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With Sullivan out, Predators turn to Wilson

By John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

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With Sullivan out, Predators turn to Wilson
With veteran forward Steve Sullivan ailing, the Predators will turn to 21-year-old Colin Wilson for Game 4 tonight against the Canucks.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz announced that 21-year-old forward Colin Wilson will take the spot of the injured Steve Sullivan in Thursday's Game 4 against Vancouver at Bridgestone Arena (8:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

Trotz also said that the return of Sullivan at any point during the series is "probably very doubtful." Sullivan has a lower body injury.

The 6-foot-1, 214-pound Wilson, the seventh pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, had 16 goals and 18 assists while playing in all 82 regular-season games, but Thursday will mark his 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff debut.

"Given the opportunity, I just really want to take advantage of it," Wilson said before Trotz made things official. "I've been in that situation a few times in the past last year, just getting called up. I just wanted to prove myself and help the team win and that's the exact same mentality I want to have -- with quite a bit more confidence having played an 82-game schedule already."

"In the first series, I'll be quite honest, I don't think Colin handled it as well and as maturely as a young man should. … I think he's past it now. I've seen a new energy in him and a new determination and I'm hoping for good things from him." -- Barry Trotz

Trotz said Wilson was "shocked and disappointed" when he was not in the lineup for the first round. Trotz said he expected Wilson to play with more urgency.

"But (he) had a pretty decent year for us," Trotz said. "I thought the latter part of the season he fell off and as we got into those real tough last 20 games his game fell off and other people stepped in and did a little better job and therefore he lost his spot. In the first series, I'll be quite honest, I don't think Colin handled it as well and as maturely as a young man should.

"But that's part of the development process that everyone goes through. A lot of the players have never been sat out, have never been cut, and they've made every team. They've been the top guy and sometimes that's hard for a young person to deal with. I think he's past it now. I've seen a new energy in him and a new determination and I'm hoping for good things from him."

Because Nashville relies on a five-man unit to defend -- Trotz has talked extensively in this series about his comfort playing his No. 2 defense pair, including 22-year-old rookie Jonathon Blum, against each of Vancouver's dangerous top two lines for that reason -- Trotz demands his forwards play hard at both ends of the ice.

That was the area in which Wilson was lacking.

"Defensive play," Wilson said of the Trotz's critique of his game. "And just what he says paying attention to detail -- on the forecheck getting the puck, on the backcheck picking up your man. He said when I move with the puck I move my feet, but I have to move my feet (when playing) away from the puck, too."

He talked about the shock, but not the surprise, of sitting out Game 1 in the first round.

"It was a bit of a shock when it came, but at the same time (Trotz) had talked to me beforehand saying it was coming," Wilson said. "At the same time, it definitely rattled my cage a little bit and that was the purpose of it, as well as having the best lineup for the team to win."

Last year, in Nashville's competitive first-round series with eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago, Wilson played all six games, totaling 1 assist and a minus-1 rating with eight shots and no penalty minutes.

Trotz instructed Wilson to participate in warm-ups for Game 3, but then scratched him based on a gut feeling. Wilson said he has started to get used that, as it happened to him last season. That season, he played the first month in Nashville as a 19-year-old, was sent to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, and then rejoined the team permanently in February. In total, he played 35 games for Nashville in 2009-10.

Trotz put Predators defenseman Ryan Suter through a similar experience during his rookie season. Suter played 71 games in 2005-06 but did not play at all in the playoffs that season.

Suter now has blossomed into a top player.

"That's exactly right," Trotz said. "… We picked up a couple people. Some people played better. We were fairly healthy on the blue line and all of the sudden he was out of the lineup. He didn't respond very well. At that point in time, he wasn't mature enough as a young man to understand that and he had a tough time dealing with it.

"We went and saw him in the summer and tried to reset his focus and he came back and had a tremendous season and he's turned out to be a tremendous defenseman. That's part of growth. That's part of adversity. We talk about the playoffs, it's about adversity. Well, in Colin's case, the adversity came before it even started. He had to find a way to get back in the lineup, so it's about growing up, it's about being a pro, it's about understanding that you can't let your game slip."

Wilson seems to get that message now.

"Momentum players can help and I think I'm going to have a lot of energy out there if I play," an upbeat Wilson said. "It's not going to be hard to get up for this one and be excited about it. I'll be excited about it and have a lot of attention to detail and provide some offense."
Quote of the Day

With this being the last year [at the Coliseum], we'd love to try to get back to the dance like we did against Pittsburgh and prove ourselves and go even further. It's an important year.

— New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano