Saturday, March 31, 2012

Predators Hand the Hawks a 5-4 Victory

The Chicago Blackhawks visited the Bridgestone Arena looking for their first regulation win against the Nashville Predators.

They got it courtesy of some sloppy play by the Predators.

Chicago won the game 5-4 in a wild contest that saw the Hawks jump out to a 4-0 lead only to see the Predators claw their way back and tie the game at 4 in the third period.

Some observations from the game:

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, and he was victimized by the play of the defense in front of him. The Hawks scored the first goal of the game when a centering pass across the top of the crease went off the skate of Hal Gill and past Rinne with the Hawks on the power play.

Chicago had a lead of 1-0 at the end of the first period. The Predators would open the second period a man down as David Legwand was in the box for hooking. The Hawks tallied again on the power play as the Predators defense lost Dave Bolland. Bolland was left alone to take a pass from Marian Hossa and his one timer gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead.

Patrick Kane beat Francis Buillon down the ice and beat Rinne five hole on a breakaway. Another defensive breakdown and another Hawks goal.

Viktor Stalberg once again beat Buillon down the ice and scored off the rebound of his shot to give the Hawks a 4-0 lead.

At this point, the wheels had come off for the Predators and it looked like the Hawks were going to exact a measure of revenge for the 6-1 drubbing the Predators had put on the Hawks in their last meeting.

Up to this point, the Predators had not been able to rattle Corey Crawford, although their had been a good deal of traffic and activity by the Predators in front of Crawford. Crawford even got some punches in on Paul Gaustad when he was checked into Crawford in the first period. Crawford still looked in control, and the Predators were having a difficult time solving him.

That changed when the Predators kept firing pucks at the net and getting traffic in front of Crawford.

The Predators made it 4-1 at 9:29 of the second period when Marty Erat tallied on the power play. It was a simple play, as Erat took a shot from the slot with traffic in front and the screened Crawford never saw the shot.

Just under a minute later, Shea Weber notched the first of his two goals on the night with a wrist shot from the blue line that beat Crawford. Once again, there was traffic in front and Crawford could not pick up the puck.

In the third period, the Predators pulled within one as Alexander Radulov split Brent Seabrook and Sean O'Donnell and beat Crawford with a sweet backhand move at 4:38.

Shea Weber tied the game on the power play at 7:19 of the third with a blast from the blue line that Crawford never saw. Patric Hornqvist was screening in front and did a great job of taking away Crawford's eyes on the play.

Tied at 4, this was a game the Predators could take. Crawford and more than a few of the Hawks had a deer in the headlights look. Now the Predators needed to score that next goal.

Instead, it was the Hawks that tallied when Brent Seabrook scored to give the Hawks the final margin of victory. On the play, David Legwand got beat coming back and Seabrook took a nice pass from Andrew Shaw and beat Rinne with a one timer.

The Hawks are too good of a team to spot 4 goals. The fact that the Predators fought back and had a chance to win the game speaks volumes about their heart, but their play through the first 30 minutes of the contest caused them to expend an enormous amount of energy getting back into the game.

Their undisciplined play, taking 5 penalties and giving up 2 power play goals certainly did not help the effort.

The game winning goal was particularly galling. Legwand did not hustle back and left Seabrook open for the game winner. For a veteran, this play by Legwand was extremely disappointing.

The Predators finished the season series with the Hawks at 4-1-1. With 98 points, they sit one point in front of Detroit and Chicago, who tied the Detroit Red Wings with this win.

This game proved that the Predators can come back against any team. It also proved that they cannot play loose in the defensive zone and expect to win any game.

The Predators have 3 games remaining, and those 6 points are going to be important for the final seeding in the West. The Predators have to go out and capture those points.

And not hand any games to their opponents.

My three stars:

1. Shea Weber

2. Brent Seabrook

3. Ryan Suter

Friday, March 30, 2012

Predators Dominate Detroit 4-1

The Nashville Predators faced off with the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in a pivotal contest that would either give the Predators possession of 4th in the West or the Wings some breathing room in their hold on that coveted 4th spot.

The Predators faced a daunting task in their attempt to win at the Joe, where Detroit was 30-5-2 going into this game.

Consider the jinx at the Joe broken as the Predators dominated the Wings en route to a 4-1 victory.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Wings welcomed back Jimmy Howard, who had missed the last 4 games with a groin injury.

The first period was scoreless, but both teams had some quality scoring chances. The Predators out shot the Wings 9-7 in the first, but the real story of this period was that the Predators did a great job on the forecheck and pressured the Wings in their zone. The Predators used their forecheck to stymie the speed of the Wings through the neutral zone and did not allow them to enter the offensive zone with speed.

That level of play would continue throughout the game, as the Predators controlled the neutral zone. In addition, the Predators did a good job in the defensive zone of disrupting the Wings in the offensive zone, intercepting passes and thwarting the offensive flow that the Wings tried to establish.

The second period continued just as the first had played out, with both teams probing and trying to establish offensive zone presence.

It was the Predators that would break through first.

Gabriel Bourque would take a pass from Jordin Tootoo in the slot and slip a wrist shot past Howard to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 13:05 of the second period. Bourque continues his solid play, as he goes to the tough areas and is strong on the puck, and he was rewarded for his efforts with a big goal.

The Predators tempted fate as they gave the Wings consecutive power plays. Nick Spaling was called for hooking at 14:04, and the Predators PK killed off the Wings power play.

Just 20 seconds later, the Predators were called for too many men on the ice, and once again, the PK unit came up big, killing off the Wings power play. The highlight of that kill was Rinne absolutely robbing Henrik Zetterberg with a glove save at the side of the net.

Just 23 seconds after that kill, the Predators put a dagger into the heart  of the Red Wings.

With Alexander Radulov being mugged in front of the net- actually being tackled by Todd Bertuzzi- the puck squirted out of traffic onto the stick of Francis Buillon. Frankie buried the puck past Howard at 19:27 of the second period to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

Detroit out shot the Predators 17-8 in the second period, but many of those shots were from the outside and were shots that Rinne easily handled.

The third period was one that everyone knew would have a push by the Wings. For the Predators, it was going to be important not to sit back and let the Wings take the play to them.

The Predators did anything but sit back, as they kept the pressure up on the Wings. Alexander Radulov took a very sweet pass from Andrei Kostitsyn, who moved up to the second line in the third period, and was alone in the slot. Radulov hammered the shot past Howard, who had no chance on the play, to give the Predators a 3-0 lead at 2:40 of the third period.

The Predators continued to limit the quality chances by the Wings through their forecheck and their play in the neutral zone. This was evidenced by the Predators holding the Wings to 8 shots in the third period, while the Predators had 10.

The Wings finally cracked the scoreboard at 16:57 of the third period, as Jiri Hudler took a pass from Henrik Zetterberg and found the open side of the net past an out of position Rinne.

The Predators iced the win with an empty net goal by Shea Weber at 19:20 of the third period.

For the Predators, this win allows them to take possession of 4th place in the West. With 4 games remaining, it is going to be imperative that the Predators take care of business. They have the advantage of 3 of those 4 games being in the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena.

This game was also a milestone game for Barry Trotz and David Poile. This was Head Coach Barry Trotz's 500th win, all with the Predators. Trotz becomes just the fifth coach to win 500 games with one team. General Manager David Poile becomes the first General Manager to have 500 wins with two different teams, the Washington Capitals and the Predators.

Congratulations to both of these gentlemen for this significant accomplishment.

Obviously this win feels good, but there is work left to do in the regular season, starting tomorrow night against Chicago.

Play like you did tonight, and home ice is yours for the taking.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Alexander Radulov

3. Francis Buillon

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

As I write this, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the validity of Obamacare, the socialized medicine debacle that foisted upon our country by the Democrats in Washington. And this plan is a disaster. The litany of weaknesses, wastefulness, and surprises hidden within the 2700 pages of this bill is too lengthy to enumerate. However, here is the bottom line regarding Obamacare: this bill was not about providing for healthcare coverage for the uninsured. No, it was about the federal government grabbing away power from individual citizens and forcing them to buy a product- in this case- healthcare insurance- and imposing a penalty on any citizen that did not do so. The power grab by the federal government in this bill was unprecedented, and it appears, fortunately, that it will be the undoing of this monstrosity. The concern expressed by the Supreme Court, and many citizens, was that if the federal government can force citizens to buy a particular product such as insurance, what is to stop the government from imposing mandates and penalties in other areas? And believe me, that would eventually happen. What is interesting is to see the reaction of liberals to the fact that this bill will more than likely be overturned. They are bewildered that anyone, including the courts, believe that there is a limit to federal power. Thankfully, the Supremes appear to be reinforcing that bedrock constitutional principle. And for you and me, this debacle known as Obamacare is a shot across the bow, one that should awaken all of us to the fact that there are, indeed, limits to the power and reach of the federal government, and we as citizens must be vigilant to keep those limits in place.

I just got a text from my wife that said "You're such a child sometimes." That really annoyed me, because I thought I had hidden her phone better than that.

