After dressing seven defensemen for the last five games, Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz made the decision to go with the more traditional allotment of six blueliners when he filled out his lineup card prior to Tuesday night’s home game against the visiting San Jose Sharks.
Hal Gill was the odd man out against the Sharks.
After 60 minutes of scoreless hockey, the teams headed into overtime.
Just over two minutes into the extra session, and the teams skating 4-on-4, Ryan Ellis calmly carried the puck into the San Jose zone. When he saw an opening, he sent a shot towards San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi.
Colin Wilson tipped Ellis’ shot, and that was turned aside by Niemi, but Wilson was able to swat the rebound in with his backhand to give the Predators the 1-0 win.
“It was a great play by Willy,” Ellis said. “He went to the net, stick on the ice, and the puck got through. He tipped it in which is perfect. It’s exactly what we preach here.”
Asked about the goal, Wilson was quick to return the praise in the direction of the second-year defenseman.
“He’s great with the puck and he reads everything extremely well,” Wilson said. “It was good play on the 4-on-4, it was really all him.”
Listed at 5’10”, Ellis is not the biggest of stature, but the 4-on-4 format of overtime gives him a little more open ice to work with and create plays, and that is a big reason why the coaching staff feels comfortable putting him out on the ice in those types of situations.
“Usually when you have little bit of open ice, the real skilled guys can do things,” Trotz said. “That’s sort of the uniqueness of the 4-on-4. I love the way he was patient. He didn’t panic. People were going by him and he just held onto it and we were able to get some inside position on a guy and he threw it there and we were able to chip it in.”
Ellis has won the Memorial Cup, World Junior gold, and countless individual awards up to this point in his career. Being a winner was one of the things that was most attractive to the Predators when they selected him with the 11th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
“He is one of those players that has great poise,” Trotz said. “And he is not afraid of the big moments. That’s why Ryan Ellis has been a winner everywhere he has been; in junior, at the World Juniors, everywhere he plays, he is a winner. He defines the moment, he doesn’t let the moment define him.“