NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Despite a second straight Central Division championship this season the Predators belief has been tested.
Injuries to stars P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, and the suspension of Austin Watson led to inconsistent play and even a six game losing streak at one point. That left the Predators looking for answers - and reinforcements - at the trade deadline.
“All the additions we picked up were for reasons we felt we needed going into the playoffs,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said.
With the Predators getting pushed around by physical foes during a February slump, Hall of Fame General Manager David Poile went to work making four separate trades.
The deals included the acquisitions of 6’7 Brian Boyle from the Devils and Wayne Simmonds from the Flyers. Both give the Preds some more heft ahead of a grueling playoff run.
“The intensity ramps up,” Simmonds said. “Everybody starts hitting, every single guy in the lineup hits and it’s just exciting hockey.”
Boyle came to Nashville from a last place team in New Jersey. The 34 year old isn’t taking the opportunity to join a contender for granted, and has rewarded the Predators with five goals.
“Being where I was in the standings for a good portion of the year to having this opportunity is something I’m really excited about,” Boyle said. “I’m really fortunate, so I’m trying to make the most of that.”
Nashville also acquired speedy forward Mikael Granlund from Minnesota. He’s averaged over 60 points the past three seasons, and the Predators hope he can spark a struggling second line.
“I’ve been feeling better every game pretty much,” Granlund said. “Last few games I felt really good. We’ve been getting chances as a line and I’m sure they’re going to go in at some point.”
The new acquisitions have combined for just seven goals and six assists so far. But they’ve changed the makeup of the roster to make it more playoff ready.
They are also starting to gel with their new teammates, and the Preds believe that can pay big dividends during a run to the Stanley Cup.
“It is very rare to have chemistry and guys clicking right away,” Predators top line center Ryan Johansen said. “So I expected as we were winding down the season to feel more comfortable with each other and get some better results and I think that’s what we saw.”
The new guys look to make an impact in game one tonight against the Stars, with a little boost from the famed Smashville playoff crowd they’ve only heard about until now.
“The last game we had there was such a great feeling,” Granlund said of the team’s Central Division clinching win over the Blackhawks Saturday. “I can’t wait just to go out there and play in front of those fans. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be crazy and hopefully we can bring our A-game.”