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Jackman, Hodgson see Predators' system as good fit

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators added depth to an already talented roster by signing veteran defenseman Barret Jackman and forward Cody Hodgson on July 1.

Jackman had spent his entire 13-year career with the St. Louis Blues but felt Nashville was the best fit for him when weighing his options during free agency. He wanted to go somewhere where he had a chance to win the Stanley Cup, and that was the biggest part of his decision in moving his family.

"I think just the chance to win right now," Jackman said. "We've talked about the strength of the defense, the best goalie in the League, and a lot of very exciting, young forwards with a good group of older guys too that are playing very well. I think the style of living, too, is a big draw for me and my family."

Nashville boasts one of the best groups of defensemen in the NHL, led by Shea Weber and Roman Josi. The addition of Jackman gives the Predators more options to use in different situations, which will allow Weber and Josi to get extra rest.

"They're just talking about the penalty kill, being able to play six [defensemen] in every situation, and maybe bring down the minutes of [Josi] and [Weber]," Jackman said. "I'm here to help, and I'm sure things are going to be a little bit fluid and a feeling-out process in September. I look forward to earning my stripes and earning the respect of my teammates and coaches."

Jackman's style of play breaks the mold when compared to the rest of Nashville's defensemen, players who focus on joining the rush offensively and using their mobility and stick work to close in on the opposition. Jackman brings toughness, and that's exactly what the Predators were looking for in free agency.

"I definitely think that Barret brings a different style of play," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "If you look at our other five defensemen, they're all really talented two-way defensemen. They can all play the power play. … They can all skate, they can move the puck really well, they're able to contribute offensively.

"I think that Barret brings a little bit of a different element in the fact that he can be a guy that goes over the boards for the penalty kill first, shot-blocking, a little bit of grit, a little bit of sandpaper. He brings some experience and some veteran leadership to the team, so lots of positives with filling that position with Barret."

Hodgson signed a one-year, $1.05 million contract with Nashville and is hoping to revitalize his career after a disappointing season with the Buffalo Sabres. Hodgson said the up-tempo system of the Predators is conducive to the way he wants to play.

"I really like the way they play the game offensively," Hodgson said. "They don't spend any time in the defensive zone. They're trying to make sure they get the puck back right away, and then they're on offense. They play a high-tempo game so that's something I can definitely relate to and have played well in systems like that before."

Hodgson's sister attends Belmont University in Nashville and he's a country music fan, but the chance to play in an offensive system under Laviolette was the biggest appeal when he made his decision.

"To tell you the truth, I chose it for the hockey," Hodgson said. "It's nice that I like country music and I really like this city and my sister goes here, which is a great added bonus, but I chose it because I just think it's a great fit hockey wise. From the style of play to the players on the team and the way I play, I think it's just a good combination."

Early indications are Hodgson will slot in as the third-line center for Nashville and Calle Jarnkrok will move to the wing. Hodgson has shown offensive upside in the past. He scored 20 goals and 44 points in the 2013-14 season with Buffalo.

"We certainly can provide an opportunity for him," Laviolette said. "Ultimately he's got to work hard this summer and come into camp. In talking to him, he was pretty honest about last year. He knows he's played better in the past and knows he's capable of playing at a higher level, and we're going to provide him with that opportunity to see if he can get back there and help us."

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