Top-six Nashville forward Sergei Kostitsyn wasn’t on the ice Thursday morning, but for a change it wasn’t because the Predators’ game-day skate was optional.
Kostitsyn will sit out in Vancouver on Thursday night with what coach Barry Trotz labeled an upper-body injury suffered during a 1-0 loss in Calgary on Tuesday. The rest of the Predators skated, something they hadn’t always been forced to do lately.
“Our skates aren’t optional anymore,” Trotz said. “I changed it because our games started becoming optional so we won’t have optional skates until we get this corrected.”
“This” is a 1-4-1 stretch that includes the shutout loss to the Flames and just three goals in their last three games. Losing Kostitsyn might hurt if he was playing like the guy tied for team lead in scoring last season, but he only has three goals on the season and none in the last 11 games, a stretch in which he only had points (three assists) in one game.
Trotz said “a plethora” of wingers will replace him on the second line, but atop the list for the first shot is rookie Craig Smith, who leads the team with seven goals and 17 points, and has shown signs of chemistry with center Mike Fiscer. Kyle Wilson, called up from the AHL after Blake Geoffrion was hurt in Edmonton on Monday, will make his season debut centering the fourth line, but Trotz isn’t expecting him to help a sputtering offense. He does expect his forwards to spend more time in front of the opposing net.
That’s especially true against a goalie as hot as Canucks starter Cory Schneider.
“He’s seeing the puck right now, everything seems to be in slow motion for him,” said Trotz, who did give his team Wednesday off before wrapping up their second five-game road trip already this season in Vancouver. “You have to get to the net and take his eyes away. A goaltender is less of a goaltender if he can’t see the puck.”
According to Trotz, too many goalies are seeing it too easily against his team.
“We were just too light on the puck, staying on the perimeter too much. We’re going to gave to get to the interior tonight,” continued Trotz, citing Patrick Hornqvist as the one of the few that does it enough. “We need more guys to do that, we’ve got some guys that don’t want to go there. … We have to be a bit more determined to get pucks to the net. We don’t have that shot first mentality, we got a pass-first mentality, a turnover mentality and we just gotta put pucks into that blue paint and go get them.”
Here are the lines Trotz will likely use at Rogers Arena tonight.
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Martin Erat - Mike Fisher – Craig Smith
Jordin Tootoo – Jerred Smithson - Nick Spaling
Matt Halischuk – Kyle Wilson - Brian McGrattan
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Jack Hillen - Kevin Klein
Jonathan Blum - Roman Josi
Pekka Rinne will start in goal, and is hoping for better luck after being victimized by terrible bounces during a 5-1 loss in Vancouver in late October, while Anders Lindback will back up.