Cody Franson (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Poile’s gamble on Franson just didn’t pay off

By Jim Diamond

At a Tuesday morning press conference wrapping the team’s recently completed 2014-15 season, Predators general manager David Poile was asked about the Feb. 15 trade that brought defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli to Nashville from Toronto, in exchange for Nashville’s first round pick in June’s Entry Draft and Brendan Leipsic, a prospect with a penchant for drinking out of his opponent’s goaltender’s water bottle, which is awesome.

Sitting next to head coach Peter Laviolette Tuesday, Poile addressed the trade. Neither player gained much traction with the Predators and both were largely ineffective in what was the second stint for both players in the organization.

“I think we had very thorough discussions with our staff as to what we needed and our goal was to add one more forward and one more defenseman,” Poile said Tuesday. “There wasn’t a huge crop of defensemen. We’ve also talked about some of our past dealings at the trading deadline in terms of fits and specifically chemistry. Arguably in the past, I think I basically said this publicly, that I think we did some things that maybe weren’t a perfect fit if you will.”

At the time of the trade, the Predators were 38-12-6 and looked like they had a shot at winning the Presidents’ Trophy. Poile has shown a penchant for making trades prior to the deadline, as was the case with Franson and Santorelli.

The trade for Franson and Santorelli almost seemed doomed from the start. The President’s Day holiday and a freak ice storm that grounded the city of Nashville pretty much to a halt combined to prevent the players’ immigration paperwork being completed for six days, keeping them off the ice for almost a week following the deal.

In speaking about Franson specifically, Poile brought up the fact that he was a right-handed shot, something the Predators were particularly deep in with the likes of Shea Weber, Seth Jones, and Ryan Ellis already in the fold. In fairness, Ellis was still on the shelf at the time with a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup from early January until early March.

Very effective on the power play in Toronto, Franson couldn’t get much of a look with the man advantage in Nashville. Weber and Roman Josi made up the team’s top pairing, while Jones and Ellis ran the points on the second unit. In several games, Franson was stapled to the bench for long stretches of time due to ineffective play.

“I think, to be very honest, the fact that Franson was a right-handed shot, and we probably had the lefty/righty thing all year was working really good for us,” Poile said Tuesday. “The righty/righty thing was, I’m not making an excuse, but it wasn’t the perfect situation for Franson or for us.”

It was a curious statement indeed, as Poile was asked specifically about having four right-handed defensemen in the lineup with Franson’s addition.

“Four right-handed D, and we’re really happy with that,” Poile said at the time of the trade. “We’ve liked the lefty/righty thing. There’s no question that we spent a lot of time talking to our coaches about that before we made the trade. Again it’s up to Peter to solve that.”

The righty/lefty thing was the reason Poile gave for making the January 2014 trade that sent right-handed shooting Kevin Klein and his fairly magnificent contract to the New York Rangers for Michael Del Zotto, a left shot. That trade proved to be an unmitigated disaster for Nashville as Del Zotto played his way out of Barry Trotz’s lineup while Klein helped the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.

With six blueliners (Weber, Josi, Ellis, Jones, Mattias Ekholm, and Victor Bartley) under contract for next season, the Predators have three right-handed and three left-handed shots coming back.

Franson looked decent in the opportunities he had in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks, but there’s virtually no chance that he returns to play for Nashville next season.

Hats and other stuff on the ice in Filip Forsberg's honor. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Trick-Fil-A: Forsberg’s three goals keep Predators alive

By Jim Diamond

Late in the second period and with the puck near the Chicago blue line, Mike Ribeiro stepped up and planted a body check on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.

Goddess of the GIFs and friend o’ Rinkside Steph has all of the action here:

 

More known for his passing ability than his prowess for delivering open-ice hits, Ribeiro made a play that was uncommon for him in a night of firsts for the Predators. After missing considerable time down the stretch of the season with a broken collarbone, Kane had largely gone untouched for most of the series. The score was tied 1-1 at the time, and the middle frame would end that way, but in the third, the Predators came out flying.

“Everyone is doing everything in this playoff series,” Filip Forsberg said. “It feels like Ribby is hitting, guys are blocking shots like never before, so it’s awesome. That’s the type of effort you need to beat the Chicago Blackhawks and I’m really happy that everyone put this in the basket today. There’s a new game coming up in two days, and that’s the next focus here.”