All of you know we are going to run a $1.5 trillion deficit in this country for this fiscal year, right? And you know that our total debt now exceeds $15 trillion. And any of us that cares knows that there is a lot of rhetoric that is coming out of Washington about reining in spending and even more bombast about having to raise taxes to help bring our nation's dire financial situation under control. So, good people, in a time of supposed austerity, a time of getting our nation back on sound finacial footing, why has President Obama requested $770 million in federal funds to combat global warming in developing countries? According to the Congressional Research Service, President Obama has asked for another $770 million for anti-global warming initiative in Latin America and Asia under the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI). Now...HEY.. WAIT A MINUTE! Did you say ANOTHER $770 million? You should know that this administration has already spent $2.5 billion in other countries to mitigate the effects of "global warming", which has been shown to be a specious theory designed to transfer wealth to environmentalists and green leaning liberals. Keep this in mind the next time someone from Washington is telling you that you need to give them more of your hard earned dollars and that they- our elected leaders- cannot cut any more government spending.

I do all my addition and subtraction in my head rather than with a calculator. After all, it is the thought that counts.

There is a paradigm shift that has been taking place in our country, and it has profound implications for the future of this great nation. That shift? We have become an entitlement nation, and in the process, have transformed "wants" into "rights". And when wants become rights, two things happen: someone (read: the taxpaying citizens of this country) has to pay for those supposed rights; and secondly, the government increases its reach into our lives to protect those so called "rights". Healthcare is a flashpoint, and the battle being waged over the unconstitutional reach of government in promulgating socialized medicine is just one front. We have seen the government take up the cause of the "right" to birth control, provided to anyone via our tax dollars. There will be other fights in healthcare, and in other areas of our lives as the government moves to usurp more power from you and me and as more people demand that their wants become rights and entitlements. Here is a thought for all those that are claiming "rights"- take a read of the constitution. Nowhere in there is there a right to birth control, healthcare, free cell phones provided by the government, free mortgage bailouts for underwater homeowners, the list goes on and on. And I know all about that "happiness" thing that's in there. Read it. I'll wait. You and I have the right to "pursue" our happiness. We have a right, within the constraints of the law, to work as hard as we want without limitation on the fruits of our labors, and to use those fruits the way we want. That is all. None of us are guaranteed the right to BE HAPPY. Yet today, that is what we want- the government to make us happy. And this country is in peril until this attitude, this paradigm shifts back to what our Founders intended when they talked about Happiness.

A friend I haven't seen in a while said he had gotten married and had a "trophy wife". After I met her, I can see that he didn't finish in first place.

And that, my friends, is my view

Win Seats on the Glass From Vince Gill

No matter where you sit for a Predators game, the excitement and energy are palpable. And we all know there is not a bad seat in the house.

But how about seats right on the glass?

Most of us would not have an opportunity to get this kind of view:

Thanks to long time Predator fan Vince Gill, we now can experience what it is like to sit on the glass. Vince will be out of town performing at Carnegie Hall,, and he has graciously donated his tickets for Predator fans to use for the April 3rd game against Minnesota.

All you have to do is visit before 12:00 p.m. March 30th and register.

A lucky winner will get Vince's seats in section 110 on the glass.

Register today for this awesome offer from Vince.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blues Blast the Predators 3-0

The war that has been the Predators/Blues series continued for the final time in the regular season at the Scott Trade Center. 4 of the previous 5 contests had gone the way of the Predators, with their only loss occurring in overtime, and there was nothing that the league leading Blues would like to do more than avenge some of their earlier losses.

The Predators welcomed Colin Wilson back into the line up, but were without Marty Erat for the second game in a row as well as Jordin Tootoo, who was injured in the game with Chicago.

While this game was going to be tight checking and a war among the skaters, there was also a stellar goaltending battle that was going to take place as well, as the Predators had Pekka Rinne in net while the Blues countered with Brian Elliott.

The significance of this game was twofold: with a win, the Predators could move back into 4th place in the West; and with a win, Barry Trotz would notch his 500th victory as a Head Coach, all with the Predators.

The first period was just as billed: a war. Both teams created some scoring chances, but the first 20 minutes was characterized by some ferocious checking, tight defense, and good goaltending. Both netminders were perfect, as Rinne turned away 6 shots and Elliott rejected 8.

The second period opened with the Blues putting pressure on the Predators and generating some good chances. The Blues finally capitalized as Jason Arnott fed Jamie Langenbrunner in the slot and he buried the wrister to give the Blues a 1-0 lead at 6:35 of the second period. Langenbrunner worked himself free and was alone in the slot to take the shot.

Save for the Langenbrunner goal, the second period was a mirror image of the first, with both teams trying to solve the others defense and goaltender. The Predators out shot the Blues 12-7, but could not solve Elliott, who was outstanding in net.

In the third period, the Predators were going to have to get more traffic to the front of the net to try and take advantage of the rebounds that Elliott was leaving on the ice. This was going to be a tall order, as the Blues defense had so far done a good job of collapsing around Elliott.

It was going to be a matter of "want to" for the Predators in the third period.

So much for "want to" as the Blues continued to win puck battles and clog the neutral zone. Their effort paid off as David Backes got the puck to David Perron who beat Kevin Klein to the front of the net and beat Rinne with a backhand to give the Blues a 2-0 lead at 4:47 of the third period.

The Predators caught a break when it appeared that the Blues scored as David Perron shoved the puck into the net, but the goal was waved off as it was deemed by the officials that Perron had pushed Rinne and the puck into the net.

At the 16:00 minute mark, T.J. Oshie beat Rinne with a backhand to make it 3-0 for the Blues, and this game was over.

The Predators got a taste of what playoff hockey will be like, and the team was found wanting. The forwards did not finish, they lost puck battles, and their compete level was not equal to that of the Blues.

This was not fun. By any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was painful.

But the Predators should learn from this. Playoff hockey is different. Tonight, the Blues played playoff hockey.

The Predators did not.

The Predators finished the regular season series with the Blues 4-1-1, capturing 9 of a possible 12 points.

That feels good.

But the Blues are the team playing like it is the playoffs. The Predators are not.

And they are going to have to elevate their level of play.

My three stars:

1. Brian Elliott

2. David Perron

3. Jamie Langenbrunner

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Predators Put a Dagger Through the Blackhawks 6-1

The Nashville Predators were looking to win their second game in a row as they traveled to Chicago to face the Blackhawks. More importantly, the Predators were looking to put a little more breathing room between themselves and the Hawks, who were in hot pursuit of the Preds, just two points back in the standings.

For the Predators, they would face the Blackhawks without Marty Erat, who was scratched with an upper body injury. Andrei Kostitsyn moved up to take Erat's place.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, while the Hawks had Corey Crawford between the pipes.

For the Predators, it was going to be important to get off to a good start. That good start would come from an unlikely source, the grind line of Paul Gaustad, Brandon Yip, and Matt Halischuk. Gaustad and Yip got the puck down low and did a good job of cycling the puck and forcing the Hawks to chase. The Hawks completely forgot about Halischuk, camped in the low slot. Gaustad got the puck to Halischuk, and his quick wrist shot beat Crawford to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 6:16 of the first period.

For Halischuk, this was his 14th goal of the season, and he continues to put together a quietly solid campaign.

The Predators took a 2-0 lead as Andrei Kostitsyn snapped a wrist shot from the face off circle that beat Crawford stick side at 15:27.  The play was set up by a good rush from Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand, who fed the puck to Kostitsyn on the wing. Good to see Andrei get back on the score sheet again.

The Predators did a good job on the forecheck throughout the first period and were stellar on the PK, killing two penalties. As usual, Rinne was strong in the net, making several big saves.

The first period ended with the Predators up 2-0. Chicago out shot the Predators 11-8.

As important as it was for the Predators to get the early lead, it was going to be critical that they play a full 60 minute game starting with the next 20 minutes of the second period.

The Predators number one ranked power play got their first opportunity to display their prowess early in the second with the Hawks Dave Bolland off for roughing. Shea Weber launched a bomb from the blue line that deflected off Alexander Radulov and the Patric Hornqvist past Crawford to give the Predators a 3-0 lead at 5:42 of the second period.

Open the period with good jump.


Now step on the gas boys.

Instead, the Blackhawks started to exert pressure. The Predators held off a strong push by the Blackhawks as Rinne made some good saves and the Predators were scrambling in face of the Hawks effort.

Through two periods, the Predators PK was a perfect 3 for 3, and the pressure exerted by the Hawks had been weathered.

Indicative of the tight checking and tough defense, both teams registered 6 shots apiece on net.

This final 20 minutes was going to be one that the Predators needed to lock down. Everyone in the United Center as well as in the Predators locker room knew that the Hawks would come out hard in the third period and would be playing with desperation. It was up to the Predators to handle that effort and continue to press offensively.

No sitting back in a shell, boys. Keep pressing the attack.

Sit back?

No way!

Francis Buillon fired a shot from the blue line that found its way over the shoulder of Crawford to give the Predators a 4-0 lead. On the play, Matt Halischuk fought for and won a critical puck battle to keep possession for the Predators, sliding the puck to Ryan Ellis, who got the puck to Buillon. The Predators goal came at 2:00 of the third period.

With that goal, the Hawks pulled Crawford and sent Ray Emery in net.

The Predators tempted fate once again, as Patric Hornqvist was in the box for slashing, and the Hawks finally just as Hornqvist came out of the box. Viktor Stalberg came off the wall and fired a shot that beat Rinne short side at 5:58.

Could the Hawks be gaining momentum to start a run?

That would be a resounding NO.

With a face off in the Hawks zone, the Predators won the face off back to Shea Weber at the blue line. Weber unleashed a rocket of a slap shot that Emery could only wave at as the puck slammed into the back of the net to give the Predators a 5-1 lead at 6:34 of the third period.

