Predators ready to bring 'spirited game' against Blackhawks


Predators ready to bring 'spirited game' against Blackhawks

After Game 3 of their opening-round playoff series against the Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators were still feeling pretty good about their performance despite their 4-2 loss.

Sure, there were some things they would have liked to do better, and the Predators have since addressed those areas heading into Game 4 inside the United Center.

[RELATED - Blackhawks: Shaw, Ribeiro ready to move on after Game 3 punch]

"We weren't skating as well as we had in the previous two games," Colin Wilson said. "I think they did a good job with their back pressure and it's something we usually use as our identity is back pressure. I don't think we were skating the way that we could have."

Now the Predators find themselves down by one in the series heading into Game 4. And while they said they address every playoff game as a must-win, they're not looking to change too many things against the Blackhawks on Thursday night.

"I think we've taken every game with the same approach," Wilson said. "You don't want to go two behind to a team in a series, but I think we've played every game like a must-win and if we keep playing the same way, we can [go far]."

Head coach Peter Laviolette has been happy with what he's seem overall from his team, and isn't worried about a lack of effort or energy as the playoffs continue.

"I don't think they were holding anything back in Games 1, 2 and 3. Playoffs are playoffs, each games are their own individual identity. Our guys, they seem to give an honest effort and they played hard. We didn't get results, and it's about results in the playoffs."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Now the Predators will aim to achieve those results tonight. For Nashville, it's about fixing some little areas — and adjusting in the absence of Shea Weber and Mike Fisher — but keeping their style of game the same.

"I don't think it was a lack of effort, or energy or wanting to do well," Laviolette said. "I believe that they'll bring a spirited game to the rink tonight. I believe their heads and energy will be in the right place and we'll take on the Blackhawks. But there's a lot of confidence in our room that if we play a certain way and certain style and execute, we can find success for sure."

Hawks Talk Podcast: Predicting who Blackhawks will take at No. 3 overall


Hawks Talk Podcast: Predicting who Blackhawks will take at No. 3 overall

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Slavko Bekovic and Charlie Roumeliotis react to the Olli Maatta trade and how this impacts the Blackhawks' defensive group. Is this the first of more moves to come?

The guys then break down their top-three candidates for the Blackhawks at No. 3 overall and predict who the pick will be on Friday. They also discuss how the Blackhawks' selection may impact the offseason and the big picture going forward.

0:40 – Initial reaction to the Olli Maatta trade

3:45 – How Maatta fits with the Blackhawks

7:45 – Filling Dominik Kahun’s spot

10:00 – Maatta’s contract situation

11:00 – Our top-3 draft predictions

18:30 – Official predictions on who the Blackhawks will pick

24:30 – Is there a wrong pick in the top 10?

27:30 – If the Blackhawks don’t pick D, the forward is…?

29:30 – How the Blackhawks selections shape the offseason

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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How Erik Karlsson’s extension with Sharks impacts Blackhawks, Western Conference


How Erik Karlsson’s extension with Sharks impacts Blackhawks, Western Conference

The 2019 NHL free agent class — both restricted and unrestricted — is absolutely loaded. But perhaps the biggest fish of them all has already been taken off the board.

Erik Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks have agreed to an eight-year extension worth $11.5 million per year, according to Cap Friendly, becoming the highest-paid defenseman in league history. It’s a significant move for the Sharks, who are looking to keep the band together and take a few more stabs at a Stanley Cup before their window starts to close — Joe Thornton is 39, Joe Pavelski turns 35 in July, Brent Burns is 34, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is 32 and Logan Couture is 30.

How the Sharks make the math work going forward will be fascinating to monitor. Thornton, if he doesn't decide to hang up the skates, is a UFA. Same with Pavelski, who is coming off one of the most productive seasons of his career. Both of those players have become part of the Sharks identity, but their futures aren't guaranteed. And then there are guys like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier, both of whom are RFAs and due big raises.

So how does the Karlsson extension impact the Blackhawks and the rest of the Western Conference?

For starters, the UFA defensemen class just got thinner and that could lead to overpayment across the board from teams looking for impact-type blue-liners because general managers that are looking to make a splash don’t want to come away empty-handed. The Blackhawks were never going to be in on Karlsson, but his contract set the market for this year's class and the fact the signing came before the NHL Draft now gives teams that would've been in on Karlsson an opportunity to refocus ahead of the negotiating period.

In the bigger picture, the Sharks just solidified themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders for at least the next couple seasons. While the Karlsson contract may not look the greatest on the back half, given his durability issues, the Sharks had no choice but to offer him a blank check. When healthy, he is a game-changer and a two-time Norris Trophy winner who's still in his prime, and if the Sharks win a title in the next couple years then it was well worth it. You don't let players like him walk.

The Blackhawks are expected to be aggressive over the next several weeks, particularly in free agency but also continuing to explore the trade market. We already saw that when they acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins, a move that could only be the first of many this offseason. The West might be top heavy, but this past season proved that any team can turn it around quickly and the Blackhawks need to do everything in their power to make sure they're one of those teams.

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