Oh, and about Forsberg – just a couple of hours after the NHL announced that he was not among the top three vote getters in the Calder Trophy race for the league’s top rookie, Forsberg went out and registered the franchise’s first-ever playoff hat trick.

In a frenetic first period that featured a nearly 10-minute stretch that went without a whistle, Forsberg potted his first just 1:15 after Brad Richards opened the scoring.

The Swede struck again at 3:14 of the third. The goal came just 12 seconds after Colin Wilson’s power play goal, and the Bridgestone faithful had not even had time to sit back in their seats.

Forsberg punctuated the evening with the rare empty-net power-play goal in the game’s waning seconds. And the hats hit the ice.

Paul Gaustad's Helmet (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Paul Gaustad’s Helmet (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Well these kinds of hats did too.

Hats and other stuff on the ice in Filip Forsberg's honor. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Hats and other stuff on the ice in Filip Forsberg’s honor. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

And curiously enough, even a pair of glasses.

Glasses Trick (Jim Diamond./Rinkside Report)

Glasses Trick (Jim Diamond./Rinkside Report)

Related, this tweet from Christine deserves some love:

The 5-2 victory was also an important franchise milestone in that it was the first time a Predators team facing elimination won the game. Still with a tough task of having to beat Chicago twice more in order to advance, Nashville’s players were taking the one game at a time approach following Thursday night’s game.

“We’re not going to get too high on one victory,” Seth Jones said. “It takes four to win a series and we have two now. We know how important every game is. We break it down shift by shift how important every shift is, puck management is huge too against this team. It’s just another win. We’re still down 3-2, so we have a lot more work to do.”

Wise well beyond his age of 20, Jones had remarked at the morning skate that the series didn’t have the level of physicality and nastiness that most playoff series morph into at some time or another. Game 5 turned the corner in that respect.

“Guys are maybe getting a little frustrated here or there,” Jones said. “That’s just hockey. It’s going to get chippy at times.”

That chippiness was evidenced by a minor fracas in the corner of the Nashville zone late in the third involving Paul Gaustad and Andrew Shaw among others.

Tensions boiling over. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Tensions boiling over. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Facing another elimination Saturday, the Predators will have to win in a building that they have lost each game they have played so far this season to force a decisive Game 7 back at Bridgestone.

Shea Weber’s injury creates an opportunity for Cody Franson

By Jim Diamond

When the Predators acquired Cody Franson in a mid-February trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, expectations for the 6-foot-5 defenseman were high. After all, he had a strong start to his NHL career in a Nashville sweater and was excelling in Toronto after the Predators shipped him there in 2011.

But ever since the trade back to Nashville, Franson has looked out of place. He struggled to put up points and often found himself stapled to the end of the bench for long stretches of time. A late-season upper-body injury didn’t help things, keeping him out of the lineup for the last regular season game and Game 1 of Nashville’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Franson drew into the lineup in Friday night’s Game 2 and played well. He was visible for the right reasons and picked up the primary assist on Craig Smith’s goal at 14:54 of the second. That goal proved to be the game winner.

“I do think he played a good game last night,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said Saturday prior to the team’s departure for Chicago later Saturday afternoon. “He was moving the puck well. He got his shot off. He defended well. He jumps into the lineup and gives us a good game.”

When the Predators lost team captain Shea Weber in the second period Friday to a lower-body injury, it created some opportunities for others to pick up some of the voluminous amount of ice time that Franson’s fellow Sicamous, B.C. native logs night in and night out.

“Everybody will probably chip in and handle some of the minutes and some of the responsibility,” Laviolette said.

Franson played 16:31 in Game 2, including 1:12 of power play time.

In 55 games with Toronto this season, Franson had four goals and 11 assists on the power play. He averaged 3:05 per game on the man advantage. With Weber, Seth Jones, and Ryan Ells on the Nashville roster, Franson was fourth in line among right-handed defensemen, not a good recipe for a lot of power play time.

With Weber not making the trip to Chicago, he won’t play in Games 3 or 4. That creates a vacancy on one of the points of the power play, one that Franson will likely step into, probably on the second unit.