THAT is how you shut off momentum.

The Predators kept up the pressure on the Hawks, getting some quality scoring chances by controlling play in their zone and starting excellent breakouts through the neutral zone. They welcomed Emery to the game by peppering him with shots from all angles.

THAT is how you keep your foot on the gas, boys.

 About that stepping on the gas- Mike Fisher broke in 2 on 1 with Andrei Kostitsyn and looked off Emery and absolutely ripped a shot over his shoulder to make it 6-1 at 17:33 of the third. The play was set up by a play on the puck by Gabriel Bourque, who won a puck battle and kicked the puck out to Fisher.

That goal would prove to be the final margin, and this was as complete a game as the Predators have played in a while.

The difference in this game was that the Predators won puck battles, were strong on the forecheck, and throttled the Hawks in the defensive zone.This was especially true in the third period, as the Hawks had very few quality scoring chances.

Once again, Pekka Rinne was strong in net. His play settles this team down, and he was in control of the game all night.

This is the kind of balanced effort that this team will need in the remaining regular season games and in the playoffs. Balanced scoring, aggressive defense, and solid goaltending.

A simple plan, eh?

THAT is how you win hockey games.

My three stars:

1. Matt Halischuk

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Shea Weber

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Predators Ground the Jets 3-1

Late in the third period of the Nashville Predators game with the Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets at the Bridgestone Arena, numerous Thrashers sweaters were tossed from the stands onto the ice. Perhaps symbolically, it was jilted Thrashers fans shedding the last vestiges of their star crossed relationship with their team that was relocated to Winnipeg.

On the ice, the Predators were able to shed the scrappy Jets by a 3-1 margin.

The Predators were looking to end a two game losing streak, while the Jets were desperately clinging to a slim playoff hope and were looking to build on their comeback win against the Capitals the previous night.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Jets went went Ondrej Pavalec, who was the starter last night.

The first period was scoreless due to some great saves by Pavalec and Rinne, along with Kevin Klein of the Predators.

Kevin Klein?

Yes, the Predators defenseman came up with a great stop on Andrew Ladd with Rinne out of position after a collision. Rinne made a stop on a shot by Ladd, and was bumped as he was trying to get back into the crease. Klein went to one knee and was able to block the follow up shot by Ladd, who gathered in his rebound and had a yawning net in front of him.

The Predators did a good job all game of breaking the Jets trap and getting through the neutral zone. The first period saw them set up their offense and establish a good cycle, which created some good scoring chances. Pavalec made some great saves, including robbing Patric Hornqvist from the low slot and Gabriel Bourque with a good glove save.

Rinne was also strong and in control of his game, giving up few rebounds and tracking the puck through traffic.

This game was taking on the tenor of a game that would be decided by which team would make the first mistake.

That team would be the Jets.

In the second period, Alexander Radulov carried the puck through the neutral zone and hit Matt Halischuk in stride with a pass. Halischuk launched a slap shot from the face off circle that beat Pavalec over his glove to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 2:56 of the second period.

The Predators would extend that lead to 2-0 at 10:01 of the second as Gabriel Bourque gathered in a rebound of a Nick Spaling shot and backhanded the puck past Pavalec. Bourque continues to impress with his play, and his game continues to mature.

In the third period, the Jets made it very interesting when Tim Stapleton split Francis Buillon and Ryan Ellis and came down the low slot unmolested. He took a nice pass from Spencer Machecek and beat Rinne from close in with a quick wrist shot.

The Predators closed the game out at 19:50 of the third period and on the power play. The Predators won the face off and Weber fired the puck into the empty net from the center red line for the final tally and a 3-1 victory for the Predators.

The game tonight was a different game for the Predators. They were aggressive on the forecheck and established territorial advantage for much of the game. They out shot the Jets 28-25, and although the shot differential was not that great, the Predators did a good job of moving the puck and controlling the play.

On defense, the Predators forced the Jets to the outside for much of the night and limited quality scoring chances.Save for one defensive breakdown, this was a solid effort defensively by the Predators.

This is the kind of game they are going to have to play in the remainder of their regular season games, beginning tomorrow night in Chicago.

It was good to see the Predators get scoring from their third and fourth lines tonight. These lines have been absent from the score sheet recently, and for the Predators to be successful, they must have contributions from those players.

The Predators now have 94 points, good for 5th place in the West. They are one point behind 4th place Detroit and 2 points ahead of 6th place Chicago.

Think these remaining regular season games aren't important?

They start tomorrow.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Gabriel Bourque

3. Matt Halsichuk

Friday, March 23, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

The Obama administration has a fixation on green energy. While there is nothing wrong with attempting to develop alternative energy sources, the efforts at developing these alternatives by this administration have amounted to little more than paying off campaign donors through massive subsidies of our tax dollars. Solyndra, Beacon Power, and EnerDel are just three of twenty companies that have received massive federal grants or guarantees that have either filed bankruptcy or are in serious financial trouble. All of these companies have a common thread: they are controlled or have deep ties to campaign donors to Obama's election bid for the presidency. The latest company to receive federal largesse- read: your tax dollars- is Solazyme, a San Francisco based company that is trying to turn algae into fuel for the Navy. Solazyme received $25 million in federal grants and contracts and is poised to receive even more dollars as part of Obama's effort to promote green energy. Interestingly, one of the board members of Solazyme is T.J. Glauthier, a former Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Energy under Bill Clinton. Glauthier is also on the board of EnerNOC, Inc., a company that provides demand-response services to electric utility companies. EnerNOC won a $10 million contract from the DOE in 2010 despite being underbid by several competitors. Glauthier also served on the board of SunRun, a solar financing company that received a $6.7 million federal grant in 2010. By the way, Glauthier is a donor to numerous Democratic candidates and the Obama campaign for President. Does it make sense for Solazyme to supply green fuel to the Navy. Consider this: standard jet fuel costs the Navy $4 per gallon. Solazyme green fuel will cost the Navy $15 per gallon. Talk about fuel efficiency! Remember, as I have always told you, follow the money.

They say you should always keep your enemies closest to you. I guess that is why people get married.

The economy is showing some signs of life, with a projected growth rate of 2.3% in GDP for 2012. While that is nothing to brag about, at least it is growth. The real issue for the economy- and all of us as individuals- is the direction of the economy AFTER the election. What happens if President Obama is re-elected? President Obama has indicated that he intends to raise taxes. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reviewed the effect of the proposed tax hikes in a report titled Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011-2021. The CBO stated that given likely policy outcomes (meaning the tax increases go into effect) "production and employment are likely to stay well below the economy's potential for a number of years." The CBO estimates that U.S. economy will grow at best 2.3% throughout the next decade even under the best of circumstances. Private economists are not as optimistic. Their view of raising taxes is that GDP growth will be 1%. Raising taxes by 1% lowers GDP by 3%, according to Christine Romer, Obama's former economic adviser. The Heritage Foundation has estimated that the effects of Obama's proposed tax hikes will cost the economy an average of 799,000 jobs per year and cut GDP by $1 TRILLION over the following decade. Although Obama and the Democrats want to tax "the rich", the effect of increasing taxes transfers more power to the government, crimps economic growth, and is painful to all of us. Just something to think about as we hear the rhetoric coming out of Washington.

I went to the gym and hit the treadmill for 20 minutes. Tomorrow, I am going to try to run on it.

In a March 7 news conference, President Obama declared, "We have 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, and we use 20 percent. What that means is, as much as we are doing to increase oil production, we're not going to be able to just drill our way out of the problem of high gas prices." Not exactly. According to a 2006 Department of Energy report, the U.S. has access to 400 billion barrels of crude oil that could be recovered using existing drilling technologies. A Rand Corporation study estimated there are an additional 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in shale in Wyoming and neighboring states. Why don't oil companies just go and get this oil? Because the federal government blocks them from doing so. Much of the recoverable oil is on federal land, and obtaining permits to drill on these lands is an impossibility. The efforts to extract OUR oil is being blocked by our elected leaders and bureaucrats in Washington. While we continue to pay higher prices at the pump, Washington dithers, to our economic detriment. It is time for Washington to reverse course and work- for once- in the best interest of the citizens of this country.

I just put some clean laundry on my folding chair. So far, it's not working.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Predators Pummeled by the Penguins 5-1

So you want to play with the big boys?

So you think you are a Stanley Cup contender?

The Predators found out that they are wanting in both counts as the Penguins spanked them 5-1 at the Consol Energy Center.

Perhaps the Predators have spent too much time reading their press clippings.

Because the got a thorough whipping by the Penguins and found out that perhaps they are not ready for prime time.

Here are some observations from tonight's game:

Pekka Rinne wasn't sharp on the first goal by the Penguins as the puck deflected off his glove and into the goal on the Penguins first shot of the game. On the next goal, the puck was re-directed off a deflection and then the defense hung Rinne out to dry on the next two goals. Hard to come back when the play in front of Rinne was as bad as it was tonight.

The Predators had some great scoring chances, but could not finish. Nick Spaling and Sergei Kostitsyn missed some glorious scoring chances that could have made the tenor of the contest different, but could did not bury their chances. Good teams finish those opportunities.

The Penguins won most of the puck battles tonight. Good teams win those and pretenders do not. Figure out which team was which tonight.

Alexander Radulov made his presence felt as he had the only goal for the Predators. I suspect that Radulov looked around and thought that the KHL played better defense than he saw tonight from the Predators.

