Category archive: Nashville Predators

MONTREAL -- Well, here's a shocker.

NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell announced Sunday there would be no supplemental discipline for Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after he hit Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis into the end boards during Saturday's Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Just another in a staggeringly long line of head-scratchers from the NHL offices in Toronto.

What was the first thing you thought of when you saw Hossa lean in on Hamhuis as they both chased a puck into the corner? The hit on Hossa's teammate, Brian Campbell, courtesy of Alex Ovechkin earlier in the regular season.

In both cases, the offending players seemed to hold up slightly just as contact was made, but the defensemen were off balance enough to be sent hurtling into the boards.

Dangerous? Yes. Reckless? It depends on your definition of reckless.

Of course, in the NHL, where every day is a brand new day, the two incidents end up being treated as though they were from different planets.

Hossa was given a five-minute major for boarding, but stayed in the game and later scored the overtime winner seconds after serving his penalty. On Sunday, he learned he would suffer no further punishment.

Ovechkin was ejected from the March 14 game and then given a two-game suspension once it was learned Campbell had suffered a significant shoulder injury, one that caused him to miss the rest of the regular season.

"I have made the decision that this play does not warrant supplemental discipline after considering all of the facts, including reviewing the video and speaking with Mr. Hossa," Campbell said in a statement.

In a preemptive statement, Campbell also wrote Hossa's incident was different than earlier incidents (read: the Ovechkin hit).

"This play is distinguishable from recent incidents by a number of factors, including the degree of contact involved; the fact that the consequences of the play do not appear to be as severe; that this was a hockey play involving a race for the puck; that Mr. Hossa is not a repeat offender and that the call of a major penalty by the referee was significant and appropriate," Campbell wrote.

The Predators were incensed Hossa wasn't ejected from the game (he could have received the same game misconduct penalty for boarding as Ovechkin did) -- and he should have been. They're no doubt unhappy Hossa will play in Monday's Game 6 in Nashville -- and he shouldn't. He should have been suspended for one game.

But Campbell's follies continue unabated. Not that anything surprises us at this point when it comes to trying to make sense of the league's disciplinary policy.

Carry on.

CHICAGO -- Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith were reunited as the top defense pairing for the Blackhawks and predictably played a ton, Keith clocked in at 24:05 and Seabrook 22:19.

"When we were put back together yesterday [at practice], we both went home last night and made sure to get some rest," Seabrook smiled after the game.

Preds star blueliner Shea Weber led both teams in ice time at 25:24.

Using the power play

David Bolland opened the scoring for Chicago on a power play and the Hawks went 1-for-5 with the man advantage. With the Preds playing a tough defensive game at even strength, the Hawks must take advantage of the power play in this series.

"It makes a difference to get one on the power play early like that," said captain Jonathon Toews. "We came close a few more times. That's what it might come down to, because five-on-five, it's tough to come by quality chances."

Clutch Kane

Patrick Kane scored his 11th goal in his 18 career playoff game. Not too shabby.

"It's the best time of year ... especially after the Olympics. It was a long 20 games, I'm not going to lie," said Kane. "You're just waiting to get to the playoffs. You're playing for something that not many people in the world can play for, it's something you grow up dreaming of doing. I know there's a long road ahead, but this is the best time of year to play hockey."

Big scratch

The Preds were missing top goal-scorer Patric Hornqvist (undisclosed). The 30-goal scorer also missed the last game of the regular season, then played in Game 1 on Friday before leaving late. He wasn't able to go Sunday night and that's a big loss for a low-scoring team like Nashville.

"Yeah, he's a big presence there. He's a talent," said Preds forward Steve Sullivan. "He knows when to go in on traffic and has great hands in front of net. Definitely somebody we missed. But we missed Jason Arnott down the stretch. He brings a lot to this hockey team and we were still able to adapt. So we have to, as a collective group, find a way. It's not all about one player."

It sounds like a day-to-day injury.

"We're looking to having him for Game 3," said Preds coach Barry Trotz. "Looks very promising ... just a nagging thing. I think he'll be fine."

CHICAGO -- New forward line combinations and revamped defense pairings awaited onlookers for the Blackhawks practice Saturday.

Whether or not Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville sticks with the new combos for Sunday night's Game 2 remains to be seen. It could have also been a ruse for Nashville's benefit.

"We'll see on that, what the lines will be tomorrow," said Quenneville.

Stars defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith were back together and that appears to be a keeper for Sunday.

"With Dunks and Seabs, we'll likely put those guys back together again," said Quenneville. "It's been a while since they've played together, but it's a great tandem. So we expect that to be solid."

Among the forward lines, the No. 2 unit at practice featured Andrew Ladd instead of Patrick Sharp alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Sharp was slotted with Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland.

"It'll be fun," Ladd said of the first-line duty. "Obviously two talented players. I won't change my game much. Just go to the net, get in on the forecheck and try to create havoc around the net."

