Nashville Predators

Predators lose Roman Josi in victory over Bruins

By Jim Diamond

Entering Thursday night’s game against the visiting Boston Bruins, the Predators were a banged-up team. Exiting the game, the injury picture is worse, possibly much worse depending on the status of star defenseman Roman Josi.

At the 15:31 mark of the first period, Josi was hit high, hard, and late by Boston’s Anton Blidh in the left corner of Nashville’s defensive zone. Exacerbating matters was the fact that Josi’s stick was up, hitting him in the face as Blidh finished his hit.

Josi fell to the ice immediately and stayed there for several seconds before skating off the ice to Nashville’s dressing room in great distress. Josi did not return to the game, with the team announcing he was out with an upper-body injury.

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette was succinct when asked his opinion of the hit postgame, “I thought it was late and dirty,” he said.

In the oddly rough game played between two teams who don’t see each other very often, Josi’s minutes were divided among the Predators other blueliners, most notably to Mattias Ekholm, who played 29:11 and Anthony Bitetto. Bitetto’s 20:08 of ice time Thursday night is nearly double his season average.

When your name is called every other shift, getting a quick breather on the bench is key.

“It’s more a bit of getting on the ice and getting off the ice and really get the rest going as soon as you can,” Ekholm said. “You know you are either going to get out there right away or within a minute or so. It’s different, especially when you lose a guy that logs about 26-27 minutes a night. It wasn’t great for us, but we managed that and it was a great win for us.”

Bitetto has had a tough season to date, sustaining two long-term injuries and just returning to the lineup in the last week.

“This was a good test,” Bitetto said. “I think the more I get involved in games like that, the better I am going to feel. I think tonight was a good test for me, and I think I felt really well, especially down the stretch.”

Laviolette was impressed with the response he saw from Bitetto’s increased minutes.

“Even for Tony to get more minutes and get back into it,” he said. “A game like that can be good for Tony where he starts to push the minutes and he’s counted on more.”

With the Predators headed out on a five-game road trip that starts Saturday in Colorado, the health of their blue line is of significant concern. With P.K. Subban still sidelined with an upper-body injury of his own, playing a significant number of games without their top two defensemen will be a difficult test for their remaining blueliners.

Pekka Rinne on Shea Weber’s shot; ‘It just hurts’

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Pekka Rinne (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

By Jim Diamond

Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, many Nashville Predators will be facing former Predators captain Shea Weber for the first time in their NHL careers.

When asked about it following Monday’s practice at Ford Ice Center, they were all looking forward to the new challenge.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has faced countless thousands of Weber shots in practice over the years. He was asked what sets Weber’s shot apart from other players who shoot the puck hard.

“It just hurts,” he said. “He’s a big body and he’s so strong. I guess shooting the puck is also about technique. He has all of those things. It does come hard. It is one of the better shots in the NHL, especially his one-timer. He’s still pretty accurate with it. It’s just so quick, so fast.”

Weber is the two-time defending champion of the NHL’s Hardest Shot Competition at the All-Star weekend’s skills competition. He won last year’s event in Nashville with a shot of 108.1 mph, which was just four-tenths of a mile per hour slower than his 2015 winner.

With eight power-play goals this season, Weber leads all NHL defensemen and is tied for second overall, one behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.

As much as a handful as Weber is in his team’s offensive zone, he is equally difficult on opponents in Montreal’s defensive zone. Weber leads the Canadiens and ranks eighth in the league, averaging 26:02 of ice time per game.

Like Rinne, many of Nashville’s forwards have battled Weber in practice for years. With the intensity that Weber brings to the practice ice, his former teammates know that they are in for a long evening Tuesday.

“It’s going to be very different,” said Colin Wilson. “In today’s game, a lot of the accolades go to the real offensive defensemen and Webby, his defensive play is unparalleled. He’s unbelievable down there. He’s so strong. Even in practice, 3-on-3s, his strength is pretty incredible.”

Filip Forsberg has been on an offensive tear lately, posting five goals in his last six games. He knows that battling against Weber will be tough, but he is looking forward to seeing how he measures up against him.

“You always want to match yourself up against the best, and he’s definitely one of them out there,” Forsberg said.

Throughout his NHL career, no one has had a better view of the work Weber does in the defensive zone than Rinne.