Perhaps the Predators would be better served by playing hockey and not reading their press clippings.

One of the best Predators on the ice tonight was Gabriel Bourque. He had good jump and competed all night for the puck and created some chances. Unfortunately, his teammates did not follow suit.

I contend that the Predators HAVE to get their game together and enter the playoffs with momentum. Right now, this team is sloughing toward the playoffs, and that is not a formula for success.

Craig Smith, Brandon Yip, and Sergei Kostitsyn were the only Predators that did not end up with a minus tonight, and they were even for the game. Draw your conclusions, but defensively, the Predators were awful.

Bottom line, the Predators are not playing like a team ready for the playoffs. They are inconsistent and too soft with the puck. This team needs to get an edge and play like they want games, rather than hoping good things happen. The Penguins showed the Predators what a playoff bound team looks like. The Predators could not match their effort or their intensity. This is what playoff teams do. Tonight, the Predators were not remotely close to looking like a playoff team.

It is time for the Predators to re-focus and get their game together. It is time for them to get an edge and play with intensity.

There are 8 games left in the regular season.

Time to get your act together boys.

My three stars:

1. Anyone wearing a Pens sweater

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Rad-ical Turn of Events for the Predators

The Predators prodigal son, Alexander Radulov, returned from his KHL hiatus to join the Predators for their final regular season games and the playoffs. Radulov arrived in Nashville last night and went through a physical and practiced with the team this morning.

Head Coach Barry Trotz said that he would believe that Radulov was going to join the team "when he saw the whites of his eyes." Here is a picture from Kevin Wilson, Director of Media Relations for the Predators, showing Trotz examining the aforementioned eyes upon his arrival at the Bridgestone Arena after last night's game:

While the Predators welcome back the mercurial player who bears the sobriquet of "the best player not in the NHL", questions still abound about his return to the team, not the least of which is "How will his return affect the chemistry of a pretty darn good team?"

That team sanctum of the locker room is pretty tight for the Predators right now- a good bunch of guys that support each other on and off the ice. Will Radulov's arrival disrupt the bonds this team has forged this season? Will he appear to be a prima donna, going around rules and conventions to achieve his ultimate end of freedom to negotiate a contract with any team in the NHL (or KHL for that matter)? Who gets bumped out of the line up so A-Rad can play, and what does that do to the locker room?

All of those questions are legitimate, and ones for which we have no specific answer. However, there are several considerations that should be kept in mind when considering this situation. A-Rad has a good relationship with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and that will help pave the way for his acceptance into the locker room. That fact alone will keep disruption to a minimum, if non-existent.

For the team, the off ice considerations for Radulov about contracts, RFA versus UFA status, and where he will play next season become ancillary to the fact that the team is re-gaining a dynamic scorer who can be a difference maker in the remaining regular season games and the playoffs. Each player to a man recognizes that A-Rad could be the missing component to a very good team that could make them an exceptional team.

We should not forget that General Manager David Poile is no babe in the woods when it comes to these types of situations. Poile's quiet demeanor belies a shrewd and analytical mind that is constantly working to position the Predators for a run at the Cup. Poile knows that Radulov can be the impact player that can take the Predators to their goal of the Grail. And know this: Poile has thought out and worked the angles on this situation. Whether Radulov returns to the KHL or stays in the NHL, the Predators will still retain his rights by virtue of Rad's RFA status at the end of the season.

That Radulov can burn the final year of his entry level contract by playing a handful of regular season games and the playoff games has some other GM's fuming. It is, however, well within the rules and has been blessed by both the NHL and the NHLPA. Expect this issue to come up in the next collective bargaining agreement and the rules to be amended to prevent this type of situation from occurring again. Their ire at this situation is validation of the impact that Radulov can have on the Predators and their level of play.

Here is what we as Predator fans should keep in mind. David Poile and the coaching staff would never have allowed Radulov's return to the team in these circumstances if it would put the Predators franchise in hot water. And they would not have allowed his return if it was going to cause this cohesive team to become resentful and fragmented.

No, the door was opened for Radulov to return because he is a difference maker, one that can potentially put the Predators over the top in their quest for the Cup. And that door was opened because Poile and the coaches knew that the team would assimilate A-Rad back in without difficulty.

For the Prodigal, it was time to come home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Predators Embarrassed by the Oilers 6-3

The Nashville Predators were in the Bridgestone Arena for a game with the Edmonton Oilers. Unfortunately, the Predators were there in name only, as the Oilers embarrassed them by a 6-3 margin.

First, kudos to the Oilers. The captured the season series 3-0-1 and the Predators never were in any of the contests except for a lucky OT win in Edmonton. Tonight, the team with the second worst record in the Western Conference dominated the Predators and earned the win.

Here are some observations from the game:

The Predators out shot the Oilers 44-20. That is a positive. However, many of the shots were easy for Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk to handle. Often the shots came from the point with not traffic in front of the net. In fact, Patric Hornqvist was one of a few Predators that was willing to go into the hard areas in front of the net. Hornqvist was rewarded for his efforts with a goal and was hosed by the officials when another goal was waved off for a specious interference call.

At times, the power play looked lost. Yes, they were 1 for 3, but often, the Oilers won puck battles or beat the Predators to pucks and cleared the zone. The power play did not show much movement at times, allowing the Oilers to attack the puck and force the turnover.

The two and a half man D pairing of Hal Gill and Ryan Ellis was atrocious. Those two spent two periods together and never developed any semblance of chemistry. Gill was -3 and Ellis was -4 for the night. That pairing was split up in the third period, with Kevin Klein pairing with Gill and Ellis pairing with Francis Buillon.

The Oilers first goal was a fluke, with a puck thrown toward the net careening off the skate of Klein and past Rinne. The second goal was a 2 on 1 break by the Oilers. But the third goal was a killer. It looked as if Rinne had the puck in his glove, and the defense relaxed. Rinne did not control the rebound, and the Oilers played to the whistle and Ales Hemsky banged home the loose puck for a 3-1 lead.

The Predators sloppy play made Hemsky look like the second coming of Gretzky, as Hemsky had a hat trick. The only thing that one can say about that is unbelievable.

To give up 6 goals on 20 shots is...beyond words. Defensive coverage was awful, allowing way too much traffic to our net. It is surprising how much this team misses Roman Josi.

Here is the bottom line: this is a talented team that is not ready for a playoff run. This team lacks intensity and an edge. Too often, the Predators let their opponent punch them in the mouth and they do not respond. This is an element of their game that is missing and will bite them in the ass come playoff time.

It is up to the coaching staff to get this team ready to play, and I have confidence they do that. However, it is up to the players themselves to respond positively to adversity, and right now, I do not see that leadership on the ice. That is scary, and does not bode well for the Predators.

As a team, you do not want to shuffle into the playoffs. You want to be hitting stride when the playoffs start. Right now, the Predators are not in stride. They are stumbling.

It is time for each player to look around the room and hold themselves and each other accountable. It is time for this team to amp up their intensity and their effort. The shots on goal belie the fact this team was sloppy tonight.

Sloppy will get you killed in the playoffs.

This is a game that is forgettable. I hope this team doesn't forget it. I want them to vividly remember that just showing up is not how you win games.

I want this team to remember the opportunity they lost. An opportunity to build a small lead on their hold on fourth place. And I want them to use this embarrassment to fuel stronger play in the remaining regular season games.

And especially in the playoffs.

My three stars:

1. Ales Hemsky

2. Devan Dubnyk

3. David Legwand

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ducks Downed by the Predators 3-1

The Nashville Predators finished their west coast road swing with a visit to the Duck Pond, otherwise known as the Honda Center, to face another dangerous team in the Anaheim Ducks. The Predators lead the season series 3-0 and Anaheim would like for nothing better than to exact a measure of revenge against the Predators.

Anders Lindback got the start in net for the Predators, while the Ducks went with Jonas Hiller. For the Predators, it was going to be important to get off to a good start, give Lindback some help, and play a full 60 minutes of hockey.

With Bobby Ryan in the box for high sticking, the Predators looked to get their power play clicking. Instead, it was the Ducks that struck shorthanded as Ryan Getzlaf fed the puck to Devonte Smith-Pelly on a 2 on 1 and the Smith Pelly buried the puck to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 7:32 of the first period.

Once again, a slow start was the bane of the Predators as the did not get their first shot on goal until 10:45 had elapsed in the first period. Unacceptable and frustrating, the Predators are a team that recently has looked like they are just not ready to play when the puck drops.

The Predators finally got their legs going and started to generate some good scoring chances. Unfortunately, they could not get a puck past Hiller, but their response in the second half of the first period was heartening.

For the first period, the Ducks out shot the Predators 9-8 and led 1-0 due to the gaffe on the power play.

Just 33 seconds into the second period, Marty Erat drove the net and was shoved into Hiller and had no chance to avoid the contact. Erat was nevertheless called for goaltender interference, a very weak call. Fortunately for the Predators, they were able to kill the penalty.

Once again, the Ducks, aided by the power play opened the second period as they did the first period, with more jump and desire than the Predators. They had a decided territorial advantage and had the first 6 shots of the period to none for the Predators.

Anders Lindback made several huge saves, one on Jason Blake and one on Kyle Palmieri to keep the Preds at a one goal deficit in the second. Once again, Lindback was waiting for his teammates to give him some goal support.

