Slumping Predators try to contain Frank Vatrano, young Ducks

League: NHL

Posted on: 14 Nov, 2023 at 12:45 AM

Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Vatrano will try to continue one of the hottest starts in team history when the Anaheim Ducks visit the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.

Vatrano has 11 goals through the first 14 games this season, including two hat tricks.

He scored two more goals on Sunday night in a 4-1 win against the visiting San Jose Sharks.

His 11 goals through the first 14 games are tied for the most in Ducks history with Troy Terry (2021-22), Corey Perry (2014-15), Teemu Selanne (1997-98) and Paul Kariya (1995-96).

"My linemates have made it easy on me," Vatrano said. "As a group, we've played well. No matter who you're on the ice with, they make the game easy on me."

Greg Cronin, in his first season as an NHL head coach, said Vatrano is easy to coach because he plays with such high energy and he's accountable for his play throughout the ice.

"When you're trying to coach players to a level they're not comfortable playing at, he's an easy guy to push himself to those zones," Cronin said. "Frankie's DNA is to play at that level all the time."

Vatrano's not the only one earning praise from Cronin.

Mason McTavish is tied with Vatrano for the team lead in points with 15 (seven goals, eight assists). McTavish also leads the NHL with six third-period goals, adding to that total with a goal Sunday against the Sharks.

Anaheim rookie defenseman Pavel Mintyukov assisted on McTavish's goal to give him 10 points (one goal, nine assists), which was third among NHL rookies entering the week.

Another rookie, Leo Carlsson, had the primary assist on McTavish's goal, giving him eight points (six goals, two assists) through his first 10 NHL games.

"It's fun to watch them," Cronin said of McTavish, Carlsson and Mintyukov. "(McTavish) is getting better every game. He's a real student of the game. He's always trying to find ways to get better, and (Mintyukov) is just a quiet guy that contributes every night. He's stronger than most people think defensively, so those three guys are great cornerstones for the organization."

The Predators will be trying to turn around their fortunes after dropping the past three games, giving up 17 goals along the way.

"For sure there's frustration," Predators coach Andrew Brunette said. "We've left points on the board in probably 12 of our 14 games. That's frustrating to me. If it's frustrating to me, I know it's frustrating to (the team). Again, it's a little bit of redundancy. We talk about it day in and day out, and we just keep doing it, so something has to change here a bit."

Nashville had leads of 2-0 and 4-2 against the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, but it gave up three straight goals over a 12-minute span of the second period and two more over the final 3 1/2 minutes of the third in a 7-5 loss.

The Predators' penalty kill success rate has fallen to 68.1 percent, second-lowest in the NHL.

"We still believe in here," Predators center Ryan O'Reilly said. "It's not going to be easy, but we have to dig our way out of this."

--Field Level Media