Filip Forsberg

Forsberg hopeful for a third-straight hat trick Saturday

By Jim Diamond

Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz was a big fan of referencing the hockey gods during his time in Nashville when he held the same position with the Predators. Well, if the hockey gods have any sense of humor, they might be smiling down upon Bridgestone Arena late Saturday afternoon when Trotz and his Capitals face the Predators.

In Thursday night’s 4-2 victory over the visiting Colorado Avalanche, Predators forward Filip Forsberg notched a natural hat trick, recording his 20th, 21st, and 22nd goals of the season. That hat trick followed Tuesday night’s three-goal performance in the overtime loss to Calgary.

The hat-haired Predators fans leaving Bridgestone Arena for the second consecutive game didn’t seem to mind though.

Two consecutive hat tricks are rare, but a third? That seems like a lot to ask for.

But again, those hockey gods.

For those that might not remember, it was Washington that sent Forsberg to Nashville in a last-minute 2013 trade deadline day headscratcher of a trade that sent Martin Erat and Michael Latta to the Capitals. Washington made Forsberg the 11th overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft and then general manager George McPhee thought that he was expendable to acquire a veteran like Erat.

In the balance of the 2013 season, Erat had one regular season goal in nine games played and no points in the one playoff series he participated in as the Capitals were bounced in the first round by the New York Rangers.

The following season, Erat had one goal and 23 assists in 53 regular season games, thus ending his tenure in Washington.

In his first two full seasons in Nashville, Forsberg has posted 26 and 33 goals respectively. With 22 goals through 60 games this season, a continuance of this hot streak will have Forsberg challenging the franchise record of 33 goals he shares with Jason Arnott.

Does Forsberg think he has a third consecutive hat trick on his fiery hot stick?

“I mean I would lie if I said no, but you can’t expect that,” Forsberg said with a laugh after the game.

You can’t expect it, but for anyone in the mood for a good story line, well they can certainly hope, can’t they?

Predators follow up gross performance with a non-gross one

By Jim Diamond

Momentum can be a funny thing in hockey. When you have it, everything seems to go right and when you don’t, you get things like Saturday’s “gross” performance against the Florida Panthers as per the parlance of Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette.

Fewer than 24 hours later, the Predators came out of the gates Sunday with a metaphorical burr under their saddles against the Dallas Stars. There were some odd fights, bad penalties and just about everything else you could not imagine happening.

“I didn’t doubt that they would be ready to play tonight,” Laviolette said after the game.

Although he didn’t come right out and say it, odds are good that he strongly suggested they do so following Saturday’s performance.

Even though they were playing fairly decently Sunday, they were still down 3-0 more than halfway through the game. But then the p = mv finally turned in the Predators favor.

Roman Josi took advantage of a disturbance in front of the Dallas net to the get the Predators on the scoreboard. That disturbance came in the form of Viktor Arvidsson getting punched in the face and losing his helmet while falling to the ground in front of Kari Lehtonen.

With a power play carrying over into the third, Nashville finally caught the break they were due from the zebras when Jamie Benn was whistled for a hooking penalty at 22 seconds of the third. Josi struck again on the 5-on-3 to make it 3-2, and Calle Jarnkrok tied the game at the 4:40 mark with an impressive wrister after using Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak as a screen.

Arvidsson took an offensive zone penalty just 14 seconds after Jarnkrok’s goal, but in another twist of momentum fate, the Predators turned that into the game-winning goal.

On the Dallas power play, Tyler Seguin tried to stickhandle into the Nashville zone at the blue line. Filip Forsberg dispossessed him and was off to the races on a breakaway.

“I’m just trying to get my big feet moving to be honest with you on the blue line,” Forsberg said with a laugh. “Just trying to get some speed and it was pretty much a breakaway from the blue line. I just tried to shoot it low glove and fanned on the shot and it went five-hole. The best shot in hockey, the miss.”

Now the big challenge for the Predators will be trying to carry the momentum of Sunday’s victory through their five-day break which begins Monday. With the St. Louis Blues seeing some results since Ken Hitchcock was given the pink slip, the battle for third place in the Central Division will be tight. Also tight will be the battle for the Western Conference’s two wild card spots, which look now to be a battle between Los Angeles, Calgary, and whichever of the Blues and Predators that does not get third in the Central. Vancouver, Dallas, and Winnipeg could also get in the wild card conversation.

When they return from the break, the Predators play back-to-back road games in Minnesota and Columbus, both teams are already solidly in the playoff picture. It’s in the Predators best interest to not be gross in those games as they begin the final stretch of the season.

Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg host surprise street hockey game in Franklin

By Jim Diamond

As part of their annual community relations day, Nashville Predators players and staffers made many different stops at several area locations Thursday.

With a van load of street hockey gear and players Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg in tow, they turned a cul-de-sac in the Cheswicke Farm subdivision of Franklin into a street hockey rink for close to 50 young players. All equipment used at the visit was donated through the NHL Street program and the Nashville Predators Street Pride program.

Growing up in Sweden, the players said that they enjoyed playing road hockey when they had the chance.

“It feels like yesterday almost, (but) it’s probably been 15 years since I did it now,” Ekholm said. “Great times, awesome place here, a lot of kids, and it was a lot of fun.”

Ekholm sported a backwards Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap Thursday afternoon.

With unseasonably warm temperatures reaching the high 80s and wearing their Predators gold jerseys, the players got quite a workout running around with the kids for an hour.

“It was really hot out there, so I got really sweaty out there. It will be a good shower when I get back,” Forsberg said. “There are a lot of Preds fans all over the Nashville area. We really enjoy doing this.”

Just 20-years-old, Forsberg is not that far removed from his days of playing street hockey as a kid.

Even after a tough two-hour long practice with their teammates earlier in the day Thursday, Ekholm and Forsberg still had plenty of energy to run around and play with the large gathering of kids.

“You are fortunate to do what you do all day,” Ekholm said. “Spend an hour out here is great for us just giving back and being around kids and get the energy from them. It’s awesome.”

After the street hockey ended, the players sat down to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the kids and many of the parents as well, not stopping until all had their time with the pair of Swedes.

The Predators should be applauded for both the number and the frequency of the charitable and community appearances that they make all over the Nashville area each year. The Predators introduce their players to the community relations side of being a professional athlete from the start of their time in Nashville, which for many is the annual development camp held right after the NHL’s Entry Draft.