Not the fastest of skaters, Franson’s minutes at even strength will probably be limited against the speedy Blackhawks.

Roman Josi skates back hard to retrieve a puck on a Nashville power play. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Nashville’s defense loses Weber but helps team tie series

By Jim Diamond

As the first period neared its end Friday night, Predators defenseman Roman Josi picked up the puck in his own end near the blue line on the left boards. Josi carried the puck into the Chicago zone, seemingly dancing across the blue line before unleashing a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford high to the stick side, aided by a screen from Mike Santorelli. Just 3.4 seconds showed on the clock.

Goals scored in the last minute of periods are often referred to as momentum goals, and with the difficulties the Predators have experienced in the second period recently, they needed all the help they could get.

“He picked up the puck in our end with less than 10 seconds left on the clock and you’re thinking the period is probably just going to run out,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “But Roman has carried the puck so many times for us this year. Cutting through the neutral zone, but even then with less than six seconds on the entry to cut it across the ice and find a little bit of wiggle room to get a shot off. Santo made a nice screen in front of the net. That was a big moment in the game as well.”

And some adversity did appear in the second. At 9:17, Brandon Saad ran into Nashville captain Shea Weber at the end boards. The hit didn’t appear all that rough, but Weber collapsed to the ice. He got up quickly and skated off, putting no weight on his right leg. The team announced that he would not return to the game due to a lower-body injury.

Losing Weber meant the Predators had to go with five defensemen the rest of the way, a challenge since they did not have the traditional three pairings.

“Lot of talk, talk is always big in any type of situation, especially in the playoffs,” Cody Franson said. “It’s so loud out there and things happen so fast, that communication is just as important as anything else. When you go down to five guys like that, you try and keep your shifts short, don’t get overextended, and keep your energy levels high.”

Later in the second, Patrick Kane tied the game 2-2 on a goal that appeared to come with six Blackhawks on the ice. Running the risk of losing the first two games at home, the Predators rallied after the Kane goal, scoring the final four to win going away 6-2.

Josi had to adjust to multiple partners down the stretch. He got an opportunity to play some with Seth Jones, who was playing in just his second career NHL playoff game.

“He did great,” Josi said. “I thought he did great in the first game too. He’s such a confident guy with the puck and he makes those little plays. I thought he was awesome those two games.”

For his part, Jones retuned the admiration in Josi’s direction.

“It’s unbelievable some of the stuff he does,” Jones said. “It’s a pleasure to play with a guy like that. He makes the game so simple. We kind of had to rotate pairs a little bit this year, so it’s pretty easy playing with anyone on our D corps.”

The Predators did not have any further updates on Weber’s condition after the game.

Kevin Fiala (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Kevin Fiala excited about possible NHL playoff debut

By Jim Diamond

With more players than locker stalls available at Bridgestone Arena, recently recalled forward Kevin Fiala has been the odd-man out as far as fixed stalls are concerned in the Predators’ locker room. So after Tuesday’s practice, Fiala took off his equipment while sitting in a chair in front of a portable locker on casters.

The 18-year-old Fiala, a semi-surprise recall from the Milwaukee Admirals Monday in advance of Wednesday’s start of Nashville’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks, could be making his NHL playoff debut should head coach Peter Laviolette elect to pencil his name onto the lineup card at some point during the series. With just one regular season NHL game to his credit thus far, Fiala knows that the NHL’s postseason is vastly different than its regular season.

“Of course I am nervous,” he said. “It’s exciting. Hopefully I will play. If I play, I will do my best and give everything for the team to win.”

Due to a rash of injuries up front for the Predators, Fiala appeared in his first NHL game March 24th against the Montreal Canadiens on an emergency recall basis.

“The playoffs are much better and more physical, but I am ready for that also,” Fiala said.

After starting the season with HV-71 of the Swedish Hockey League, Nashville’s brass thought it was best for Fiala’s development to be playing on North American sized ice, so he was assigned to the Admirals in January. In 33 games with Milwaukee, Fiala had 11 goals and nine assists.

Roman Josi, with 10 NHL playoff games to his credit, is a grizzled veteran compared to his fellow Swiss countryman. Despite his experience, he too is feeling the nerves on the eve of the playoffs.

