From Sweden to Music City, Forsberg, Arvidsson leading Preds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Predators center Ryan Johansen often hears Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson yelling at each other in Swedish on the ice.

It’s enough to make the man in the middle think about learning a new language.

“I might take a Swedish class this summer or offseason,” Johansen said with a smile.

If the Swedish linemates keep scoring at this rate, the rest of the Predators might take a class too.

With 31 goals, Forsberg has become the first in franchise history with 30 or more goals in consecutive seasons. Arvidsson has 29.

Together, they anchor Nashville’s top line helping the Predators earn a third straight playoff berth.

Only seven other NHL teams have two players among the league’s top 26 goal scorers. Arvidsson needs one goal in the final three games to join Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya in 2005-06 as Nashville’s only duo to score at least 30 goals apiece in the same season.

Johansen, who has 47 assists, said it’s pretty unique having a 30-goal scorer on each wing.

“I’ve kind of taken on that playmaker role, and I’ve really enjoyed playing with those guys,” Johansen said.

“We’ve had a lot of fun and use a lot of creativity, and we feel like we’re tougher at that position to handle.

“Hopefully, we can keep finding ways to have success and help this team win hockey games and have some fun while we do it.”

Both Forsberg and Arvidsson, who grew up about 430 miles apart between Ostevalla and Skelleftea, found very different ways to Music City after both started playing with and against each other as teenagers back in Sweden.

Monday marked the four-year anniversary of Forsberg leaving the Capitals in a trade that brought 2012’s 11th pick overall to Nashville. Forsberg earned a roster spot for the 2014-15 season and has not missed a game since.

He is second in the NHL with 28 goals scored since Dec. 19 and needs two more to tie both the franchise record and his career high set last season.

The Predators signed the 22-year-old Forsberg to a six-year deal last summer , and his game has improved so much they keep him very busy.

“He’s out there when we need to win a game in the offensive zone, and he’s out there when we need to win a game in the defensive zone,” coach Peter Laviolette said.

“His responsibilities have grown. He’s a good leader on our team. It’s been fun watching him develop into the player he is now because right now he’s a real good player for us.”

At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Arvidsson had to work harder to convince scouts to take a chance on him. Even then, the Predators waited until the fourth round in 2014 before taking Arvidsson with the 22nd pick and 112th overall. He broke through last season playing 56 games with Nashville and scoring 16 points.

His first playoff goal was his biggest, forcing a seventh game in a second-round series loss to San Jose.

This season, Arvidsson, who turns 24 on Saturday, has used his speed and aggressiveness to turn in his best season yet. He leads the NHL with five short-handed goals and also has 28 assists, putting him third behind Johansen (61) and Forsberg (58) for most points on the team.

“Everybody looked at Arvy the same way as somebody who could really skate courageous and could fire the puck and has his whole career and has done what he’s doing here at every level that he’s been at,” Laviolette said.

“You’d like to think that next step is going to happen, and when it does happen you’re more than pleased because it’s a big help for your team.”

Helping make Forsberg and Arvidsson comfortable so far from home is Nashville’s growing Swedish contingency. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm is in his fourth full season, while forward Calle Jarnkrok is in his third. Three other Swedes are prospects in the Nashville system.

“Sweden obviously produces a lot of players,” Forsberg said.

And when Forsberg and Arvidsson speak Swedish, it’s only when one needs to say something to the other.

“Sometimes we talk in English too,” Arvidsson said.

The way they’re scoring, the Predators don’t mind at all.

Walker covers sports in Tennessee for The Associated Press, including college sports and the NFL’s Titans, the NBA’s Grizzlies and the NHL’s Predators.