Juuse Saros Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — The Nashville Predators began play in the second half of the NHL season in much better shape than many anticipated. They are in second place in the Western Conference’s Central Division at 28-14-4,  eight points behind the Colorado Avalanche whom they defeated last month at Bridgestone Arena. Most predictions before the season had the Predators in the lower end of the Central Division, but they have surpassed expectations, and gotten strong seasons from several players.

Goalie Juuse Saros was the team’s only selection for the NHL All-Star Game. He was voted the NHL’s Second Star of the Month for January. He was 8-2-2 for the month with a 2.49 goals against average and .934 save percentage.  He ranks third in save percentage for all goalies who’ve played more than 30 games, first in starts, is tied for third in wins and tied for seventh in both goals against average and shutouts. He won 10 of 11 games from Dec. 4-Jan. 11.

But he’s not been the Predators’ only standout. Captain Roman Josi was selected as an injury replacement, and he finished second in the NHL Fountain Face-Off during the NHL All-Star Skills competition. Josi ranks first on the Predators in points with 43 and is fourth among NHL defensemen in points and second in goals with 13. 

Filip Forsberg has been among the hottest players in the NHL, with his only problem being injuries that have cost him some games. But n the 33 he’s played, Forsberg has scored 24 goals and has 38 points,  Matt Duchene is having his best season with 21 goals, 20 assists and 41 points overall. 

The only issue of concern is Saros’ minutes. He leads the NHL with 2,252 in 38 games. It will be interesting to see over the final 36 games how often second team goalie David Rittich plays. The Predators return home Saturday against Winnipeg.