The Nashville Predators have moved back to the .500 mark after hanging on to defeat the New York Islanders 5-4 on Thursday night (Nov. 17). The Preds jumped out to a 4-1 lead early in the third period before holding off the Islanders’ rally. With four assists, Roman Josi led a group of players with multi-point games to power the team to their third straight victory. While many players have stepped up their game, three of note have been a major part of the team’s recent success.
The former Carolina Hurricane has found a nice groove since joining the team as a free agent. He has four goals and one assist over the past 10 games and leads the team with eight goals. The 30-year-old has been playing on a line with Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, known as the “The RyNo Line.” This group was responsible for both goals in Tuesday night’s victory over the Minnesota Wild. Niederreiter now has ten points in his first 17 games with the Predators, and the five-time 20-goal scorer is on pace to match or exceed that mark.
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The fifth-overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft was the player everyone expected him to be when he signed a two-year, $8 million deal last July. After stints with the Islanders and Wild, he was heavily recruited by three Predators, including Josi, with whom he won a silver medal for Team Switzerland at the 2013 and 2018 World Championships.
Niederreiter has a net-front presence on and off the power play, and he brings an element of toughness to any lineup. The Predators’ physical play was another attraction for Niederreiter, who thought it would be a good fit. “I thought back then, they play a great style of hockey, and now I have a chance to play for them,” he said in July. “So, hopefully, it works out perfect.”
The Hurricanes attempted to sign the veteran, who did have his best season with the team in 2021-22. However, he signed with the Predators, choosing them over the Hurricanes, even though he succeeded in helping them to a deep playoff run last season. In addition to the re-signing of Filip Forsberg, acquiring Niederreiter in free agency has been the team’s best off-season move thus far.
Even though the 29-year-old did not hit the stat sheet against the Islanders, the chemistry with Niederreiter and Duchene has made the “RyNo” line very successful. Johansen and Niederreiter played together over a decade ago with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, and the Vancouver native also helped bring Niederreiter to Smashville.
Another area in which Johansen has been instrumental to the team’s recent success is in the faceoff circle. Heading into the Islanders game, he ranked second in the NHL among players who have taken at least 200 faceoffs with a 64.2 percent success rate. The former Columbus Blue Jacket draft pick has won at least 50 percent of his faceoffs in a franchise-record 20 consecutive games.
Head coach John Hynes praised Johansen after the victory against the Wild: “I think he has played better coming off the road trip. You need those guys to be able to play with pace, be driving guys offensively, and be able to play important minutes, and I thought the last two games have been better.”
After being a lightning rod for disgruntled Predators fans, the chemistry of his line has been vital to the team’s success, as noted by teammate Matt Duchene: “I think we’re on a line that plays fast and hard on the forecheck. We’re three pretty heavy guys in the corner and on the forecheck, and we’re guys that can get over pucks and physically dominate.”
Parssinen has made quite the impression since he arrived in Smashville. After scoring his first NHL goal on his first career shot in a win over the New York Rangers last Saturday (Nov. 12), he followed that up with two goals and an assist on Thursday night. His second goal on Thursday night gave the Predators the final margin of victory over the Islanders in their 5-4 win. This represents a very solid start to his NHL career after only being a seventh-round draft pick in 2019.
The 21-year-old previously played in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, posting 87 points (23 goals and 64 assists) in 134 games with TPS from 2018-22. Last season, he was third on his team and fifth in Liiga in postseason points with 12 on four goals and eight assists. To start this season, he scored two goals and seven assists in 10 games for the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. Even though it is only three games, his improved play over each game, combined with skating on the first line with Forsberg and Mikael Granlund, should allow him to continue to produce consistently for the team throughout the entire season.
These three Predators will look to continue their improved play as the two-time Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning comes to town on Saturday night. Like the Predators, the Lightning started out slow but recently rallied to a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games, averaging 3.8 goals while giving up three goals a game. This is shaping up to be a game that will tell if the Predators’ recent success has been for real.
Jim Bay writes about the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators for THW. A retired Special Education Teacher, Jim enjoys writing about hockey and all sports when he is not slashing his way around local golf courses. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Jim on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/baysports007)