NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators finally has started in the sizzling scoring fashion he usually finishes a season.
And the Predators couldn’t be happier.
Forsberg is leading the defending Western Conference champs with 12 goals and 13 assists , and he’s a big reason why Nashville has won 10 of 12, beating Chicago 3-2 Tuesday night. The forward from Ostervala, Sweden, seemingly just picked up this season where he left off in June when he scored a franchise-record 16 points in Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Nashville captain Roman Josi says Forsberg’s scoring has been huge for the Predators.
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“He’s obviously a huge factor in our team,” Josi said. “Whenever he scores, we’re playing well and winning games. Yeah, he’s our top goal scorer, and he’s unbelievable with his shot and everything. We need him to score, and he’s done just that.”
Forsberg opened the season with a goal in the opening loss at Boston, a big improvement from last season, when his first goal came in the 14th game or the 2015-16 season, when he didn’t reach 11 goals until Jan. 8 in the 41st game. Forsberg scored 22 more over the second half of the season to tie the franchise record with 33.
The forward who turns 23 in August has played each game of the past three seasons, and he may be benefitting from playing a bit less this season, averaging 18 minutes, 10 seconds a game. He’s also playing on the same top line with center Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson for a second straight season, and Johansen and Arvidsson each have 17 points.
“Obviously, it brings the best out of every one,” Forsberg said of being comfortable with his linemates.
The Predators easily got the best of their April 2013 trade when they got Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta from Washington. The 11th pick overall in 2012 wound up finishing fourth in the Calder Trophy voting for top rookie in 2014-15, when he led the Predators with 26 goals and 63 points. He also was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team that year.
Forsberg routinely impresses his teammates, including on dazzling goal where he moved the puck between his legs before scoring. The best part for Nashville is that Forsberg is under contract for the salary cap-friendly sum of $6 million a year through 2021-22 .
“He’s already one of the best players in the world, and he’s just going to get better,” Josi said. “I think his shot is really neat. There’s not a lot of guys that can shoot the puck like he can. It’s a really special gift he has, and I’m sure he’s just going to get better and better.”
The Nashville Predators, for now anyway, seem to have gotten the better of the three-team trade that netted center Kyle Turris from Ottawa while sending Matt Duchene from Colorado to Ottawa.
Before Nashville acquired Turris, the Predators averaged 2.67 goals per game and scored on 21 percent of their power plays. In the nine games with Turris, Nashville averaged 3.88 goals per game with the power play jumping to 37 percent . Turris now has seven points with Nashville and is centering Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith on the second line.
Duchene finally scored his first point — a goal — in his eighth game with Ottawa in a 2-1 loss to the Islanders last weekend. Duchene currently has a plus-minus rating of minus-10. The Senators have lost six straight games, with one overtime loss, and are sixth in the Atlantic Division.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
The New York Islanders remain the NHL’s only team without a regulation loss at home this season. They beat Vancouver 5-2 Tuesday night for their fourth straight win and improved to 8-0-2 at the Barclays Center. The Predators (9-1-1) have lost just once in regulation at home where they haven’t lost in a month.
GAME(S) OF THE WEEK
Friday night features a pair of Western Conference showdowns with the Los Angeles Kings visiting the St. Louis Blues. The Vegas Golden Knights visit the Winnipeg Jets.
Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 18; Assists: Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay), 26; Points: Stamkos, 36; Wins: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay), 16; Goals-against average: Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus), 1.92; Save percentage: Bobrovsky, .935.
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