“Oh definitely,” he said. “I think everybody does. I definitely do. It’s an exciting time and that’s why you play for 82 games and I am definitely going to be a little nervous tomorrow night.”

Josi is proud of all that his friend has accomplished since being drafted eleventh overall by the Predators in last June’s Entry Draft.

“It’s great for him,” Josi said. “It’s awesome for him to be up here for the playoffs.”

The series with Chicago is expected to have a lot of pace to it, as both teams like to play a north-south game with speed. That kind of a game fits Fiala’s skill set perfectly.

“Fiala brings something that’s really special,” Laviolette said. “He’s got a quick, dynamic play to him. He’s got power in his strides. He can find open ice and he’s got skills that match that quickness in which he plays. That makes it tough to defend a guy like that. Young player, but certainly he’s capable, yeah.”

Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Laviolette looking forward to Wednesday’s playoff start

By Jim Diamond

A day after completing his first season behind the Nashville Predators’ bench, Peter Laviolette spoke with the media outside the Nashville locker room at Bridgestone Arena looking ahead to the upcoming playoffs, something the Predators have not been a part of since 2012. After missing the NHL’s postseason in both 2013 and 2014, Predators general manager David Poile parted company with Barry Trotz and hired Laviolette with hopes of the Stanley Cup-winning coach leading his team back to the playoffs.

In earning 104 points in the regular season, Laviolette’s team placed second in the Central Division, earning home ice advantage in their first round playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“The season that comes on Wednesday brings a life of its own,” Laviolette said. “Guys work hard all season long to get here. I think that there’s a lot of excitement when players end the regular season and they know their opponent, they know when their starting date is and get going.”

Despite the triple-digit standings points and the luxury of starting the playoffs with two home games, Laviolette’s Predators limped home the last month and a half of the season, winning just six of their final 21 games, a stretch that featured two separate six-game losing streaks including one that ended the season.

“The objective is to get into the playoffs,” Laviolette said. “We find ourselves with a season that’s good enough to get us home ice. Our guys are really excited to get going. We’ve got a great challenge ahead of us. Our guys are up for it. There will be plenty of excitement come Wednesday.”

Many of the players who will suit up for the Predators Wednesday night haven’t appeared in the NHL’s playoffs for a couple of years, and several will be making their playoff debuts. Laviolette isn’t focusing on the lack of recent, or any, playoff experience of his team.

“We are what we are,” he said. “You can’t manufacture playoff games. You can’t take them out of your back pocket and say, ‘Here’s a few for you and a few for you,’ you’ve got to go out and earn your stripes. We’ve got some young players in the room, but those young players are the ones that carried our team to have a successful season. I think that there’s a real good sense of team in our room. There’s a belief in there that if our guys go out and play hard and do the right things that we can be successful. I think we really need to rely more on that if some of our young players are short on playoff experience. I think they can use the regular season to know what it is that we have to do and how we have to play in order to be successful.”

As far as what players will be available Wednesday, Laviolette indicated that after missing Saturday’s regular season finale, both Shea Weber and Roman Josi would likely return to practice Monday morning. Both players practiced on Friday. Laviolette said that Mike Fisher and Cody Franson, neither of whom practiced Friday nor played Saturday, are listed as day-to-day while Eric Nystrom “probably remains a little further out.”

Predators top line reunited with return of James Neal

By Jim Diamond

Seeing his first game action since March 12th due to an upper-body injury that caused him to miss nine games, James Neal stepped back into the lineup for the Nashville Predators Saturday night against the visiting Dallas Stars.

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette reunited Neal with Mike Ribeiro and rookie Filip Forsberg on the team’s top line. That triumvirate has spent a lot of time together this season, and there’s a good chance they will be a unit when the playoffs commence.

Trailing by a goal late in the third, Ribeiro, of course, sent a pass from the high slot over to Neal near the right faceoff dot, where he hammered a one-timer by Stars goaltender Jhonas Enroth to tie the game 3-3 with 1:55 to go.

Neal skated to the right boards near some celebrating fans before his teammates joined him.

“It’s always good for your confidence,” he said. “It felt good to get that one. It was a great play by Ribs to slide it over and I managed to get good wood on it and get it to the net.”