The second period was scoreless thanks to the effort by Lindback. The Ducks out shot the Predators 13-8 in the second period. Once again, the second period was 20 minutes of frustration for the Predator faithful as the Predators lost puck battles and did not seem to have any desire to compete with the Ducks.

The Predators finally showed some jump and compete just 1:19 into the period as David Legwand found Patric Hornqvist streaking alone down the slot. Hornqvist gathered the puck in and roofed the shot over the shoulder of Hiller to tie the game at 1.

Now we would see if that goal and that effort energized the Predators.

At 10:27, the Predators answered that question, as Marty Erat hustled to take off an icing call and flipped the puck to Ryan Suter. Suter's shot could not be controlled by Hiller, and with the puck in the blue paint, Mike Fisher hacked at the puck and slid it under Hiller to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

Just prior to that score, Lindback came up with a huge save on a partial breakaway to preserve the tie.

Now the Predators were playing with some jump and were starting to look like... well, the Predators. They were starting to win puck battles and control the puck in the zone and were firing shots on the Ducks net. This is how they have to play if they are going to win games, and it was the way they were playing now.

The Predators defense broke down and left Kyle Palmieri all alone in front of the net, and Lindback came up with a critical stop at the 5:50 mark of the third. Lindback had been spectacular tonight, making some amazing saves to keep the Predators in the game.

The Ducks pulled Hiller with 1:40 remaining in the game for the extra attacker, and the Ducks were swarming. The Ducks short circuited that effort as Bobby Ryan was called for hooking with 45 seconds left in the period.

David Legwand executed his patented scoring play- the empty net goal- with 16 seconds remaining to give the Predators a 3-1 lead and seal the win. The half empty Honda Center looked as if a bomb threat had been called in as it quickly started to empty out.

In the third period, the Predators out shot the Ducks 11-9, and for the game were out shot by the Ducks 31-27.

The Predators victory over the Ducks was not a thing of beauty, yet it was a most beautiful win. Completely outplayed for long stretches of the game, the Predators dug down and gutted out a much needed win. With this victory, the Predators swept the Ducks in the season series.

This two points ties them with Detroit at 92 points and moves them into fourth place in the Western Conference by virtue of one more ROW than the Wings.

The Predators manage to capture 5 of the possible 8 points on the west coast trip. Those 5 points are precious to the Predators as they are fighting for home ice advantage in the playoffs.

More importantly, this game has to be a confidence builder for the Predators. They reached down and got a win in a game where their compete level was not the best and where they struggled at times. The third period in particular showed this squad that they are difficult to defeat when they play Predator hockey.

There are 10 games left in the season and 20 vital points on the line. They are yours for the taking, boys.

If you play Predator hockey.

My three stars:

1. Anders Lindback

2. Mike Fisher

3. Patric Hornqvist

Kings Club the Predators 4-2

The Nashville Predators continued their last west coast swing of the regular season with a tilt against the L.A. Kings. Once again, the Predators faced a team in the Kings that was fighting for their playoff life, as the Kings had 80 points, currently in 10th place but one point out of the 8th playoff position.

For the Predators, this meant that they had to bring the intensity and effort from the opening puck drop. You knew that the Kings were going to bringing it tonight. The Predators had to match the desperation of the Kings.

Pekka Rinne started in net for the Predators, while the Kings went with Jonathan Bernier.

Just as sure as the sun comes up in the east, the Kings opened with jump and pressure on the Predators. The Predators, as has been their tendency, took the Kings best early shots and just survived, with Rinne having to make some good early saves.

The Predators finally wilted under the pressure of the Kings, as they won a puck battle on the boards and controlled the puck to Anze Kopitar. Kopitar took one stride off the boards and lasered a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to give the Kings a 1-0 lead at 7;53 of the first period.

The Predators looked listless throughout most of the first period as they lost puck battles and for the most could not get through the neutral zone to establish their offense. The shot totals at the end of the first period reflected that fact as the Kings out shot the Predators 10-5.

If the Predators were going to have an opportunity to get back in this game, they were going to have to play with more jump and intensity. If you can answer the question as to why the Predators cannot seem to realize they have to match the intensity of their opponent, I would love to hear from you.

I would imagine that what Head Coach Barry Trotz said to his charges at the first intermission would cause a sailor to blush, because the Predators came out in the second period like they wanted to play a hockey game. The Predators skated better and won puck battles. They poured shots on Bernier, and in the first 7:30 of the second had out shot the Kings 8-1.

Now they just had to get a puck in the net.

The Predators did just that on their third power play attempt as Marty Erat cranked a shot from 10 feet inside the blue line that went between the legs of Patric Hornqvist who was screening and past Bernier to tie the game at 1 at 13:43.

The second period ended tied at 1 and the Predators out shooting the Kings 9-8 but generating the majority of the quality scoring chances.

So the Kings played the first 20 minutes of the contest and the Predators played the second 20 minutes. The contest would be decided by who wanted it more in the final 20 minutes.

The Predators offense reverted to their first period form as they did not get their first shot on net until the 8 minute mark of the third. On the plus side, the Kings only had 2 shots on net in the same time frame as the game had settled into a defensive struggle with each team looking to capitalize on a mistake made by the other.

That mistake occurred at 8:04 of the third as the Predators could not hold the puck in the zone as the puck got away from Ryan Suter at the blue line and the result was a 2 on 1. Dustin Penner finished the play off a nice pass from Trevor Lewis to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.

A horrific turnover by Jordin Tootoo at the Predators blue line sent Dwight King in on a breakaway and he buried the sot to give the Kings a 3-1 lead at 13:02. On the play, the Predators were also caught in a bad change and were victimized by two egregious errors.

The Predators implosion was complete when Kyle Clifford scored on a break away to make it 4-1 L.A. at 16:19.

Mike Fisher made the score somewhat respectable with a backhand score off a rebound of a Kevin Klein shot at 17:18 of the third to make it 4-2, which was the final score of the game.

For the Predators, there are two glaring problems right now. The first: their secondary scoring has gone ice cold. Throughout much of the season, the Predators have relied on balanced scoring from all lines. Right now, the scoring is coming predominantly from the top line. The remainder of the forwards are being shut down by opposing teams, and it is going to be essential that the Predators get these lines going again.

The second problem is that the Predators seem to have lost their edge, their intensity. This team is successful when they are playing gritty, blue collar hockey, hockey that is balls to the wall. Right now, the Predators are taking 20 minutes to get started, or are taking a period off. This team is not good enough to survive much less win playing that type of hockey. This has to change immediately.

The remainder of the schedule will be against teams that are desperate and will be more than happy to knock off the Predators. Right now, this team is the hunted, and it is important for them to play with the intensity and desperation of those teams that are hunting them.

The opportunity for redemption begins tomorrow night in Anaheim.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Bernier

2. Patric Hornqvist

3. Dustin Penner

Friday, March 16, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Remember when Obamacare was being rammed down our throats? One of the main contentions about this debacle that was iterated from President Obama, his White House staff, and his minions in the media was that this program of socialized medicine was going to cost the taxpayers in this country "only" $900 billion dollars. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knew this was not the case, as there were obvious flawed assumptions in this plan as well as numerous hidden costs. We now have a better idea of what this disaster is going to cost us if it is not repealed. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has now projected that Obamacare will cost us $1.76 trillion (TRILLION!) over the next 10 years. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that many companies are dropping their insurance for their employees because of soaring costs and forcing their employees into government sponsored coverage. This is a natural market response to government intervention in the marketplace. Government interference in any market makes it difficult for private enterprise to compete and often drives those private companies out of business. Couple this economic situation with the fact that many costs in Obamacare were hidden or just outright misconstrued, and you have a financial disaster of brobdingnagian that has been foisted on the taxpaying public.

My wife is always complaining that I don't listen to her. Or something like that.

So we have misrepresentation by our elected leaders regarding the costs associated with socialized medicine. We have unemployment numbers that are calculated by arbitrarily excluding some some of the unemployed to make the current administration look good. We are told that inflation is "benign" because the government chooses to exclude the cost of food and energy, two of the largest expenditures in many household budgets. Now I know that you as a reader of this blog are very intelligent, and I know that you are seeing the trend here. Politicians from the left and the right bend the numbers and skew the data to try to look good. More and more, however, we are seeing numbers, data, and facts that appear to have been pulled out thin air or some bodily orifice, and at a critical juncture in our history, the credibility of many elected leaders, of the bureaucracy, and of Washington as a collective representation of government is damaged, perhaps irreparably. Part of the problem is the arrogance of Washington, with elected leaders and bureaucrats believing that they are smarter than us and know better than we what is good for us. The other side of the equation, however, is that we as voters and as citizens have allowed those in Washington to do this. The upcoming election represents a critical juncture for our country, and it is important that we as citizens re-engage in the process and demand accountability and honesty from those that are elected to lead our nation.

Women really like men who are self confident. At least I think they do.

While we focus on costly programs like Obamacare, it is critical to keep our eye on the cost of regulations that are often implemented by the myriad of federal bureaucracies that have a dramatic impact on our economy, our businesses, and our wallets. According to data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in the first three years of the Obama administration, 10,215 new federal regulations have been implemented that cost individuals, and businesses over $46 BILLION annually. By comparison, President Bush's first three years in office saw the federal government implement 10,674 new regulations but with an annual cost of $8.1 billion. Every administration in Washington, whether Republican or Democrat, does this. It is a matter of severity, and the real issue is, in my view, the arrogance of those in Washington believing they can micro-manage the economy, our businesses, and our lives. These numbers point out that the over-reach of our federal government is stunningly vast and will only get worse if we do not rein it back. And it is not just elected officials that must be held in check. Bloated and self serving bureaucracies like the Environmental Protection Agency have, unchecked, implemented unilateral regulations in 2011 that cost over $4 billion to further an increasingly radical agenda. And Washington wonders why it is so difficult to get the economy growing.

