Preds Pass: Nashville continues to struggle

The Predators are now 5-3-2 in their last 10 games after losing two of their three home games last week. Nashville (77 points) sits at second in the Central Division behind the Winnipeg Jets and third in the Western Conference. Here is a recap of what went on in the Predators realm last week.

Nashville makes an improbable comeback.

The Predators started out last week on a high note, as they came away with a win over their Central Division foes from St. Louis on Tuesday. Nashville outlasted the Blues in the Music City with a game-winning penalty shot goal from winger Filip Forsberg in overtime. The overtime goal capped one of the most impressive comeback wins for the Predators in the Peter Laviolette era.

Forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Austin Watson each scored a goal within a minute of one another to force overtime, and Forsberg took care of it from there.

“Obviously frustrated by the effort that we put out for the first two periods, but this group never backs off and never gives up,” Watson said. “We kept pushing, and we were able to get a couple to go for us and tie it up.”

The win over St. Louis gave Nashville its seventh straight point and the fifth straight game in overtime.

Predators drop back-to-back games

Nashville only lost eight games at home prior to Thursday night’s matchup with the Calgary Flames. However, the Flames ended the Predators seven game point streak, handing them a 4-3 loss. Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne logged his first loss since Jan. 2, despite recording 27 saves on the night.

Nashville looked to get back on track Saturday with a matchup against its former Central Division rival, the Detroit Red Wings. However, Red Wings goalie Petr Mzarek had other ideas, recording 31 saves as Detroit shutdown the Predators 3-1. Mzarek remained undefeated against the Predators in his career (6-0) as Craig Smith scored the only goal for Nashville.

“We’re not working hard enough,” said Laviolette following the game. “The stretches that aren’t going our way or the stretches that we’re getting outplayed, it’s because we’re missing some bite in our game.”

Previewing matchup with Senators

The Predators are trying to get back on track tonight after losing back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two months. In their last matchup with the Senators, Nashville fell 3-1 in Ottawa two weeks ago. The Senators are fresh off two straight wins over the Buffalo Sabres and a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers.

Forward Mark Stone leads Ottawa in goals scored with 19, while all-star Erik Karlsson leads the squad with 40 points on the season. Craig Anderson leads the Senators in the net with a 17-17-5 record and a .904 save percentage. The Predators have a 6-4-1 record against Ottawa in Bridgestone Arena.

Here is the projected lineup for Monday’s game that starts at 8 p.m. ET.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of NHL.com

Preds Pass: Nashville finds success on four-game road trip

All four Predators games last week resulted in overtime or shootouts, as they finished with a solid 2-2 record on the road. Nashville winger Filip Forsberg returned from his three-game suspension against the Canucks following his hit on Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey last week. Meanwhile, the Predators (75 points) solely possess second place in the Western Conference and first place in the Central Division.

Preds struggle in extra time

Nashville is now 6-9 on the season when games go past regulation time. However, things started off on a high note for the Predators in overtime on Monday, finishing off a spectacular comeback win over the Islanders with an overtime goal from captain Roman Josi.

The next two games weren’t so fortunate for Nashville in overtime, as the team dropped back-to-back games in Canada against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators. Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen made an incredible 44 saves and six shootout saves to give Toronto the 3-2 win Wednesday.

Just one day later, the Predators found themselves in overtime again with the Senators. Mike Hoffman put a breakaway goal past Juuse Saros to spoil Kyle Turris’ return to Ottawa after being traded to Nashville earlier this season.

Rinne’s historic performance

Nashville made up for its struggles early in the week with one of the most electric goaltending performances in recent memory by Pekka Rinne. Rinne logged 47 saves against Montreal for the second most saves in his career, giving him a 9-0-1 record in his last two games. Despite a late game-tying goal by Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin to send the matchup to overtime, Rinne made 10 overtime saves to send it to a shootout.

“There’s a reason he’s one of the top five goalies in the NHL. He’s got that size and that reach. The save he made on Nicolas Deslauriers in the third period is a good example,” Drouin said about Rinne.

Defenseman Ryan Ellis finished it off for the Predators and gave Nashville the 3-2 win in Montreal. Winger Scott Hartnell’s goal in the second period gave him his 699th NHL point.

