Professional Hockey In Tennessee Is Heating Up
The weather outside is warm, no wait it’s cold. While the weather may not be able decide what it wants to do, the hockey season is heating up. We are quickly approaching the end of the regular season for both the NHL and the SPHL. Both Tennessee teams are in good position to make a run at their respective titles; Knoxville is sitting pretty, having already locked up a playoff spot. It’s time to take off the gloves and throw down some hockey knowledge.
The Nashville Predators are currently residing in the 5th playoff spot, holding onto a healthy 81 points. Detroit and St. Louis are tied for points with 87 each; Detroit holding the lead with a game in hand. Nashville also sits six points ahead of Chicago. Nashville made major moves at the trade deadline by acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad for a 2013 second-round draft pick and a 2012 first-round draft pick, respectively. Kostitsyn will join his brother on the team who has been phenomenal for the Preds this season. Gaustad adds much-needed size and grit to the team as they vie for a deep playoff run.
Nashville also traded for defenseman Hal Gill days before the deadline. The pieces are in place for the Predators to make a substantial run at the Stanley Cup now, and only time will tell if these new pieces will help or hinder this team. The future does look bright for Nashville either way.
Knoxville’s own Ice Bears have secured their 10th consecutive trip to the postseason. As this goes to print, Knoxville is the only team of the three remaining original SPHL teams to have actually landed a playoff spot. Knoxville started the season off on fire and fought valiantly for the top seed in the SPHL. They held that spot for a day before going on a skid after losing goalie Bryan Hince when he was called up to a higher league. Coach Craigen eventually had to find a goalie that could help the Bears return to their winning ways and he seemed to find that in current net minder Kyle Rank. Grabbed from college, Rank has given Knoxville the structure they needed between the pipes. In nine games with the Bears he has recorded a 6-1-2 record including Knoxville’s first and only shutout of the season. Rank’s goals against isn’t the greatest at 2.66 a game but his 92 percent save rate has kept the Bears in games and winning again.
With only a handful of games left in the regular season, Knoxville still have a chance to take the top seed as they sit only seven points behind defending champions Augusta. Even with a playoff spot set, Knoxville would be wise not to sit idly by and watch other teams make their moves for a deep run. Now is probably the most important time for the Bears to bring it every game and allow that momentum to carry over into the playoffs. Hold on tight folks because this next month’s ride is going to be extremely bumpy.