Bigamy: one wife too many. Monogamy: same thing

And that, my friends, is my view.

Sharks Slip By the Predators in a SO 2-1

The Nashville Predators continued their west coast road trip with a stop at HP Pavilion to take on the San Jose Sharks. This game wan important game- as they all are at this time of season- as the Predators could leapfrog the Detroit Red Wings into 4th place in the Western Conference with a win.

Pekka Rinne started in net for the Predators while the Sharks went with Antti Niemi.

Once again, the Predators were facing a desperate team in the Sharks, who at the outset of this game were sitting 3 points out of a playoff spot with 78 points. For the Predators, this was going to be another contest where they had to match the intensity of a team that was fighting for their playoff life.

Early in the contest, the Sharks dominated the contest with puck possession and a good cycle game. Through the first nine minutes of the contest, the Sharks out shot the Predators 6-1.

Certainly an ominous start for the Predators.

The Predators would start skating and getting into the contest, and their first break came when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was called for high sticking Sergei Kostitsyn.

The Predators red hot power play made the Sharks pay for their transgression as Mike Fisher skated off the half wall and got the puck to Patric Hornqvist alone at the top of side of the net. Hornqvist was not challenged by the Sharks D, and he spun and put the puck in the top corner at 13:18 of the first period to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. This was Hornqvist's team leading 22nd goal of the season.

Throughout the first period, the Sharks did a good job in the neutral zone of slowing down the Predators speed and consequently the Predators had a difficult time setting up their offense. This was reflected in the shot totals for the first period, with the Sharks out shooting the Predators 13-6.

Going into the second period, it was going to be important for the Predators to control the puck and have crisp breakouts. The Sharks were going to keep coming at the Predators, and their offensive effort was going to have to improve.

The second period opened as the first had ended with the Sharks swarming the Predators, who seemed to be back on their heels at the start.

Although the Sharks were controlling the puck in the Predators zone, the Predators defense did a good job of keeping the Sharks to the outside and limiting quality scoring chances. The Predators had a few good scoring chances as well, but could not get anything past Niemi.

Pekka Rinne made a huge stop on Martin Havlat, who was alone at the side of the net to keep the game scoreless at the 14 minute mark of the second. Rinne was sprawled on the ice and manage to get his glove on Havlat's shot to deny the goal. Rinne had made some big stops in this game, none bigger than that.

Martin Havlat tripped Pekka Rinne in a dirty play and a scrum broke loose involving all the players on the ice. The result was a power play for the Predators, but the power play was ineffective, mounting only one shot on net.

A truculent second period ended with the Predators still leading 1-0 but on the penalty kill with David Legwand in the box for interference. The Sharks would have 1:49 of power play time to start the third period. The Sharks out shot the Predators 15-14 in the second period.

The third period would be one where the Predators had to match the intensity of the and desperation of the Sharks and keep up their offensive pressure. Niemi had been giving up rebounds, and the Predators needed to capitalize on their opportunities.

The Sharks tied the game 55 seconds into the third period as a shot from the point ricocheted to Joe Thornton alone at the side of the net and he buried the shot past Rinne, who had no chance on the play.

Game on, now, and it was time for the Predators to step up their effort.

After the power play goal by the Sharks, they began to dominate the Predators. The Predators had to kill of another penalty, which they did successfully, but the Sharks were on the attack and the Predators were back on their heels. The Predators needed to get their offensive effort going again and challenge the Sharks in their zone.

The Predators did respond and started controlling the puck and firing shots on Niemi. The Predators needed to get good follow up chances on the rebounds that Niemi was giving up.

They could not, just as the Sharks could not get a puck past Rinne, and for the second game in a row, the Predators were heading to overtime.

In the third period, the Predators out shot the Sharks 10-4.

The Sharks opened the OT with absolutely dominant play, aided by the Predators sloppy puck handling. Rinne made a great save on a breakaway by Dan Boyle to keep the Predators in the game.

Shea Weber took a penalty with 3.9 seconds left in the OT, and the Sharks Patrick Marleau missed a good scoring chance with a backhand just as the horn sounded to end the period.

So for the second game in a row, the Predators were going to have to decide a contest in a shootout.

San Jose would shoot first, and Martin Havlat was the first shooter and was stoned by Rinne.

Poetic justice after Havlat's earlier dirty play.

Craig Smith was stopped by Niemi.

Joe Pavelski was stopped by the stick of Rinne.

Andrei Kostitsyn lost the puck but got a weak shot away that was stopped by Niemi.

Ryan Clowe beat Rinne stick side to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead in the shoot out.

David Legwand was stopped by Niemi, and the Sharks captured the win in the shootout.

The Predators started slowly, weathered the Sharks storm, and fought their way back in this game. The fact is that the Sharks were the more desperate team and played like it for much of the night. The Predators effort was solid, but not good enough to capture the second point they wanted.

Coming out of this game, the concern is for the health of Paul Gaustad, who injured his hand in the third period and did not return to the game.

The road gets no easier for the Predators, as they face another desperate team in the L.A. Kings on Saturday night.

Time to re-group and get back to the winning ways.

My three stars:

1. Antti Niemi

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Ryan Clowe

Monday, March 12, 2012

Predators Escape Phoenix With a 5-4 SO Win

With the season winding down, desperation time sets in for some teams. The Nashville Predators faced just such a team at Arena in the form of the Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix is currently in 7th spot in the West with a tenuous 2 point lead over 4 teams that are chasing and battling for playoff positioning.

The Predators entered the contest firmly in 5th place in the West, but this was a very important game for the Predators as they trailed 4th place Detroit by 4 points and were looking to close the gap. This was the first game of an important western swing, and the Predators were looking to get the road trip kicked off with a good start.

Pekka Rinne started in net for the Predators, while the Coyotes had Mike Smith in goal.

The Predators were missing two defensemen for the contest, as Kevin Klein was missing his 4th straight game and Roman Josi was scratched due to an upper body injury.

The first period was a fast paced first period with both teams flying up and down the ice and creating some good scoring chances. Perhaps the best save of the first period was by Mike Fisher as he got a skate on a shot to bail out an out of position Pekka Rinne.

The Predators also caught a break as Raffi Torres hit a post with Rinne scrambling to cover a puck.

With the period winding down, the Predators entered the Coyote zone on a 3 on2 break. Sergei Kostitsyn dropped the puck to Marty Erat, who fired a quick wrist shot at Smith. Smith got most of the puck, but it trickled out from under his arm, off his skate, and into the net to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 19:32 of the first period. For Erat, this was his 17th goal and 50th point of the season.

The period ended with the Predators in the lead and both teams registering 8 shots on goal.

In the second period, it was going to be important for the Predators to tighten up their defensive zone coverage, as the Coyotes got some quality chances due to soft defense. You knew that the Coyotes would come out just as hard in the second period as they had in the first.

Come out hard the Coyotes did, as they tied the game just 49 seconds into the second period off a shot from the blue line that was re-directed by Daymond Langkow to tie the game at 1. Poor puck management cost the Predators this goal as they turned it over in their zone and as a result it wound up in the back of their net.

The game started to look like a game of shinny as the second period wore on as both teams were flying up and down the ice. Rinne made a huge stop on Keith Yandle on a breakaway. The puck reversed the other way as the Predators had a 2 on 1. Sergei Kostitsyn took a shot that was stopped by Smith, but Kostitsyn got the rebound and fed it to Mike Fisher, who chipped it in at 11:04 to make it 2-1 Predators.

The Coyotes tied the game at 2 at 14:23 of the second as Keith Yandle was trailing a 3 on 3 rush. Yandle faked and fired a shot through traffic that beat Rinne to the far post.

In 4 on 4 play with each team with a man in the box, the Predators took a 3-2 lead as Ryan Ellis fed  Marty Erat who slipped the puck to a pinching Francis Buillon, who gathered in the rebound of his shot and knocked the puck past Smith at 18:46 of the second. A timely first goal of the season from Frankie. On the play, Mike Fisher drew the defense to him at the right side of the net, leaving Buillon alone to knock home the rebound of his shot.

The second period of wide open hockey ended with the Predators up 3-2. The Predators out shot the Coyotes 13-10 in the period.

In the final 20 minutes, it was going to be critical for the Predators to lock down their defensive zone and continue to keep pressure on the Coyotes in the offensive zone.

The Predators extended their lead to 4-2 at 2:36 of the third period as Paul Gaustad found Craig Smith streaking through the neutral zone and sent him in on a breakaway with a perfect pass. Smith faked the forehand and deked Smith to the ice and roofed a beautiful backhand into the net. Great to see Smith make his way back into the line up, and this has to be a great confidence booster for the Honey Badger.

The Coyotes cut the lead to 1 at 7:11 of the third as Oliver Ekman-Larsson fired a puck through traffic from the blue line that got the post and caromed into the net to make it 4-3.

The Predators faced intense pressure from the Coyotes, and it paid off for them as Raffi Torres got the goal in a scramble in the blue paint at 15:01 of the third. The Predators had been spending too much time in their zone and were exhibiting poor puck management, and it came back to bite them as the Coyotes were swarming the Predators in their defensive zone.