The assist was the 500th of Ribeiro’s NHL career. He wasn’t much in the mood to talk about his personal milestone after the game, but he did like to see how his line progressively got better as the game went along.

“You have to keep playing,” Ribeiro said. “For a goal scorer, even if you are just trying to get back into it, if you score a goal, I think it’s good for his confidence. But obviously the first two periods, I think we could have maybe created more, but for his first game in a while, we’ll (take) that big goal at the end that he got for us.”

Neal had 19:56 of ice time in the game, recording two shots on goal and had another two attempts miss the target.

“The whole team has missed Nealer,” Forsberg said. “He’s a huge part of our team. You saw the shot that he scored on there. That’s the stuff he does on a daily basis.”

Being together with Ribeiro and Forsberg made Neal’s return to game action a good one.

“To be able to slide in and play with Ribs and Flip made things easier,” Neal said.

Laviolette liked what he saw of Neal in the game.

“I thought James looked good,” he said. “He scored a big goal for us late. He was able to contribute offensively. I thought the line was productive.”

With just three games remaining in the regular season, the Neal-Ribeiro-Forsberg line will be relied upon heavily come playoff time, so getting back the chemistry they had together earlier in the season is a priority for them.

“I think we’ve just got to keep working really hard and doing the things that we did, especially in the third period,” Forsberg said. “I think that’s the biggest key for us here in the last three.”

Paul Gaustad (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Paul Gaustad leaves game after hit from Alex Burrows

By Jim Diamond

Late in the third period of Tuesday night’s game against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, Predators center Paul Gaustad collided with Vancouver winger Alex Burrows near the blue line in front of the Canucks bench. Burrows’ shoulder appeared to catch Gaustad up high, and he grabbed at his face as he was falling to the ice.

Goddess of the Gifs Steph caught it here:

Play continued for a bit before it was whistled down. Since there was no delayed penalty indicated, the ensuing 5-minute interference major that was assessed to Burrows was likely seen by one of the linesmen and communicated to the referees at the stoppage.

“I felt that we collided more than anything, but you never want to see someone go down,” Burrows said. “I’ve been on the wrong side sometimes and you never want to see someone be down. I hope he’s alright.”

Burrows was ejected from the game, as is mandatory when an interference major is called.

“My intentions weren’t to hurt him or anything,” Burrows said.

Gaustad’s fellow center Mike Fisher did not like the hit.

“The refs made the right call,” Fisher said. “That was a cheap shot. Hopefully Paul is going to be okay. That’s the main thing.”

As Gaustad was down on the ice, Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa skated by him and yelled in his direction and was immediately given a game misconduct by referee Francois St. Laurent.

Gaustad skated off the ice under his own power and went directly back to the Nashville locker room. A team spokesman said that they did not have an update on his condition.

In his postgame press conference, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said that he did not see the hit.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will likely review the hit. Burrows is no stranger to controversial plays. Earlier this season, he was suspended for three games as a result of a late and high hit on Montreal’s Alexei Emelin.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=658671

“You’re always worried,” Burrows said when asked if he was concerned about a suspension. “It’s not for me to judge or forecast what’s going to happen. We’ll let the people that are in charge make the call and we’ll go from there.”

Should Gaustad be sidelined, he will join a growing list of banged up Nashville forwards. Although Matt Cullen, James Neal, and Eric Nystrom have all resumed skating, none played in Tuesday night’s game.

Not known for his offensive prowess, Gaustad chipped in with an assist on Nashville’s second goal Tuesday. He is relied upon heavily for his faceoff and penalty killing acumen. With a 56.1 success rate, Gaustad entered the night as the team’s best faceoff man, placing him in the top 10 of the NHL. His 2:16 of average shorthanded ice time per game is tops among Nashville forwards.

Pekka Rinne (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Pekka Rinne – Nashville’s Masterton Trophy nominee for the 2014-15 season

By Jim Diamond

For the second time in his career, Pekka Rinne has been named as the Predators’ Masterton Trophy nominee for the 2014-15 season as selected by the Nashville chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. The award is presented on behalf of, and voted upon by, the membership of the PHWA.

