Two days later, he had another two-assist performance, this time against the Detroit Red Wings, in Nashville’s second straight win.
Prior to Saturday, he had just two assists in his last 16 games played.
Both of Saturday’s helpers were secondary assists, but Monday’s were of the primary variety, both coming on goals by Colin Wilson.
Early in the first, Jones started a break out of the Nashville zone, finding Wilson at the red line, and Wilson charged into the Detroit zone, beating a rusty Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot from the high slot.
In the third, just 37 seconds after Detroit made it a one-goal game, Jones aggressively carried the puck though the neutral zone and cut toward the left boards. Pivoting to his forehand, Jones again found Wilson, who finished the play with a nice backhand up high over Howard.
“We’ve done a great job of burying the puck, moving it around, working it around pretty well,” Jones said following Tuesday’s practice. “My assists are coming off of good d-zone play and kind of rush chances. Willy buried both of those last night.”
Early in the season, Jones was thrust onto Nashville’s top defensive pairing after Roman Josi sustained a concussion in the team’s second game. Playing 25 minutes a night and sometimes more can be difficult on any defenseman, let alone a 19-year-old rookie.
Making things even more difficult was the fact that the right-handed Jones was playing mostly on the left side, paired with two-time Norris Trophy runner up Shea Weber.
“He’s showed that he’s capable of playing those big minutes,” Weber said. “He did it early. It’s a long season, so they’re trying to find a happy medium.”
In early December however, Predators head coach Barry Trotz and assistant Phil Housley pulled Jones’ minutes way back, even into the single digits some games.
“Unfortunately Jos went down early and I tried to step in and do the best I could during that time,” Jones said. “I was probably playing too many minutes and obviously they brought it down.”
As the coaching staff looks to find the right situations and amount of playing time for Jones, he has responded well. Trotz and Housley have the luxury of throwing Weber and Josi out on the ice for half the game and then some, so managing the minutes of the other defenseman is made somewhat easier, especially in home games when they have the last change.
“Right now, Jonesy is feeling it a lot better than he did three weeks ago,” Trotz said. “In junior, just skill-based, he could probably just float through a game or two and you would barely notice the difference. Up here you don’t have that chance.”
In addition to his two assists Monday night, Jones nearly had a highlight reel goal of his own off of an impressive toe-drag move in tight, only to be denied by Howard.
“It was a pretty good save by him,” Jones said. “It rolled on me at the last second. I tried to get it up a little higher, but it just didn’t happen.”
Moves like that one, as well as the assists on both of Wilson’s Monday night goals, have caught the eye of the coaching staff.
“With Jonesy or any young player, you can tell when they are confident when they want the puck,” Trotz said. “When they don’t want the puck and they are just sort of throwing it away for no reason, they are not confident. They don’t trust their own instincts, their own skill base. The last couple games, it looks like he is getting that feel back.”