The inability to properly manage the puck and the unrelenting pressure from the Coyotes caused the Predators to frustratingly blow a 2 goal third period lead. So off to overtime we went.

The overtime saw both teams create some good scoring chances but neither was able to capitalize on their opportunities. Once again, the overtime was like most of the game, with both teams playing wide open hockey.

So it was off to the shootout.

Phoenix shot first, with Ray Whitney the first shooter, and Rinne stopped his chance with his stick.

Andrei Kostitsyn was the Predators first shooter and he beat Smith five hole.

Radim Vrbata stopped Vrbata's backhand attempt.

Marty Erat was stopped by the glove of Smith.

Mikkel Boedker was stoned by Rinne and the Predators had escaped with a a 5-4 shootout win.

And escape they did.

The Predators showed jump and good play making throughout the course of the game, but their inability to manage the puck at times nearly cost them this contest. This is an area in which the Predators are going to have to improve.

With the win, the Predators now have 89 points and sit 2 points out of 4th place in the Western Conference. Each point is precious, and kudos to the team for getting the second point tonight.

A good start to the west coast swing. Time to build on this and pile up the points.

My three stars:

1. Daymond Langkow

2. Marty Erat

3.Sergei Kostitsyn

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Predators Special K Too Much for Detroit

"To be the man, you have to beat the man"

That quote by wrestling superstar Ric Flair sums up the Predators game with the Detroit Red Wings in Nashville at the Bridgestone Arena. The man- Detroit- was coming to town, a team the Predators have been chasing since their inception and were once again chasing this season. Detroit was 6 points in front of the Predators, and the Preds needed this game if they were going to close the gap and potentially pass the Wings in the standings.

Never mind that the man was coming into this game wounded, with numerous starters out of the line up. Never mind that the Wings played last night. This was Detroit, a still dangerous and good team, and the Predators had to have this win if they were going to move up in the standings.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators, while the Wings went with Joey MacDonald.

The Predators did a good job of moving the puck, especially through the neutral zone to get set up in the offensive zone. Detroit did the same, and both teams tested the others defense, neither able to get a puck past the netminders.

That changed at 7:30 of the first period as David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist broke in 2 on 1. Legwand carried the puck in and drew the defense to him before slipping a pass to Hornqvist. Hornqvist took the pass on his tape and buried a quick wrister past MacDonald to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Predator fans were still celebrating Hornqvist's team leading 21st goal when the Wings tied the game just 13 seconds later. Drew Miller came out from behind the Predators goal line with the puck and slipped a shot between Rinne and the post to tie the game at 1.

After some more back and forth play, the Predators went to the man advantage at 10:22 of the first period as Doug Janik was called for high sticking Colin Wilson. The Predators made the Wings pay as Andrei Kostitsyn took a pass from his brother Sergei while camped at the top of the blue paint. Ak46 spun with the puck and whipped a backhand past MacDonald to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 11:59 of the first period.

The second period was scoreless, with both teams generating some chances but neither able to get one in the net as both Rinne and MacDonald were solid in their play.

Going into the third period, the Predators were looking to extend their lead and gain some breathing room. That would come at 4:34 of the third as Andrei Kostitsyn would once again strike on the power play off an assist from his brother Sergei. AK46 took a pass from SK74 at the side of the net and was able to lift the puck past MacDonald to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

This was Detroit- the man- and everyone knew they would have a strong push in the the remaining time in the third period. And push the Wings did. They out shot the Predators 18-6 in the period, and Pekka Rinne was called upon to make some good saves to keep the lead at 2.

The Wings would cut the lead to 1 at 14:35 of the third as Justin Abdelkader took a shot from the low slot that Rinne was able to stop. Abdelkader was able to get his stick on the rebound and while being knocked to the ice by Ryan Suter was able to lift the puck over Rinne to make it 3-2.

The Wiings continued to push, but could not get another puck past Rinne. With MacDonald pulled for the extra attacker, the Predators continued to force the Wings to the outside and Rinne made some big saves. The Wings got some help with 10 seconds remaining in the game as Shea Weber was called for roughing, but the Predators kept the Wings from getting a shot on net to seal the win.

Full marks go to the Predators penalty killers, who killed off 4 Detroit power plays, including 10 seconds of a 5 on 3 in the second period on back to back penalties. In the second of those kills, the Predators did not allow the potent Detroit power play a shot on goal.

The Predators power play was the difference in this game. The PP unit was 2 of 4, and this unit had some special chemistry when the Kostitsyn's were on the ice. The acquisition of Andrei Kostitsyn has paid dividends for the Predators as he has 6 points in 5 games since being acquired at the trade deadline. He uses his big frame well down low and has good hands, and those attributes were on display tonight.

David Legwand played a solid game and had 3 assists tonight. Pekka Rinne was once again stellar in net, stopping 35 of 37 shots and making some good saves to keep the Wings off the board. Rinne continues to lead the NHL in wins, picking up his 38th win tonight.

This was a solid win for the Predators, one they needed if they were going to catch the Wings, and more importantly, to keep pace with other teams in the Western Conference. They stepped up and played the type of game they are capable of playing.

And for tonight, they were the man.

My three stars:

1. Andrei Kostitsyn

2. David Legwand

3. Sergei Kostitsyn

Honorable mention:

Pekka Rinne

Friday, March 9, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Gonna be a little different post today. Buckle up and hang on.

By now, anyone that has access to the news has heard about the "controversy" between Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh. Fluke presented herself as someone who was concerned for those less fortunate than her and their access to birth control, and she wanted Georgetown University to cover the cost of the birth control products through their private health insurance. The response of Limbaugh on his radio show was to refer to Fluke as a "slut", a comment for which he later apologized. The ensuing response toward Limbaugh from the mainstream media has been ferocious and unrelenting, resulting in several national sponsors withdrawing their sponsorship of his show.

This is the side of the story that one hears from the mainstream media, but to frame this entire mess properly, one should understand that Sandy Fluke is not some naif, an innocent co-ed that is fighting to make sure the needy have access to birth control. No, Ms. Fluke is a decidedly liberal activist, a 30 year old that has pushed not only for birth control coverage but for coverage of "gender reassignment" surgery- a more fancified way of saying "sex change operations". She co-authored an article in the Georgetown Journal of Gender and Law declaring that private insurers that limit the coverage of gender reassignment surgery were "heterosexist" and therefore discriminating against their clients that desired this procedure and open to lawsuits. Never mind that Fluke was advocating taking a legitimate business decision out of the hands of the insurance companies and the employers that provided health care coverage. She and her ilk were attempting to coerce coverage of a costly and elective procedure by claiming that that birth control and these types of elective procedures were "rights" that everyone should have.

Understand too, that Fluke was brought before the hearing chaired by Congressional Democrats only after being properly vetted for her leftist views. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY pushed for Fluke's testimony and called for Fluke to sue Limbaugh after his remarks. Maloney was the one that introduced Fluke to Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, who brought her into the hearing. Pelosi, Maloney, and their shill, Fluke, are responding to progressive Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake's polling results, that say this is an issue that resonates with women and could be critical to the re-election of President Obama.

Oh yeah, let's not fail to mention that Maloney and Pelosi are clients of Celinda Lake.

Okay- now that I have that out there, I want to say this, and I want to be very clear and explicit on this:

I do not want the federal government messing around with any woman's body. I certainly do not want them messing around with my body. The health care rules and regulations that are in place under Obamacare and are being discussed at times border on the absurd, and not just in the area of birth control. By inserting the federal bureaucracy into the process, we have screwed up health care delivery in this country and we have made the decisions about an individual's health not between them and their doctor, but also the insurance industry and the federal government. And government meddling is not confined to the arena of health care.

But here is the political aspect of of claiming birth control- or any other health care product or procedure- as a "right". "Rights" require government protection to insure that they are not abridged. The expansion of rights coincides with an expansion of government power and reach over our daily lives. By making birth control a "right" the government can interject their enforcement powers into an entity that may have a moral or religious reason for not providing birth control. Which is exactly what the Catholic Church objected to when the federal government mandated birth control had to be provided by private insurers because it was a "right". Apparently, religious rights are trumped by a specious claim of certain health care rights.

More and more "rights" will be discovered by those on the Left, which opens the door for the federal government to step into more aspects of our private and business lives, areas that were never intended to  have government control or interference. We have already seen the limitation of private property rights through environmental constraints; our educational systems at all levels deal with the heavy hand of the federal Department of Education; our health care system has been trampled by federal mandates; and the list goes on. All in the name of preserving "rights".

Step outside the political flash point of birth control and the government telling women what to do with their bodies and look at this dispassionately and what you see is the continuation of a massive power grab by the federal government. Birth control and a woman's control of her body are the straw dog arguments that distract from the growing reach of the federal government into all aspects of our lives. And the reach of government is greatest when it comes to control of our own bodies. Once established, there is no turning back from government control of all our personal decisions.

There is another component to this brouhaha that should be looked at honestly. Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" and was castigated for it. Rightfully so. It was an uncalled for slur.

What I have a hard time understanding though, is the outrage from so many on the left about this. You see, when Bill Maher can call Sarah Palin a "c**t" in his comedy act or a "tw*t" on his television show, not a word was said. When those on the right are called "Nazis"; when the conservative strain of the Republican Party are called "Teabaggers", nothing is said.