“A player like him, there’s no other player like him in the league,” Rinne said. “The things that he brings; his strength, his ability to move guys and stuff like that, I don’t think there’s another guy like him.”

David Poile sent Weber to Montreal in exchange for P.K. Subban in a late June blockbuster trade. Poile spoke with the media following Monday’s practice. A large number of Montreal scribes were there to hear Poile’s thoughts.

“I see now where Shea is probably getting the recognition that he deserved,” Poile said. “We’re a little under the radar here in Nashville media wise, not today. Shea was, I think, in the top three for the Norris Trophy three times. I think he should have won it at least once and he didn’t. I think that in Montreal, with all due respect to Nashville, that he might have already won a Norris Trophy. And maybe this year in Montreal and getting all of the recognition that he is, maybe this will be the year that he wins the Norris Trophy.”

Service dog takes in Predators season opener

By Jim Diamond

Storylines were abundant in Friday night’s season opener for the Nashville Predators.

The first game of the season, sure.

P.K. Subban’s first game as a Predator, no doubt.

A win over the Central Division Blackhawks in a tightly-played one-goal game? Absolutely.

The power play firing on all cylinders. Yes.

But tonight, I am writing about a photo, and a slightly out of focus one at that.

Shooting from a photo hole in the Predators defensive zone in the second period, I had a good angle of Roman Josi carrying the puck up ice, so I started firing the camera. I thought I had some good shots, but when I ran back upstairs to edit, I noticed the photos were a little out of focus.

Taking hockey pictures can be extremely frustrating. With the speed of the game, locking in tack-sharp focus can be difficult. You throw out a whole lot more than you keep.

Getting ready to dump that series of shots into the laptop’s trash, something caught my eye. There, just above the Pedigree dasherboard advertisement, focusing intently on the action on the ice.

Roman Josi carries the puck up ice with an adorable observer over the Pedigree board advertisement. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Roman Josi carries the puck up ice with an adorable observer over the Pedigree board advertisement. (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

You can’t trash a photo like that, even if the hard to take a bad picture of Roman Josi is a little blurry. A photobomb like that is just too good not to share.

So, I threw it out on Twitter and my mentions, well, they were flying fast and furious for the remainder of the game.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to find out who this dog, and oh yeah his owner, is, I ran downstairs to the 100 level.

At the under 6:00 media timeout of the third period, I made my move. Media timeouts in hockey are just 90 seconds in length, so not wanting to disturb the fans in the high priced seats near the glass while the action was going on, I had to work fast. In a one-goal game between the Predators and the Blackhawks, tensions can run high.

After introducing myself as a writer and a photographer, I told the surprised gentleman that I captured an interesting shot of his quadruped and asked if I could have his permission to use the photo in a post. He was more than happy to allow it. The owner’s name is Josh Ray, and his furry friend is an adorable Yellow Labrador Retriever named Annie. In addition to being cute, Annie is Ray’s service dog.

The game was Annie’s first hockey contest, and Ray said that she handled the noise and excitement like a champ. Service dogs are trained to handle all kinds of different circumstances, and with more than 17,000 yelling fans, loud music, and goal horns Annie just took it all in stride.

And since my mom’s name is Annie, well that just makes this story even more awesome because my mom is the coolest person I know.

Oh, and conspiracy theorists, Josh and Annie were not planted there by Pedigree, it was just a crazy coincidence.

P.K. Subban shines in first preseason action

By Jim Diamond

Playing his first competitive game since March 10th, P.K. Subban thought that he was rusty. But it did not take long to shake off that rustiness or any lasting effects of the upper-body injury that has nagged him since the start of training camp.

Subban took to the ice for the first time in a Predators uniform Saturday night in a preseason tilt against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, a game the Predators won 4-3. After notching an assist on Nashville’s late first period power-play goal, Subban tallied a power-play marker of his own at 5:56 of the middle frame.

“Just a lot of rust and there’s a couple moments where the game was a little faster for me,” Subban said. “It’s been almost six months since I’ve been in a game. It’s a long time. I set myself back a little bit in training camp missing the first couple of days.”

The only defenseman on the ice for the man advantage, Subban slid to the left point. Subban’s fellow former Canadien Mike Ribeiro sent a cross-ice pass from above the right circle to the right-handed shooting blueliner. Following his windup, Subban connected with the puck, which was perfectly positioned between his skates. As he followed through, Subban fell to one knee and the puck sailed by Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.

