The Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators are both riding three-game winning streaks as they prepare for their first meeting of the season Saturday night in Nashville.
On the back side of their season-long five-game homestand, the Predators appear to have found a diamond in the rough in 21-year-old rookie Juuso Parssinen.
A seventh-round pick in 2019 (210th overall), Parssinen has blossomed into a point-producer in his first three matches after being recalled from AHL affiliate Milwaukee on Nov. 12.
Parssinen tallied twice — including his first game-winning goal — with an assist Thursday in Nashville’s 5-4 win over the New York Islanders. The matchup also featured Roman Josi recording four assists, Ryan McDonagh playing his 800th NHL game and coach John Hynes winning for the 100th time with the club.
However, the story of the night was Parssinen, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound center from Hameenlinna, Finland. He was the pivot on the top line between left winger Filip Forsberg and right winger Mikael Granlund.
With Nashville ahead 4-3 in the third period, Parssinen parked himself in front of the blue paint and redirected Granlund’s shot from the right circle past goaltender Ilya Sorokin for his first career power-play marker.
Parssinen has tallied on half of his six shots and added one assist since being promoted from the Admirals.
“He’s making life easy for both me and (Granlund),” Forsberg said. “He skates really well. He’s strong on the puck.”
Hynes said Parssinen’s strength is his best asset to the Central Division club, which reached the .500 mark with the triumph.
“He’s a power-first player,” Hynes said. “I thought there were some times in (Tuesday’s) Minnesota game where he was playing a little bit more of a finesse game. I thought tonight he was back to being (powerful) and strong on the puck and being an offensive threat.”
Meanwhile, the Lightning turned to their stars in Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames to conclude the streaking Atlantic Division team’s three-game stretch on home ice.
Nikita Kucherov scored twice, Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong in a 39-save performance.
Kucherov has been dangerous to opposing goalies lately. The right winger has produced nine goals and nine helpers in his past 12 games. Six of those points have been on the power play.
Stamkos, 32, had a hot start to his season, connecting seven times in the first five games. Then he rode out a 10-game goalless spell before potting one against Dallas.
Now with goals in consecutive games, the two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner said he doesn’t get upset these days with brief droughts.
“Every year is just the ebbs and flows,” said Stamkos, in his 15th NHL season. “It wasn’t going to go as hot as it was in the beginning of the year and it wasn’t going to go as cold as it was there for a bit. Things even out during the course of a long season.
“Certainly having a couple of kids at home eases the mental side of it. To be honest, maybe earlier (in my career) I would have lost some sleep. But it’s nice to know I’m still their favorite player whether I score or not.”
The Markham, Ontario, native owns 991 career points and posted his 500th career assist on the overtime game-winner against Dallas.
–Field Level Media