Nashville residents trying to learn guitar better be prepared. Their hockey team’s newest star might just join their class.
Predators center Matt Duchene is looking to strum the instrument a little better after moving to the country music capital. He signed a seven-year, $56 million deal with Nashville in free agency this offseason and is trying to adjust to his new surroundings.
He likes what he sees so far.
“It’s been awesome, just with this group and living in Nashville,” Duchene said. “It’s exactly what I was looking for. My wife and I are really happy and really at peace with where we’re at.”
Duchene knew he would have options in free agency. The 28-year-old tied a career-high with 70 points in 2018-19 despite being traded from Ottawa to Columbus three days before the deadline.
He had 10 points in 10 playoff games for the Blue Jackets and helped the franchise to its first-ever playoff series win. Still, he knew what he wanted.
He wanted to play for a Stanley Cup. He wanted a place where he and his wife, Ashley, could have some space for themselves while raising their infant son, Beau, the way they wanted. Those things drew him to Nashville, and the avid country music fan said everything else that came with the decision was just a bonus.
“Everyone kind of wants to draw that conclusion (that) I went to Nashville because of the music,” Duchene said. “It’s a great perk, but the biggest thing is the hockey team, the fan base, the organization. That’s No. 1.”
It appears to be a good fit. Entering Saturday’s game against Florida, Duchene had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven games with the Predators and has given the two-time defending Central Division champions needed scoring depth.
He’s also given them another left-hand shot on their right-hand dominated first power-play unit. That’s something the team was sorely lacking last season when it finished last in the NHL at 12.9 percent.
“He’s really helped out on a lot of areas,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think just his game in general is dynamic. He’s a dynamic one-on-one player. He’s provided a lot of offense, and he’s fit in really well in the room.”
He’s fit in well in Nashville, too, and wants to keep laying down roots in his new home. That includes his guitar lessons, though he said he’s good enough now to play around a campfire.
“I grew up with country music from the time I was a little boy,” Duchene said. “It’s kind of funny. I think that passion drew me, prior to being in Nashville, to go there on trips and stuff. I just discovered more about it. It’s kind of cool how your life comes full circle and sometimes you end up places because of the way you were brought up.”
Avalanche keep relying on stars
The Colorado Avalanche (6-0-1) acquired multiple depth forwards this offseason to take the pressure off the top line of left wing Gabriel Landeskog, center Nathan MacKinnon and right wing Mikko Rantanen.
That hasn’t really happened early in the season. But the team keeps winning.
Last season, the three players averaged 21:22 of ice time and accounted for 261 of the Avalanche’s 687 points (38 percent). This season, entering Saturday’s game at Tampa Bay, they’re averaging 21 minutes and have scored 26 of 75 points (35 percent).
Olofsson emerges for Sabres
Another early success story are the Buffalo Sabres (6-1-1). Former seventh-round pick Victor Olofsson is having a breakout season (six goals, two assists) to give the team another scoring threat.
RJ’s best and worst
Review-Journal hockey writer Ben Gotz gives his best and worst NHL teams each week (Record and goal differential are through Friday):
1. Colorado Avalanche (6-0-1, +10)
Their only blemish is an OT loss to Pittsburgh. They’re doing OK.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (6-3-0, +5)
Coach Rod Brind’Amour, aka “Rod the Bod,” has a good-looking team.
3. Boston Bruins (5-1-1, +5)
Someone outside of their top line is going to need to score.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (6-2-0, +12)
The way they’re lighting up opponents is impressive with so many key injuries.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-2-1, +6)
They seem to be settling in after some early hiccups.
27. Dallas Stars (1-7-1, -13)
A team that started with Stanley Cup aspirations shouldn’t be this bad. But what was Bill Parcells’ old saying?
28. Los Angeles Kings (2-5-0, -11)
Thirty-one goals allowed in seven games. That’s a lot.
29. Ottawa Senators (1-4-1, -8)
They get a break from the bottom after grabbing three points last week.
30. New Jersey Devils (1-4-2, -13)
Assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald is now an assistant coach. Not a good sign.
31. Minnesota Wild (1-6-0, -15)
The “State of Hockey” might be in for a long season.