“Coming into this game, I just didn’t want to hurt my team,” Subban said. “Just happy for the big win. Obviously it’s the first game in our building this year, and even though it’s just an exhibition game, it means a lot for us to get this win just for confidence for our guys.”

Subban’s upper-body injury kept him out of training camp’s on-ice activities until Friday’s practice.

Possibly saving his best goal-scoring celebrations for the regular season, Subban simply lifted his right leg and waived his right arm above his head in a circular motion twice before skating toward Ribeiro to acknowledge his pass before the remaining Predators on the ice at the time of the goal joined the hug fest in the high slot.

The Predators used four forwards and one defenseman almost exclusively on the power play Saturday night. Playing without Ryan Ellis, who is out with an upper-body injury of his own, and Roman Josi, who is just getting back into town following the World Cup, the team was without two players who log big minutes with the man advantage.

With so many talented offensive players both at forward and on the blue line available to him, making decisions on who gets power play time this season will be a tough decision for head coach Peter Laviolette.

“I can tell you right now, we’re going to have tough decisions when that comes around,” Laviolette said after the game. “Ellis is going to be back at some point. Roman, I heard is in the building, I haven’t seen him yet tonight. Obviously those guys are good power play players, so that’s going to leave tough decisions in how we utilize it and how we do it. Based on the lineup tonight, that’s the way we went.”

A trade to Nashville will let P.K. be P.K.

By Jim Diamond

Several different cities can be included in the conversation of where hockey’s biggest stage is, but if that conversation were to be had, Montreal would have to be in running for that fictional award. Nashville will probably never be in that discussion, but it is certainly no stranger to glitz, glam, and the entertainment spotlight.

In Montreal, Canadiens players are under the microscope 24/7, in two different languages to boot. Stanley Cups are expected, and when they don’t come, the natives get restless.

Now P.K. Subban will be calling 501 Broadway home for 41 games per regular season and what Predators management and fans hope to be many more in the postseason. In a town full of them, a new star has metaphorically been born in Nashville.

This isn’t a knock on Shea Weber, but about all he has in common with Subban is that they are both right-handed defensemen. While a star and the face of the Predators, he was happy to fly under the radar, just coming to the rink and doing his job then going home.

On the ice, there is no question that Subban is one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League. That will not change, and with the supporting cast in Nashville on the whole being better than what he had around him in Montreal, the argument can be made that Subban may shine even brighter in Predators gold.

But he isn’t just a hockey player; he is a showman as well. During his introductory conference call with the Nashville media Wednesday afternoon, Subban wasn’t afraid to let that personality shine. When asked about the existing talent on the Nashville blue line, Subban gave an indication of what a delightful human being Predators general manager David Poile acquired.

“Aside from them being outstanding defensemen and great defensemen, I’d have to say now with an acquisition of myself, and before they were pretty good looking with Shea Weber, but I think they got a whole lot better looking now, so we might have the best looking d-pairing corps in the league,” Subban said. “What do you think of that?”

Subban, who essentially lost an organizational faceoff with Habs head coach Michel Therrien, will be allowed to be himself in Nashville. Therrien once banned Subban from his post victory triple-low-5 celebration with goaltender Carey Price. Seriously, this coach thought that such a celebration was an affront to the game of hockey.

When the fun police run amok, everyone loses. There’s a difference between having fun celebrating with your teammates and showing up your opponents.

During his Wednesday afternoon press conference, Poile sounded as if he will be wearing a Subban jersey to games instead of his standard-issue business suit.

“I’m excited,” the normally stoic Poile said. “I really am excited. I think it is fantastic. Every game I’ve ever watched, P.K. Subban, I mean the guys will probably kid you in hockey operations, they will say, P.K. Subban is my favorite player. I’m sitting there going, ‘Did you see that, did you see that?’ I’m a general manager, but someday, I would like to be a fan. And this is a guy that I would pay money to see. He’s exciting to watch. He does something every game. He competes every game. He shows up every game. I think it is going to be dynamic.”

With an endorsement like that, Subban can triple-low-5 Pekka Rinne, Gnash, Craig “Partner” Baugh, and the beer vendor in Section 101 if he so wishes.

The most famous stage in downtown Nashville is located inside the historic Ryman Auditorium. But when the Predators take to the ice this fall, there’s no question that Subban will bring more eyes and attention to the big building just a couple of blocks to the Ryman’s south.