After a 2013-14 season that was taxing both physically and mentally, Rinne is enjoying a bounce back campaign and has led the Predators back to the playoffs after missing out the last two seasons.

Following an offseason hip surgery, Rinne developed an E. coli infection in that same hip in October 2014, sidelining him for 51 games. After the potentially life-threatening infection cleared up, he returned for the final month of the season and played for Finland at the 2014 World Championships, where he was named MVP.

Rinne carried over his strong performance at the worlds into this season. He is tied for the NHL lead in wins with 41.

In the summer of 2006, Rinne was injured by a Finnish pizzeria shop owner, who attacked the goaltender with pepper spray and then tackled him to the ground, causing an injury to his shoulder, which required surgery to correct.

To scout Rinne, the Predators had to show up early to Karpat games. Rinne was the backup goaltender, so they had to make their observations based on warmups. Nashville took him in the eighth round (258th overall) in 2004 when he was 21-years-old.

To put his late draft position into perspective, the NHL Draft now consists of just seven rounds and a total of 210 picks.

Rinne didn’t become an NHL starter until he was 27, but he has now surpassed 200 wins. He leads the franchise in wins and shutouts.

Rinne is active in Best Buddies of Tennessee, which works with individuals who have developmental disabilities. Rinne and team captain Shea Weber have purchased suites to all home games, where they host pediatric cancer patients and their families. 

Kevin Fiala (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Kevin Fiala shows well in surprise NHL debut

By Jim Diamond

As the cast of injured Predators grew in numbers prior to Tuesday night’s home game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, with the names Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg added to the list of Nashville’s wounded, reinforcements were needed from Milwaukee.

The brass at 501 Broadway eschewed the names of some older and more experienced players down on the farm for that of 18-year-old Kevin Fiala, the Predators first round pick (11th overall) in last June’s NHL Entry Draft.

With Cullen not taking part in the morning skate and Stalberg leaving said skate prior to its conclusion, the Predators needed a body, and time was of the essence. Since there are no direct flights between Milwaukee and Nashville, making travel arrangements was a challenge.

But Fiala caught a ride to Chicago in order to get a direct flight to Nashville.

In addition to the airplane flying, there were some butterflies flying around as well.

“I was nervous, very nervous on the flight,” Fiala said. “I was very excited and I just wanted to go to the game.”

When he heard his fellow countryman was coming up to the big club, defenseman Roman Josi gave Fiala a call.

“I just told him to play his game,” Josi said. “He’s here for a reason, and I just told him to play his game. He’s got nothing to lose and I thought he did a great job.”

That call made an impression on Fiala, who looks up to Josi.

“Roman Josi is a very good guy here,” Fiala said. “He’s one of the best defense here. He’s a good friend. He’s a good guy and I like him. He helps me a lot.”

Unlike Admiral teammate Anthony Bitetto in one of his recent call-ups, both Fiala and his equipment made it to Bridgestone Arena in time for the pregame warmup, enabling the 18-year-old St. Gallen, Switzerland native to get a full warmup in before making his NHL debut.

Once the game started, the nerves calmed down a little, but they were still there.

“After the first period, I felt more comfortable than in the first period,” Fiala said. “It went better and better I guess.”

In the game, Fiala was given the assignment of playing on a line with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith. The triumvirate, working title the Fish Cheese Line, clicked well, creating multiple scoring chances from the start of the game.

Their best scoring chance came in the second period in what quickly turned into a 3-on-1.

Carrying the puck out of the Nashville zone, Fiala danced around Tomas Plekanec at the blue line then carried the puck into the Montreal zone on the right side. Fiala then passed to Smith in the high slot before immediately getting the puck back. Rapidly approaching the goal line, Fiala sent a pass to Fisher skating down the left side, where he was unable to connect with the puck.

Friend o’ Rinkside Report @myregularface has the play here:

http://gfycat.com/ifr/HastyPracticalGraywolf

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette liked what he saw from Fiala in his matchup against the Atlantic Division’s top team.

“Things happen when he’s on the ice,” Laviolette said. “He’s a player that when he gets the puck on his stick, you saw some of the things that he did off the rush and in the offensive zone play. The puck sticks to him a little bit and that’s a good thing when you’re an offensive player.”