Subban ruffles feathers in Montreal

Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban seemed to unnerve his former teammates in his return to Montreal on Saturday. Brendan Gallagher of the Canadiens had this to say about a scuffle in the game:

“It’s just battling hard. He was talking, doing what he does. But I don’t know why we’re talking about him. That’s kind of what he wants. He came in here and tried to make it about P.K. Subban, which is what he does,” Gallagher said.

Tensions rose in the second period when Gallagher missed a check on Subban and went back to the locker room to receive stitches above his eye.

“Some guys from the bench were saying stuff, but I couldn’t hear it. It’s so loud in this building, you know the way it is,” Subban said. “I’m sure it’s pretty quiet over there right now with two points on our side.”

Fisher participates in first practice 

Former captain Mike Fisher took to the ice with the current team Monday. Predators General Manager David Poile said Fisher wouldn’t play until closer to the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

“I actually felt better than I thought I would at this point,” Fisher said. “Ten days isn’t a lot when you haven’t skated in a while. But I’m definitely happy (with) the way I’m feeling at this point. Probably better than I expected.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of NHL.com

No. 11 Lady Vols sweep Kajikawa Classic

The Kajikawa Classic was no match for the Lady Vols (6-0) as they beat their six opponents by a combined score of 40-18. Tennessee’s ace pitcher Matty Moss notched three wins in the tournament, as shortstop Meghan Gregg led the Vols with an impressive 8-of-17 hitting from the plate.

Tennessee got off to a solid start on Thursday, as it took care of Boise State in convincing 8-1 fashion. Gregg tallied a perfect batting average to start the season by going 3-for-3 and logging five RBI’s in the opening game. Moss served up the Broncos from the mound with three strikeouts and no earned runs in her 2018 debut.

With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Gregg smashed a solo homerun shot to deep center. However, Boise State tied the score at one run apiece. Gregg sent a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall to make it a 4-1 Volunteers lead. Gregg recorded her fifth RBI of the day to give Tennessee the 8-1 win over the Broncos.

Tennessee registered its first win against a ranked opponent later in the day, as the team defeated No. 19 Arizona State by a 7-4 margin. This time, senior Scarlet McSwain led the Volunteers in the batting column by going 2-of-3 and notching three RBI’s in the win. Pitcher Caylan Arnold didn’t start hot giving up three earned runs to the Sun Devils in two innings.

However, freshman Gabby Sprang closed out the remaining five innings with just one earned run allowed and four strikeouts for Tennessee. Infielder Aubrey Leach put the cherry on top for the Vols in the seventh inning as she scored on an Arizona State pitching error.

The Lady Vols got back in action against Western Michigan. Moss led Tennessee to a 6-2 win following her second complete game of the season. Tennessee got out to a fast start as Leach hit a ball to center field for a leadoff home run, followed up by McSwain, who hit her second home run of the tournament.

The Broncos cut the Tennessee lead to just three runs in the fifth inning, but an RBI single from infielder Chelsea Seggern gave the Vols another convincing lead. Tennessee finished off Western Michigan behind Moss’ six strikeouts and just two earned runs.

Tennessee received a wakeup call later in the day against San Jose State, winning 7-6. The Lady Vols led 7-4 through four innings, but allowed the Spartans to storm back and cut the lead to just one run. Sprang tallied her second win as a freshman, as Moss closed out the game for the Vols. Gregg notched a perfect 2-for-2 hitting on the day with one RBI, followed by Seggern, who had two RBI’s in the game.

Arnold got back on her feet against UC Davis Saturday whenTennessee cruised to a 6-0 victory over the Aggies. Arnold and Moss combined for 11 strikeouts and no earned runs in the win. Seggern once again performed well with a three-run home run in the first inning. McSwain took a ball over the fence to give the Vols a 5-0 lead. Freshman Ashley Morgan put the nail in the coffin with a solo homer.

Tennessee’s final game electrified the tournament as the Vols marked a 6-5 win over No. 15 Utah with a walk off double from Abby Lockman, who finished with four RBI’s. Three of Tennessee’s pitchers made appearances in the win. Arnold gave up three earned runs in five innings pitched. Moss and Sprang meshed for just over one inning pitched, and Sprang gathered the win.