Heck, he may even come all the way upstairs to triple-low-5 the overly enthusiastic spotlight operator over the pressbox. Without a crabby coach holding him back, there is no telling what Subban may do in Nashville, on, off, or even above the ice.

Subban and Josi not for sure the Predators top pairing, but look out if they are

By Jim Diamond

Granted, it was just a couple of hours after the team he coaches swung a blockbuster trade with the Canadiens that was anything but “typical, Montreal typical,” Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette was noncommittal when asked if newly acquired blueliner P.K. Subban would be paired with Roman Josi on the team’s top defensive pairing.

Shea Weber, sent to the Habs in exchange for Subban, has been a mainstay on the Predators’ first pairing. When former partner Ryan Suter left for Minnesota via free agency in 2012, Roman Josi stepped into the role on Weber’s right side. Now that Josi is the incumbent top pairing player, who will join him there is up in the air.

“The thing about our defense, especially the top three not including P.K., is that they are moveable parts,” Laviolette said. “They all can skate. They all can move the puck. I think he’ll fit right in with them and we will have a very mobile top four defense.”

Along with Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis round out that top three. With Predators management and coaches pretty staunchly on board with keeping a right and a left-handed defenseman on at least the top two pairings, it would seem logical to assume that Subban, a righty, would go with either Josi or Ekholm, leaving Ellis with Ekholm or Josi. Ekholm and Ellis have played significant minutes together and have made up a solid second pairing for the Predators.

But Subban and Josi are both outstanding puck carriers, so having them on the same pairing may be somewhat redundant. If they were to be split, good luck to opponents hoping to match up their top checking line or D pairing when Laviolette and Predators defensive coach Phil Housley have the ability to roll out Subban and Josi on separate shifts.

“I think from there we will figure it out as we go,” Laviolette continued. “That could be a possibility. It could be a possibility to split them up and play him with Ekholm. Either way, the top four remain very strong.”

Last season, Josi and Weber logged the most ice time among Predators blueliners at 25:29 and 25:22 per game. Ellis and Ekholm followed at 20:53 and 20:14 respectively.

Another benefit to having Subban and Josi split is the ability for the Predators to spread out their ice time, possibly reducing some wear and tear as minutes add up over the course of the season.

Nashville general manager David Poile, the man who swung the rare Predators trade with Montreal that does not involve a Kostitsyn, was bordering on giddy at the acquisition of Subban. He thinks that Subban gives Laviolette more options with regard to pairings and ice time.

“I think the coaches will have a lot of flexibility in how they use our defense,” Poile said. “I know again since we’ve had Peter and we’ve changed our style a fair bit, that it is players like P.K. Subban that are going to make the difference going from defense to offense, rushing the puck, carrying the mail as I like to say. I think he’s a fantastic player.”

They can also reduce some usage on their top four defensemen by relying more on their third pairing to kill penalties. The Predators do not take a lot of penalties, but if Barret Jackman and Tony Bitetto, likely the third pair, can absorb a fair share of the shorthanded minutes, the other four will be that much better off.

It’s not a given that Subban and Josi will play together on the Predators top defensive pairing, but if they do, the team’s forwards may just be turned into spectators as these two supremely talented puck carriers work their magic on the ice.

Predators players open their hearts and homes to shelter and rescue dogs

By Jim Diamond

On the ice, Barret Jackman is known as a tough stay at home defenseman who plays with an edge. Similarly, forward Austin Watson usually plays on Nashville’s fourth line, which is thrown out there when the team may be in need of some energy through physical play or to kill off a penalty.

Away from the rink, Jackman and Watson have a softer side in their shared passion for shelter and rescue dogs. Between the two, they share their homes with five former shelter dogs.

Dogs end up in shelters or with rescues for many different reasons, and quite often those reasons are not pleasant ones, and not usually the fault of the dogs either. But many who have gone through the process of adopting a pet from a shelter can attest to the fact that those animals just need to be given a chance. When given that chance, they can be an amazing addition to a family.

“Everybody loves pets and animals, and I think when you go to the Humane Society or the rescue facilities, it’s really disheartening and you almost feel badly if you leave there empty-handed,” Watson said.

While playing in the American Hockey League for the Milwaukee Admirals, Watson and his wife Karly became involved with the Humane Society of Milwaukee. And they didn’t often leave empty-handed when they visited.

