NASHVILLE – On Tuesday, Predators forward Brandon Yip posted a goal and an assist, finished plus-two in a 5-4 win against Minnesota and yet found himself a healthy scratch in his team’s next game on Thursday.
Such is life these days for the Nashville Predators. With 14 healthy forwards, coach Barry Trotz has juggled his lineup on a regular basis since picking up Yip via a waiver claim on Jan. 19.
Almost like an NFL coach assembling his game-day roster of 45 players from a 53-man roster with a specific game plan in mind, Trotz said he is now picking his 12 forwards based on the specific opponent. Entering Nashville’s 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday, the Predators had won 13 of 15.
“I look at our individual opponent and say, ‘I think this is our best lineup for this individual opponent,’” Trotz said. “It’s not about who’s playing good, who’s playing bad right now because everyone’s playing OK.”
Trotz said the extra players have been both a “blessing and a curse.” Matt Halischuk was scratched initially to make room for Yip on Jan. 21 but since returning he has a four-game points streak (two goals, three assists). Jerred Smithson, another player who has had to sit out, is one of Nashville’s best faceoff men and penalty killers.
“There hasn’t been any passengers at all,” Trotz said. “Everybody’s bringing their ‘A’ game in their roles. Right now, my biggest challenge is to continue winning and to keep everybody sharp.”
Nonetheless, that message is not easy for a player like Yip when he has to sit out. Trotz said it’s best just to be honest with the player.
“But he understood the reason he was going in was because I wanted to integrate him before the (All-Star) break there,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a balancing act.”
Trotz did not say whether Yip is going back on for a key Central Division game Saturday with St. Louis, but it’s possible as the Blues have a big lineup and Yip is 6 feet 1, 195 pounds. Nashville is just a point behind the second-place Blues.
Here is Nashville’s projected lineup for Saturday night:
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patrick Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Matt Halischuk - Craig Smith - Brandon Yip
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis
Out: Brian McGrattan, Jerred Smithson, Jack Hillen