The Lady Vols travel to Clearwater, Florida next to play in the Michele Smith Tournament, which will feature games against Oklahoma State and South Florida. Tennessee will play Friday at 11 a.m. ET.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Lady Vols softball opens up 2018 season in Arizona

The No. 11 ranked Tennessee softball team hits the field for the first time in 2018 as it plays six games in four days at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. Tennessee kicks off the season with a doubleheader against Boise State and No. 23 ranked Arizona State on Thursday afternoon.

The Volunteers will also take on Western Michigan, San Jose State, UC Davis and No. 16 Utah over the weekend. Tennessee is fresh off its 14th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament under head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly. The Lady Vols are also returning 17 players from last season, where they marked an impressive 48-12 record with a 16-7 record in SEC play.

The Weekly’s have led Tennessee to 15 straight seasons ranked inside the top 25 preseason polls. Tennessee is 13-3 in season-opening matchups and boast a 27-3 record in season-opening tournaments. In its previous appearances in the Kajikawa Classic, Tennessee holds a 14-6 record in the Grand Canyon State.

Among the retuning players for the Volunteers is Meghan Gregg, who was named to the USA Softball top 50 watch list for Collegiate Player of the Year.

“She knows that she can put the bat on the ball and hit pretty much any pitch she wants to hit,” Karen Weekly said on Monday. “It’s all about her having the plan that she wants to have and being confident in the plan. That’s what you see had really changed from her freshman year.”

The Lady Vols also return ace pitchers Matty Moss and Caylan Arnold, but they also add a pair of left-handed freshmen to the mix. Freshmen Gabby Sprang and Ashley Morgan add depth to the Tennessee pitching staff, which is something the Vols didn’t have much of last season. The only link missing on the team will be junior outfielder Brooke Vines, who recently had shoulder surgery after batting .385 in 2017.

Previews

The Lady Vols first game will take place against Boise State who finished with a 33-20 record in 2017 and made its first appearance in a postseason tournament ever. Tennessee has only ever played the Broncos one time, which resulted in a 15-1 throttling of Boise State in 2011.

The first ranked opponent on the Vols schedule will be Arizona State, who they have a 2-2 all-time record against. In their last meeting the Sun Devils notched a 5-4 victory in the Kajikawa Classic in. 2016. Arizona State returns seven starting players for the current season.

Tennessee’s third matchup comes against Western Michigan, who tallied 26-29 record last season and returns its top nine hitters. The Broncos recorded a program-high in runs scored and doubles in the 2017 season. The Lady Vols are 1-0 against Western Michigan, with their last matchup coming in 2012.

San Jose State finished with a solid 37-19 record last season and won its first conference championship in program history. The Spartans also brought in their biggest recruiting class ever, signing nine players during the offseason. Tennessee is 4-1 against San Jose State, with a win in its last matchup in 2016 by a score of 9-2.

The Lady Vols will take on UC Davis for the first time since 2016, when they beat the Aggies 3-0 in the Kajikawa Classic. UC Davis returns 13 players from last season, as it finished the 2017 season with a 22-32 record. Tennessee is undefeated against the Aggies in three games played.

Finally, the Volunteers will finish up with a ranked opponent in Utah, who finished last season with a 37-16 record. The Utes feature Alyssa Barerra, who was also named in the top 50 by USA Softball. Tennessee is 3-3 against Utah all-time, with the last game coming last season where they fell to the Utes 3-0.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Preds Pass: Forsberg receives questionable suspension

After dropping a 2-1 game to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators dominated the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers with a healthy roster. However, the momentum didn’t last too long as Filip Forsberg was suspended on Sunday. Regardless, Nashville (69 points) is just two points behind the Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division and five points behind Las Vegas for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Forsberg suspended for three games by the NHL

After his recent return from an upper-body injury in Thursday’s game over the Kings, Forsberg is out once again with a three-game suspension from this hit on Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey. The hit did not look malicious, but Forsberg certainly got the best of Vesey when he wasn’t looking.

“Well after the puck is gone, outside the allowable window to finish a check, Forsberg delivers a high, forceful hit to Vesey that makes substantial head contact,” said the NHL.

