giveaways, then, are running at 823 per contest.
Paid attendance is up, they’re likely to hit the 14,000 mark, and giveaways are down by nearly 50%. I’d say that progress is definitely being made in Nashville.
Can the Predators keep the good times rolling tonight as the Ottawa Senators come to town? Since Cory Clouston stepped behind the bench to replace Craig Hartsburg, the Sens have gone 4-1-1, including 3 straight road victories as they pull into Nashville. According to Bruce Garrioch at Slam! Sports, Alex Auld should get the start in goal for Ottawa. With back-to-back games coming up for Nashville Wednesday & Thursday, I’m guessing we’ll see Pekka Rinne tonight, and Dan Ellis in one the games later this week.
The Preds’ 7-3 run since the All-Star break, which was extended Saturday in a shootout victory over the Boston Bruins, is beginning to generate some positive press locally. The Tennessean boasts a profile piece by Jessica Bliss on the dynamic defensive duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter this morning, while the Nashville City Paper’s David Boclair takes a look at how Joel Ward’s game has sprung back to life over the last two weeks.
If there was ever a time to face the best team in the Eastern Conference, it would appear to be tonight for the Nashville Predators; Mt. Chara and his Bruins are winless in their last three games, their power play hasn’t clicked lately, and they’ve got a few injuries that are forcing some lineup juggling.
All the same, tonight’s tilt will be a tough matchup for a .500 team that is waddling alongside 10 other contenders for Western Conference playoff berths. Scoreboard watching is a part of the business now, so it’ll be important for the Preds to see Columbus lose in Carolina, Minnesota drop one at home to Ottawa, Chicago beat Dallas, and Calgary top Phoenix tonight.
It looks like Jordin Tootoo returns to action this evening, likely on a line with Fiddler and Belak. As long as they’re in the lineup, they need to carry the fight to the Bruins, and take advantage of the fact that Boston is playing on consecutive nights after losing 1-0 to the Devils in New Jersey.
Finally, in the 14th game of his sensational comeback from lingering back injuries, Steve Sullivan scores for the Nashville Predators. While it won’t show up in the stats as a goal, it was the winner in a shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues that only came about due to a goal scored with 3 seconds left in the 3rd period to tie the game at 3 and send it to overtime.
Enjoy the highlights from this crucial (and unlikely) Predators win… (and a nice fight by Wade Belak in his return)
In the chase for the Western Conference playoffs, it’s not just about earning points for your own team, but knocking down the competition as well when you have the chance. The Nashville Predators have an opportunity to deliver a critical blow to St. Louis’ faint playoff hopes, and lift themselves back into contention at the same time. After tonight’s game in Nashville, these two teams meet again next Thursday at the Sommet Center, and then Saturday, Feb. 21 in St. Louis.
Beating the Blues won’t be an easy task, however; despite dominating them in recent years, this season the Preds are 0-2-1 against the Central Division’s last-place team. Coming into tonight’s game riding a recent 6-2-3 stretch, the Blues are proving to be far more resilient than anyone could expect, particularly considering the rash of serious injuries they’ve had to deal with (Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer, Erik Johnson).
So what do the Preds need to do to turn things around tonight?