“My first year in Milwaukee, I had my wife with me at the time,” Watson said. “She wasn’t working, she’s Canadian, so we got a dog. And we ended up having two more by year end.”

Shelter dogs have been known to be of mixed breed varieties, and the Watsons’ brood is no different. Bubba is a basset hound mix, Bongo is a black lab and chow or maybe a little pit bull, and they also have a Husky named Brianna.

Playing his first season with the Predators, Jackman spent his first 12 NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues. In the Gateway City, along with his wife Jenny, Jackman and several of his teammates with the Blues became involved with Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

“When my wife and I got married, we were combining two houses, so we didn’t need anything for wedding gifts, so we tried to find a cause that was close to both of us and we ended up working with Stray Rescue trying to build awareness for stray dogs in St. Louis,” Jackman said.

For the Jackmans, their love of animals is something that they have passed down to their children.

“We have two (dogs) right now,” Jackman said. “We fostered probably about a dozen different dogs until they were adopted. We had one that passed away about a year ago. We’ve always had them in our home. Our kids know the feeling of going down to the shelter and helping out a little and picking out their new best friend.”

Finding a new friend and giving that friend a chance at a forever home can be as easy as a trip down to the local shelter.

“They are a real blessing to us,” Watson said. “They are part of the family. We have a great time with them.”

Veni, Vidi, Vesey; Prized prospect deals Poile another disappointing blow

By Jim Diamond

David Poile July 4, 2012:

“It would be an understatement to say that the Nashville Predators are disappointed at this time. Actually, not only disappointed, but very surprised.”

David Poile March 28, 2016:

“Very disappointing news obviously for the Nashville Predators, our fans, and our team.”

He later added: “This is a shock.”

Eerily similar, right?

The situation in 2012 was after Ryan Suter signed a deal with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent. That day, Poile felt as though he was deceived by the star defenseman who he had assumed would re-sign with the team that drafted him with their first pick in 2003.

While the Predators were on the ice playing the Colorado Avalanche Monday night, word dropped that Jimmy Vesey, Nashville’s 3rd round pick in 2012, had told the organization that he would not be signing with the Predators and exercising his right to become a free agent on August 15th.

Uncle Bob had it first:

McKenzie’s tweet was sent during the first period of Monday night’s game.

The writing appeared to be on the wall Saturday night when, just minutes before faceoff of that night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team put out the curious statement (at a curious time to boot) that they would be speaking with the Harvard senior “at some point over the next several days.”

This statement was a drastic departure from the tone team General Manager David Poile took at the trade deadline, telling the team’s website:

“We’ve kept a spot open for him, and we’ve talked about when his season ends to bring him right onto our team put him right into our lineup,” Poile said of Vesey at the time. “When you make a promise like that, you have to keep that promise. I didn’t want to trade away his spot. Acquiring a forward, a top-two line forward, for example, I think that would’ve probably not been fair to Jimmy Vesey, and I really feel with his potential, what he can do, that he was probably as good as any player I could’ve acquired at the trading deadline.

“Whenever Harvard’s season is over, we look forward to signing Jimmy and bringing him on our team, and I think that’s going to be a great boost for our team at the perfect time of the season.”

Poile had to be feeling pretty confident in making the statements about Vesey just a few short weeks ago. College players with eligibility are not allowed to have agents but can have family advisors, basically ersatz agents.

Addressing the media during the second intermission Monday night, Poile revealed that Vesey’s representatives gave the Predators an indication Wednesday night that for the first time, they were thinking about free agency despite the offer of a roster spot right away and the fact that he would play on one of the team’s top lines as well.

Then Poile spewed some hot fire in the direction of those representatives.

“This is the first time I am going to say this in my career as a general manager. I clearly believe that Jimmy has received bad advice and bad counsel.”

By signing with the Predators, Vesey would be able to tick off one year of his entry-level contract, getting a year closer to free agency. The money would be the same in Nashville as it would in any other city. Poile mentioned Monday that Suter had a financial benefit to leave Nashville, but in 2012, he said that the Predators made an identical offer to Suter.

Poile also referenced that as late as Thursday that Vesey’s dad Jim, a scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs, had thought that signing with the Predators was the best course of action for his son.

Further, Poile said that the team was continually rebuffed in their attempt to bring all parties (Vesey, his family, and his agents) together to discuss signing Vesey.