While some penalty is reasonable, three games may be on the high end for such a hit. This is Forsberg’s first disciplinary run-in with the NHL in his six seasons.

Predators dominated top-notch goalies

With coming Forsberg back against Los Angeles, Nashville showed just how dangerous it could be with a healthy roster. Forsberg got back into the action early, scoring a goal in the first period against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick who just returned from injury. Nashville blanked Los Angeles 5-0 as Quick had just an .861 save percentage with 31 saves. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne also tallied his second consecutive shutout with 19 saves on the night.

Saturday night’s game against the Rangers featured plenty of action for Nashville. The Predators went up against recently-waived winger Cody McLeod who had a tribute video dedicated to him in Bridgestone Arena. However, the Predators spoiled McLeod’s return with an impressive 5-2 win over New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist who made just 23 saves on 27 shots faced.

“Every time they had a look, they were able to get a real good look, and they scored,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “We tried battling back but we weren’t able to do it.”

Goals by defenseman P.K. Subban and winger Kevin Fiala put Nashville up early, but the Rangers stormed back to make it 3-2 after a goal by Mika Zibanejad. However, the Predators duo of Viktor Arvidsson and Fiala finished it off with a pair of goals to put the nail in the coffin. Rinne notched his seventh straight win with 20 saves on the night.

Previewing matchup with the Islanders

The New York Islanders (26-22-5) host Nashville in the Empire State on Monday night in hopes to halt its two-game win streak. The Islanders are fresh off an impressive 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, as they snapped a two-game losing streak. With the win over the Blue Jackets, the Islanders secured the tie for the final wild-card slot in the Eastern Conference. With a win, New York can slide into the first wild-card spot over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Predators come into this matchup with an 8-1-1 record in their last two games, but without a premier goal-scorer in Forsberg. Meanwhile, the Islanders will not be at full strength as defenseman Johnny Boychuk has been out for the past 16 games and forward Tanner Fritz is questionable for Monday night.

New York has given up over 39 shots in its last three games, which will not bid well for them considering Nashville’s success over Quick and Lundqvist last week. The Islanders also have the second-worst penalty kill in the NHL, while Nashville boasts the third best power play in the league. New York crushed the Predators in its last meeting as John Tavares notched a hat-trick in the 6-2 win over Nashville. Here is the projected lineup for Monday’s matchup.

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of NHL.com 

Former Vol Alvin Kamara named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Former Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara beat out Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson for the AP Rookie of the Year Award on Saturday. Kamara was the fifth running back taken in the 2017 draft by the New Orleans Saints and is just the second Tennessee player ever to win the award.

Kamara racked up 14 total touchdowns including two scores in the postseason. He led all running backs in the NFL with 826 receiving yards. He also led all running backs with over six yards per carry. Kamara fell behind only Pittsburgh Steeler Le’Veon Bell in most receptions by a running back.

Fans voted Kamara the Pepsi Rookie of the Year in his first Pro Bowl appearance last week where he stood beside his teammate and fellow running back Mark Ingram. Ingram and Kamara were the first pair of running backs to log over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season.

“I wish he was here because he’s a big reason why I’m standing right here and ya’ll are interviewing me as the Offensive Rookie of the Year,” Kamara said of Ingram. “Great teammate, great friend, a brother to me, great mentor.”

Ingram set career-highs with the help of Kamara, as he put up over 1,100 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in the 2017 season. They are also the first pair of running backs from the same team to be nominated to the Pro Bowl in over 40 years.

New Orleans swept the Rookie of the Year awards, as first-round cornerback Marshon Lattimore won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Kamara is the first player to tally five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. He led all rookies with 14 touchdowns and came in second with over 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

“It would be awesome (if he wins),” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “It would be so well deserved. … Listen, he’s certainly deserving. I’m just excited about the future with him.”

Kamara was famously underutilized in his times at Tennessee under former head coach Butch Jones. He recorded just over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in his career in Knoxville. Still, Kamara averaged over six yards per carry and registered 23 touchdowns in his limited playing time.

“I’m not going to say too much. Thank you, Mom,” said Kamara on Saturday. “She told me not to say anything other than ‘Thank you’ because she thinks she looks ugly when she cries.”

Edited by Ben McKee 

Featured image courtesy of Jason Behnken