Now, lest you think that I am a thin skinned, weak kneed individual that cannot take name calling of the worst kind or criticism, I am not. I can dish it out as well as I take it.

But here is the point...

The public dialogue in our country has coarsened to the point that it is little more than a Jerry Springer show writ large.While there are some voices of reason in the public arena, they are drowned out by the shrill cacophony of a prattling political class that looks to score points for their party or to facilitate their personal power grab.

Respect is non-existent, and an honest and thoughtful dialogue about real issues is impossible in this environment.

Lost in this din is a vision for where this country is going and a recognition of the greatness of this country. Instead, our leaders engage in the politics of "gotcha" and one upmanship to the detriment of the citizenry.

Until our leaders stop yelling at each other, until they stop denigrating each other with the name calling, nothing constructive is going to happen in Washington. Maybe this is the grand plan. It prevents our leaders from constructively addressing the tough issues that we face as a nation.

As citizens, we have to go beyond the white hot sound bite, the name calling, and the vitriol that is spewed by anyone that can grab a microphone and engage in thoughtful analysis of what is happening in Washington and how this is being played out in the media. We must not shallowly accept what the media dishes out or how they frame political issues or events.

Most importantly, we have to examine what we want our government to do and the limits that we believe should be imposed on the reach of government.

And we as citizens have to demand better of our government and our leaders.

The Fluke/Limbaugh blow-up was no fluke (see what I did there). Those that want to push government deeper into our lives had their willing accomplice in Sandra Fluke. Rush Limbaugh took the bait and created a firestorm with his ill chosen words. The ensuing backlash about what Limbaugh said has distracted us from the real issue at hand- the overreach of government into all areas of our daily life.

And that was the intent.

Calling someone a racist, a Nazi, a slut distracts and obscures the real issues that each of us a citizens must address. This is a favorite tactic of politicians of all stripe. Hiding behind the name calling and invective is an effective tactic for those who have a weak argument or political position.

And we as a nation pay the price.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Predators Defeat Desperate Avalanche 4-2

The Nashville Predators faced a desperate Colorado Avalanche team that was fighting for a playoff spot at the Bridgestone Arena. While the Predators may not have felt the same sense of desperation, being firmly ensconced in the 5th spot in the Western Conference, it was important for the the Predators to get back to their "A" game and play with their own sense of desperation and purpose.

Just 1:14 into the game, the Avs put their desperation and drive on display as Jamie McGinn potted a goal from the low slot as the Predators had a mix up in defensive coverage. Roman Josi pursued the puck into the corner and was late getting back into position, leaving McGinn alone in the low slot where he beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne with a quick wrist shot.

Not exactly the start the Predators wanted or needed. Giving early momentum to a hungry hockey team is does not bode well.

The Predators seized the momentum back just 1:40 later as Mike Fisher beat Semyon Varlamov for his 20th goal of the year to tie the game at 1.

The Predators would take a 2-1 lead at 6:58 of the first as former Av Brandon Yip re-directed a Josi shot from the blue line past Varlamov. Yip was screening in front at the top of the blue paint and the shot hit his leg and changed direction past Varlamov.


In the second period, the Predators did a great job of establishing zone possession and controlling the puck, but could not get one past Varlamov, who made several acrobatic saves. The Predators held the Avs without a shot for over 10 minutes in the period, but could not get a puck past Varlamov.

The Avs did get several good scoring chances in the period, as Rinne made two good saves, each time leaving the puck in the paint. Once, Ryan Suter swept the puck away from former Predator Shane O'Brien, and Shea Weber played the puck to the corner past an on-rushing Avalanche forward.

With just a one goal lead and the period winding down, this game had all the hallmarks of a nail-biter going into the third period. That would change at 19:28 of the second as Sergei Kostitsyn gave the Predators some breathing room with a wicked wrist shot that beat Varlamov over his shoulder to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

That two goal lead was important for the Predators as the Avalanche once again had the deficit down to 1 goal as Paul Stastny got loose in the low slot and beat a screened Rinne at 4:58 of the third period.

Yes, it was time to bite those nails once again.

The Predators caught a break in the third as Cody McLeod sent in a shot from the blue line through traffic that hit the crossbar and bounced down behind Rinne, who was able to cover the puck.

The Predators responded to the Avs pressure and were able to hold off their offensive push in the remainder of the third period. The Avs pulled Varlamov for the extra attacker with 1:27 remaining in the game. Paul Gaustad found Marty Erat coming through the neutral zone, and Erat buried the empty net goal at 19:16 of the third to seal a 4-2 win for the Predators.

For the game, the Predators out shot the Avs 31-17.

The Predators have 85 points, 6 ahead of 6rh place Chicago. They trail 4th place Detroit by 4 points with the Wings coming to town on Saturday.

This was a solid, workman-like effort from the Predators. 10 players had a point tonight, and that balance is going to be critical for the Predators in their remaining regular season games and especially in the playoffs.

The quick response of the Predators after the Avs early score was a display of character. The Predators broke down in defensive coverage and it cost them a goal. Getting a quick response was essential in positioning themselves to take control of the game. Colorado is a team that desperately needs points, and they are playing with a sense of urgency. The Predators matched that urgency that Colorado brought to the game and took control of the contest in the second period.

That is character.

And that is what is going to be required in their remaining games.

My three stars:

1. Sergei Kostitsyn

2. Mike Fisher

3. Paul Stastny

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Panthers Become a Pelt on the Predators Wall

The Nashville Predators experienced a family reunion of sorts as they faced several old teammates now with the Florida Panthers in a contest at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise. Across the way, the Predators would see former line mates Marcel Goc, Mike Santorelli, and recently traded Jerred Smithson, as well as Scottie Upshall, who is on injured reserve.

Family or not, the Predators were attempting to put a Panther's pelt on their wall.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators while the Panthers went with Scott Clemmensen.

For the Predators, this was an opportunity to pick up two points against an Eastern Conference opponent and close the gap with St. Louis and Detroit, who sit just above them in the standings. This was going to be no easy task, as the Panthers were desperate for points as well, clinging to a tenuous two point lead over Winnipeg in the Southeast Division.

The Predators faced a strong pus from the Panthers early in the game. Through the first 10 minutes, the Panthers had out shot the Predators 9-2. Rinne made several big saves to keep the Panthers off the board.

The Predators broke through at 11:35 of the first as Andrei Kostitsyn got the puck and some open space and with fired a puck  from the face off circle to the far side post that beat Clemmensen to give the Predators a 1-0 lead on only their third shot of the game.

Shortly after the score, Shea Weber got smoked in the corner by Sean Bergenheim and appeared to be injured. he skated to the bench and his spot was taken by Jack Hillen. After missing a shift, Weber returned for the Predators to the great relief of Predator fans everywhere.

The first period ended with the Predators holding a 1-0 lead but being out shot 15-6. Hopefully the Predators shook off the rust of having a few days off and would come out with more offensive push in the second period.

The Predators opened the second period with much better jump. Martin Erat fought for and got control of the puck behind the Panthers net and found Mike Fisher streaking down the slot. The pass from Erat landed right on the tape of Fisher and his one time chip beat Clemmensen to give the Predators a 2-0 lead just 28 seconds into the period.

The Panthers cut the lead to 2-1 on a nice give and go between Marcel Goc and Wojtek Wolski at 7:29 of the second. Wolski took a pass and had a wide open net into which to shoot the puck as Rinne had to respect Goc who was breaking in on the left side.

The period ended with the Predators holding a 2-1 lead, and the shot on goal was certainly more respectable, favoring the Panthers by a 9-8 margin. The Predators did a better job of moving their feet and controlling the puck in their offensive zone.

The key to the third period was going to be more of the same for the Predators.

The Predators got a bit loose with their defensive coverage and gave up a 2 on 1 and a partial breakaway, but Rinne made some great saves to keep the Panthers from getting the equalizer.

The Predators extended their lead to 3-1 at 7:02 of the period as Andrei Kostitsyn sent David Legwand in on a breakaway. Legwand made a nice fake and got Clemmensen to open the five hole, and Legwand deftly slid the puck through for his 15th goal of the year.

The Predators had some good scoring chances on a breakaway by Craig Fisher and a 2 on 1 with Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher, but Clemmensen was able to make some good saves to keep the score 3-1.

The Panthers pulled Clemmensen with 1:53 to go in the game for the extra attacker. The Predators did a good job of keeping the Panthers bottled up in their zone and didn't allow them to gain easy entry into the offensive zone. Rinne made a huge save on Stephen Weiss to keep the score 3-1 with 38 seconds remaining in the contest.

The Predators ran out the remainder of the clock and skated away with a 3-1 victory and more importantly, two more precious points.

The Predators survived the first period and played a solid 40 minutes. They caught a few breaks as the Panthers misfired on some good scoring chances, and Rinne was once again stellar in net, making 39 saves. for the game, the Panthers out shot the Predators 40-23, which is a disturbing margin.

Rinne won his 36th game, best in the NHL.

It was good to see solid contributions from the newcomers, as Paul Gaustad was solid in the face off circle, and he and Hal Gill had an assist on Andrei Kostitsyn's goal.

This was a solid win for the Predators. They will jump back into Western Conference play next week with three home games against opponents from inside their conference. Sitting solidly in fifth place with 83 points, the Predators look to make a move up the standings with these critical games.

And put another pelt on their wall.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Mike Fisher

3. Andrei Kostitsyn