In addition to hiring the senior Vesey as a scout, the Maple Leafs drafted Vesey’s brother Nolan in 2014. Poile said that in all conversations with Jim Vesey that he was speaking to the dad and not the employee of another NHL team.

It will be interesting to see where Vesey lands August 15th. Poile did state that he would continue to pursue signing him up until that date.

Not happening folks. He’s gone, leaving a general manager bewildered once again at a player not wanting to play for his team.

Carter Hutton named Nashville’s Masterton nominee

By Jim Diamond

Carter Hutton has been selected as the Nashville Predators 2015-16 nominee for the Masterton Trophy, as voted on by the Nashville chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The Masterton is given annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The award is presented on behalf of, and voted upon by the membership of the PHWA. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards ceremony in June.

Life as a backup goaltender in the NHL isn’t always glamorous, especially when you are backing up Pekka Rinne, who gets very few nights off over the course of an 82-game regular season. Save for injury or illness, Hutton’s name doesn’t often appear on the lineup card.

But a big part of Hutton’s job description is to do all he can to make sure his teammates have a goaltender to work with whenever they need one. This means staying on the practice rink until all of the skaters are finished as well as working with the scratched and injured players after morning skates.

During games in which he doesn’t play, fans watching on TV look forward to Hutton’s in-game hits, where he provides some perspective on the game and punctuates each visit with his should-be trademarked, “Hey, thanks for having me guys,” phrase.

In the offseason, Hutton runs a hockey school for charity in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Hutton’s charity of choice is the Boys and Girls Club of Thunder Bay.

Last summer, Hutton and the NHL Players Association donated goaltender equipment to every minor hockey association in the Thunder Bay area.

Rinne takes the loss, but teammates share blame in his slide

Pekka Rinne (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

Pekka Rinne (Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

By Jim Diamond

It didn’t end the way he intended, but Peter Laviolette’s decision to start Pekka Rinne in goal Tuesday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks was the right move to make.

Yes, Rinne has struggled for most of this season, and he’s been mediocre at best for the last month or so, but if this Predators team has any hope of going anywhere, like say the playoffs, they are going to need Rinne to be the one who gets them there.

At 33, Rinne still has some time left to regain his standing as one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders, but that window won’t be open forever. And if the Predators hope to contend for a Cup anytime soon, they will need the 6’5” Finn to get back to the form that has seen him be a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist.

With Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks, the Predators have dropped six of their last seven, and Rinne was between the pipes for all but one of those losses, and he wasn’t the one who earned the lone victory either, that was a Carter Hutton shutout of the Minnesota Wild Saturday night.

In stopping just 23 of the 26 Chicago shots he faced Tuesday, Rinne’s save percentage for 2015-16 fell to .901, which would be the lowest of his eight NHL seasons.

“Obviously my play hasn’t been anywhere near where it should be or I want it to be,” Rinne said. “Obviously working trying to do everything I can, trying to work through it, trying to get back up there and gain some confidence going forward. It’s been hard.”

There is plenty of blame to be shared among the team though, as the team in front of Rinne was poor at times Tuesday, symbolic of many of the previous games in which the end result was a Nashville loss. And against a team as dangerous as the Blackhawks, who won their 12th in a row Tuesday, any mistakes usually end up in the back of your net.

On Chicago’s first goal, Filip Forsberg turned over a puck inside the Nashville zone moments before Artem Anisimov made a nice move around a sliding Rinne in the first period’s final seconds.

In the second, Richard Panik doubled the Blackhawks lead on a shot that Rinne probably should have stopped, but the play probably shouldn’t have been allowed to develop as it did. In the neutral zone, Anthony Bitetto tried to hit Paul Gaustad with a pass at the blue line. It missed and Chicago turned the play back toward the Nashville zone.

Chicago’s third goal came on a Patrick Kane breakaway after Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm lost track of the league’s leading scorer. That goal came just a minute after Ellis made it a 2-1 game early in the second, a momentum changing swing for sure.

Following the game, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette was not pleased with some of the errors his team made in the loss.

“Defensively we didn’t let up a lot,” he said. “There weren’t a lot quality chances. There weren’t a lot of shots, but the ones that we let up, there’s three or four (or) five of them that I’d like back because they were too big. The chances were too big.”

Nashville begins a pre-All-Star break four-game road swing through Western Canada Thursday in Winnipeg.