Following a Tuesday off day, the Nashville Predators reconvened as a team Wednesday morning at Centennial Sportsplex. Fresh off a disappointing three-game road trip to California, the Predators will attempt to end their three-game losing streak Friday night when the Edmonton Oilers visit Bridgestone Arena in the front end of a rare back-to-back home set that continues Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild.
There were a few new faces on the ice at Centennial Wednesday thanks to waiver claims Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk putting on Predators gear for the first time. Victor Bartley, recalled from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, also participated in practice.
“Obviously we need change,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “We made a few moves on the roster, but the way that we are playing, we need to win and hopefully this is a little reminder that nothing is set in stone and guys can go in and out of the lineup. We need to make sure we are playing every shift hard, like it is our last. We need to play with that passion and determination and really want to get it and want to win.”
After practice, Predators head coach Barry Trotz indicated that it was likely all three new players would draw into the lineup Friday night. Since three will be among the 20 names Trotz writes on the lineup card, it means that three others will become healthy scratches.
“We have to look at what we think we can use,” Trotz said. “If we are going to put people in, we have to put them in situations where they can succeed. We are going to look at performance. Some guys haven’t been going well all year. Some guys need to go better. If we want to fix the power play, someone is probably going to have to come out of the power play and go into a penalty-killing role or something like that.”
When going through rough stretches, hockey coaches often like to say that they need their best players to be their best players. In the Predators’ recent slide, their best players have not been their best players, but from the look of Wednesday’s practice, it does not appear that David Legwand, Martin Erat, or Sergei Kostitsyn will find themselves in street clothes when the puck drops Friday night.
Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk were wearing light blue jerseys at practice, and those are usually worn by the team’s extra forwards. Halischuk has failed to gain much traction at all this season and has yet to score a goal. Spaling’s play has slipped as of late, and it appears that he may miss his first game of the season Friday.
“Obviously things aren’t going well, so there are going to be changes made,” Spaling said. “That’s the outcome when you have a rough patch. I just have to worry about getting back to playing the way I can play and just working hard to get back in.”
Spaling is second among Nashville forwards in shorthanded time on ice per game at 2:32. Strong penalty killing has usually been a hallmark of the Predators, but the team now sits 26th in the NHL in that category with a 77.2 percent success rate. Nashville has allowed two power-play goals against in each of their last four games.
“Our special teams have gone south the last little while,” Trotz said. “Now the penalty kill is about 50% in the last five games. You can’t win that way.”
On the blue line, look for Jonathon Blum to be the one taken out in favor of Bartley, who is looking to make his NHL debut Friday. While Blum is the likely candidate to come out, Scott Hannan and Ryan Ellis probably should not feel too comfortable with their spots in the lineup either.