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VOL. 43 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 1, 2019

Arvidsson’s speed keeps Preds near top

By Chip Cirillo

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Celebrations like this have become familiar for right wing Viktor Arvidsson, who leads the Predators in goals with 26 through Monday’s overtime win against Edmonton.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of John Russell | Nashville Predators

Full speed seems to be the only speed for Viktor Arvidsson. His energy, quickness and fearlessness help explain why he’s such a good scorer. “He brings so much to the table with the way he plays the game,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette says of the right wing who leads the Predators with 26 goals despite missing 24 games with a broken thumb and an upper-body injury.

“Certainly, we missed him when he was out of the lineup, but it’s the way he competes. It’s the energy that he brings to the ice.”

Arvidsson skates up and down the ice so quickly that it’s sometimes a challenge for his linemates to keep up.

“The speed he plays with is on another level,” says Ryan Johansen, who plays alongside Arvidsson on the first line. “It’s always tough trying to catch up to him being his centerman. He brings the speed element to our team, which is contagious every game.”

Arvidsson has scored 18 goals since Dec. 31, the most in the NHL during that span. He scored a hat trick in a 7-2 rout of Washington, the defending Stanley Cup champion, on National Hat Day on Jan. 15.

It was almost a four-goal night for Arvidsson, who hit a post with another shot. That was his second career hat trick, igniting Arvi chants from the sellout crowd of 17,336 at Bridgestone Arena.

“Since really Day One, he’s really like an Energizer Bunny out there,” Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis points out. “He works so hard and goes to the dirty areas, whether it be a nice goal he scores with his speed or a greasy one from the crease. He always seems to be in the right position.”

Arvidsson tries to make his presence known with his high-energy style of play every time he hops over the boards.

“I want to make an impression every time I’m on the ice and I feel like I want to do that, and that’s my goal when I hit the ice,” Arvidsson says. “I’m smaller than other guys and I need to go to the areas where it hurts to be successful. And I try to do that every day.”

At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Arvidsson is the second-smallest Predator. Only center Rocco Grimaldi (5-9, 180) is shorter.

But he compensates for his lack of size with speed, toughness and skill.

“He’s kind of strong for being that small,” Los Angeles defenseman Oscar Fantenberg says. “It’s hard to catch him. He goes to the net hard, and he’s kind of heavy for being that small. He’s strong on his stick.”

Arvidsson, Johansen and left wing Filip Forsberg combined to score 58 goals and 127 points on Nashville’s JOFA line entering Monday’s game against Edmonton.

“He’s obviously one of the fastest players, but he’s got a knack for scoring and hanging around the net,” Forsberg says. “Just our line in general, we try to help him out as much as we can with me and Joey trying to get him the puck and get him in the good areas. He’s definitely been finishing off most of the plays.”

Arvidsson and Forsberg are both from Sweden, and Johansen was born in Vancouver.

“We played on the World Juniors under 18s, and I played against him in the junior league back home, so I knew him pretty well,” Forsberg says of Arvidsson.

Forsberg adds the Swedish connection helps, but they try not to go overboard with it. “We’ve got Joey, so we can’t really talk too much Swedish,” says Forsberg, who has 21 goals and 18 assists. “We try to keep him in the loop, as well.”

Johansen, a playmaker with a team-high 42 assists and 11 goals, gets a kick out of Arvidsson’s reactions to goals.

“What I love about Viktor when he’s making big plays is usually when he scores a goal you can just see the passion and the emotion in his face,” Johansen continues. “He just loves the game and loves being successful, and he strives for that every day, so whenever he scores a big goal, it’s fun seeing him and the passion that he brings.”

With 17 games left, Arvidsson has a good chance to match or break his career high of 31 goals set in 2016-17 when Nashville finished second behind Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals.

That’s impressive, considering injuries kept him out of the lineup for most of November and December.

The fourth-year pro scored 29 last year when the Predators made it to the second round of the playoffs, falling to Winnipeg.

“Obviously, he plays on the top line for us and there are very good supporting players for him,” Predators goalie Pekka Rinne says. “Ryan Johansen is a very good passer and Filip Forsberg – unbelievable individual skills – and then there’s Arvi’s speed.

“He’s such a brave player. He goes in front of the net. I think that’s what makes him a very dangerous player.”

Nashville selected Arvidsson in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and he made his NHL debut one year later.

His first playoff goal was an overtime winner against San Jose in 2016. He has five game-winning goals this season.

“He’s so explosive, eh, and he’s so hungry,” Kings coach Willie Desjardins says. “He’s always around the puck, he likes to score, he’s excited about it, he’s opportunistic, so he’s a hard guy to contain. At any time, he can jump on a chance and score. You’ve got to appreciate how hard he plays.”

The Athletic’s Adam Vingan describes Arvidsson as “a pint-sized wrecking ball.”

The seven-year, $29.75-million contract he signed in 2017 appears to be money well spent.

“Yea, he’s been unreal,” Predators captain Roman Josi acknowledges. “I mean, he got hurt for a little bit there, but when he played he’s been unbelievable. He’s one of those guys who gives 100 percent every time he steps on the ice and you can see it with the goals he scores. He never gives up, he’s always in the right place, he always goes to the net and he gets rewarded for it.”

Arvidsson set up Josi’s game-winning goal against the Kings with a behind-the-back pass in last week’s 2-1 victory. Josi roofed a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net after Arvidsson’s pretty pass.

“He plays with a lot of speed and he’s a guy that likes to get inside of you,” Kings left wing Brendan Leipsic says.

Arvidsson’s work ethic dates to long days as a kid on his family’s potato farm in northern Sweden.

“I feel like every night his legs are going and he wants to win the puck battles and he wants to make a difference, so he’s definitely a good role model for a lot of young kids,” Predators defenseman Yannick Weber says. “It’s not his size, it’s the will he has.”

Arvidsson says he hopes inconsistent Nashville can make a strong push during the final five weeks of the season. The Predators began the week second in the Central Division behind Winnipeg, but third-place St. Louis is surging.

“We want to set ourselves up for the playoffs and have home ice,” Arvidsson says. “That’s a huge thing to have when you go into the playoffs, so we’re just going to try to find our game and be more consistent.”

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