Fact is, Quenneville changes his lines all the time, so no one gets too worked about it in the Hawks' dressing room.

"We're used to it," said Ladd. "Everyone is used to playing with everyone because we've had a lot of line changes throughout the years."

Predators coach Barry Trotz wasn't surprised to see the Hawks' changes.

"No, no. I have a good idea why," Trotz said. "We'll do what we do. There's adjustments. I don't expect the Hawks to change their whole system or anything. They're going to make some adjustments in terms of lines and maybe matchups, D pairings, all those types of things. And I'm going to try to counteract that. That'll be my goal. It'll be a little bit of a chess match."

Keep it simple

The Blackhawks forced too many plays Friday night against the Nashville trap and it cost them in turnovers.

"We have to simplify our game a little bit," Toews said Saturday after practice. "Now we know how patient of a game we have to play against this team. It doesn't all have to happen in one shot for us. We just have to keep chipping away."

Another area that must improve is making life a little more complicated for Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. The talented Preds blue-line corps kept the front of the net fairly clear Friday night, and it's going to take more sandpaper to penetrate that area Sunday night.

"We've got some guys that can go there and we need more of that across the board by committee. ... Every line has guys that can go to the net and hang around. We can do that," said Quenneville. "Everybody has to know to go to the net. Kaner got a goal like that by treading the second opportunity and going to the front. Those are the type of goals that are going to be there. But we have to be willing to create more traffic and more second opportunities."

Believing in Niemi

Antti Niemi allowed only two goals in his playoff debut, but the first one, a floater from the sideboards by J.P. Dumont, still has people buzzing Saturday. Is Quenneville concerned with Niemi?

"No, he's got a great approach and demeanor about himself," said Quenneville. "Move ahead and play the next opportunity and the next shot. He was solid, he was big in net for us last night. Those funny bounces can happen against anybody. Moving forward, it was a good challenge and a good test and we expect him to be solid."

CHICAGO -- Steve Sullivan was pumped after today's morning skate. He hasn't played in a playoff game in four years.

"It's been a while," the Nashville Predators forward said. "And I don't think I've gone into the playoffs this healthy probably since Toronto back in 1999. I'm anxious. It's been a long time since a playoff game, but also just knowing I'll be able to give it everything I have."

His story is well documented. The 35-year-old's career was nearly ended by back problems that kept him out of the game for two years. He won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last season for his amazing comeback.

Now back for a taste of playoff hockey (the Preds missed the playoffs last season), Sullivan is taking the time to soak it all in. He takes nothing for granted anymore.

"It's the injuries, it's the age; you start to see every year certain players that aren't playing anymore that came into the league with you or you talk to old teammates that aren't playing anymore," he said. "So yes, you cherish it. It's gone by so fast, it really has. That's the one message you can pass on to the guys -- you don't know how many chances you're going to get. A lot of players don't make the playoffs for five-six years. We've got a special group in here, and we want to make the best of it."

Keeping Hamhuis

The Preds made a tough decision at the trade deadline by keeping Dan Hamhuis. He's an unrestricted free agent July 1, and the top-four blueliner might walk, so that's a tough pill to swallow. But GM David Poile also wanted to give his team the best shot to win this season.

"That was huge for us," Preds coach Barry Trotz said. "We had a real difficult March where we had not only I think the most games of any team, but also good competition in the West with everyone fighting for a playoff spot. Having Dan not be moved at the trade deadline really solidified our blue line and kept us competitive right to the end. That was a real good decision by management."

The underdog Preds

Nashville hasn't been picked by many people to beat the Blackhawks despite its 100-point season. Just par for the course for a Preds team that rarely gets any national buzz.

"We are what we are," Trotz said. "We've got some good players that maybe don't get the recognition they probably should. We've had a lot of question marks on our ownership in the past and all those things. We just do what we do. If you do things well and do them long enough, people will notice. Our team and our organization is not built on flash and dash. We try to keep it close to the vest and do our thing. We have our own identify. That's what makes us successful, is that we do have an identity."

Latest injury updates

The Predators received good news on the injury front Friday when Trotz announced defenseman Denis Grebeshkov was coming off the injury list.

"He's been cleared to play. He's available to play, yes," Trotz said, while refusing to say whether he'd insert him into the lineup for Game 1.

Grebeshkov, a key trade-deadline acquisition from Edmonton, was injured (upper body) on March 7, just his fourth game with his new team, and hasn't played since. Meanwhile, the Preds' leading scorer, winger Patric Hornqvist, didn't skate Friday morning. He missed the regular-season finale with a lower body injury. But Trotz said Hornqvist was OK.

On the Hawks' side, top-four defenseman Brian Campbell (broken clavicle) skated for the third straight day. He was supposed to be out eight weeks, and it's been just more than four weeks.

"Soupy has skated all week; we'll continue to monitor him, see how he does," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We said earlier in the series that he's likely out, and we'll see how it progresses."