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in F r e i s t i l 11.10.2018 08:04
von liny195 • 268 Beiträge

It might be a case of the rich getting richer.

When the Nashville Predators host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night Womens Eric Berry Jersey , they might put 18-year old Eeli Tolvanen in the lineup for his NHL debut, adding potentially more scoring punch to one of the league’s most explosive teams.

Tolvanen scored 19 goals and added 17 assists in 49 games with Jokerit (Finland) in Russia’s KHL, then tallied six goals and an assist in 11 playoff matches. Shortly after his team was bounced from the playoffs, Tolvanen signed a three-year entry-level contract with Nashville.

He arrived in the Music City on Thursday and has practiced with the team the last two days. Coach Peter Laviolette won’t divulge until Saturday if Tolvanen will be in the lineup, but with the team playing a huge game in Tampa Bay on Sunday, common sense would dictate a softer landing spot for his first NHL game.

Regardless, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Tolvanen is ready to test his skills in the world’s best league.

“It feels kind of crazy that I’m here right now,” Tolvanen said. “It’s been crazy, all the immigration things, all the packing and saying goodbye to all my teammates. It was tough, but it feels good to be here right now. I’m excited to be here.”

Tolvanen’s possible debut is just one storyline from what could be a historic night for the Predators (50-16-11). If they beat Buffalo (24-41-12) and Winnipeg loses in regulation at Toronto, they will wrap up their first division title in franchise history.

Nashville’s 5-3 victory over San Jose on Thursday night allowed it to set a franchise record for points with 111, as well as reach the 50-win mark for the second time in team history. It has a three-point lead on Tampa Bay for the NHL’s best record.

The Predators got a tie-breaking goal halfway through the third period from Ryan Ellis and 39 saves from Juuse Saros, including 24 in a wild third period that saw the Sharks’ Logan Couture fail on a potential game-tying penalty shot with less than two minutes left.

“He really did put on an unbelievable performance, especially in the third period,” Laviolette said.

Saros (9-5-7, 2.46 goals-against average, .925 save percentage) might get another start against the Sabres, even though Laviolette usually plays him on the back end of back-to-backs to get starter Pekka Rinne a rest. Rinne (41-11-4, 2.25 Braden Smith Jersey , .929) blanked Buffalo 4-0 on March 19, making 35 saves.

The Sabres come into town fresh off a 6-3 loss at home Thursday night to Detroit. It will be a homecoming of sorts for first-year coach Phil Housley, who was an assistant for Laviolette the last three years, helping Nashville make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring.

“Saturday night in Nashville is really a tough place to play, and the crowd will be roaring,” Housley said to the Buffalo News. “It’s one of the most entertaining places.”

Chad Johnson (9-13-3, 3.32, .897) will start in net for the Sabres, who own wins in their last two visits to Bridgestone, including a 5-4 verdict last season in which Jack Eichel scored the game-winner in overtime.

Injuries prevented the Texans from finding out exactly what their team could have been last season.

Star defensive end J.J. Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus and quarterback Deshaun Watson were among 21 Houston players that spent time on injured reserve during the 2017 campaign. The season predictably imploded, ending with six straight losses.

But before the avalanche of injuries, the Texans gave the eventual AFC champion New England Patriots all they could handle during a Week 3 visit to Gillette Stadium.

Despite having a rookie signal caller in Watson, the Texans' offense matched touchdowns with the Patriots. Houston was headed for an improbable victory before Tom Brady rescued his team with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks in the final minute to give New England a 36-33 victory.

Now healed and with a revamped defense, the Texans return to New England on Sunday, hoping to put their misfortunes in the past as they open the 2018 season.

That is particularly true in the case of Watt, who has had parts of the past two seasons derailed by injuries .

He played just three games in 2016 before being sidelined with a herniated disc. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year then appeared in five games last season before having his year ended by a fractured left tibia.

"I'm just looking forward to playing football again," Watt said. "Obviously the last two years have been very rough for me. You want to play and everything that I've had to go through in the rehabs and the recoveries and all that it took and then, obviously, (Hurricane Harvey) as well.

"But I'm just looking to getting back out on the field, playing football DeShone Kizer Jersey , flying around with the guys, doing what I love."

Meanwhile, the Patriots begin yet another season as the favorite in a conference they have dominated for nearly two decades thanks to Brady. He's now 41, but has yet to show any signs of diminished capacity coming off an MVP season.

He'll have a new-look receiving corps following the offseason departures of Danny Amendola and Cooks, as well as the four-game suspension of Julian Edelman for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancers.

Though he's already secured his place in the Hall of Fame and may possibly end his career as the most accomplished quarterback in league history, Brady reiterated this week in the final installment of his Facebook Watch series "Tom Vs Time" that he wants to play five more seasons .

"I think I can do it," he said. "It'll be a challenge for me. I don't think it's going to be easy. It's going to be hard to do. I think it's going to be very hard to do. But I think I can do it. And once you stop you're done. And I think I'm not ready to say I'm done, because I don't feel like I am."

Here are some other things to know about Sunday's matchup between the Texans and Patriots:

CLOWNEY COMING: After having the best season of his career in 2017, Jadeveon Clowney is looking to do even more this year as part of a line that also features Watt.

The top overall pick in the 2014 draft finished last year second in the NFL with a career-high 21 tackles for losses, and his 9 1/2 sacks, 21 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles were also career bests. He started all 16 games for the first time after struggling with injuries through the early part of his career, and his 59 tackles in 2017 were the most of his career.

"My goal is to make more plays than I did last year ... improving my sacks and tackles for loss and everything," he said. "I just want to do that again. With everybody back this year the sky's the limit for this defense and myself. I just have to come out and put it all together."

SPOTLESS RECORD: Houston is one of four teams New England has an undefeated regular-season home record against (4-0). The Patriots are 5-0 against Baltimore, 4-0 against Chicago and 4-0 against Jacksonville.

The Patriots also have won the last five regular-season meetings with the Texans overall.

HAVING HIS WAY: Aside from his late-game heroics last season, Brady has been equally steady against the Texans during his career. He has an 8-1 record against Houston, passing for 22 touchdowns and 2,565 yards (regular season and playoffs).

CONTAINING WATSON: Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower will be playing in his first regular-season game since suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last October. He said he's excited about the challenge of trying to contain Watson, who had his way with the Patriots in their meeting last season, passing for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Hightower said putting pressure on Watson early will be key to trying to slow him down.

"I think that's the biggest thing ... just not letting those guys get comfortable inside the pocket," Hightower said. "Hopefully we'll do a good job this week containing him in the run and pass game."

AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.

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