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Fiala working wonders for Predators

Forward sparking Nashville after recovery from broken left femur

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

Even when Kevin Fiala's injury rehabilitation was in its early days -- the hobbling-along-on-crutches phase -- there was something about his low-key determination that was visible to his Nashville Predators teammate, Craig Smith.

Fiala had season-ending surgery April 26 after breaking his left femur in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round against the St. Louis Blues. It took about eight weeks to take the next big leap forward, taking that first spin on the ice again.

 "He's a kid [who] when he sees something he's going to get it, and he's going to do anything possible to get back," Smith said. "That was a pretty bad injury.

"You could see right away. He was wondering, 'How long? When can I get back?' I don't know what was said but it was pretty fast."

Video: FLA@NSH: Fiala puts Preds ahead with his second goal

It was uncommonly fast. But it was far from easy, in terms of wondering how the leg would hold up in the run of play. Fiala said it was hard to quantify the exact moment the fear vanished.

"I don't know exactly what date," he said. "But it took time. Even at the beginning of the season, it was up and down. But I think right now it is gone. So I'll try to keep it like that."

The determination Fiala revealed during his rehabilitation was on full view with the Predators during a five-game winning streak that ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. The Predators take a seven-game point streak (5-0-2) into their game at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-TN, NHL.TV), their last before the NHL All-Star break,

With 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 45 games, Fiala already has surpassed his NHL single-season highs. Those numbers are especially impressive considering that he didn't score a goal in his first 15 games, finally breaking through against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 14.

"If you look at his development curve as a stock, I would say it's going in the right direction and you might want to invest in Kevin Fiala," Predators general manager David Poile said.

The Predators' newly created line of Nick Bonino centering for Fiala and Calle Jarnkrok combined for eight points in a 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena. Fiala scored twice against the Panthers, his first two-goal game since the leg injury.

"Both players are great players," Fiala said of his new linemates. "They are two-way players. Great defense and great offense and they work hard. I think if you work hard, you get so many more chances."

Video: VGK@NSH: Fiala finds rebound and rips it top shelf

Fiala's Swiss countryman and teammate, defenseman Roman Josi, was impressed with the way Fiala and his linemates played against Florida.

"He is one of those guys who makes a lot of plays," Josi said of Fiala. "He makes things happen. He's really creative. I've never been a forward, but I'd guess he's really fun to play with."

The arrival of center Kyle Turris, acquired on Nov. 5 in a three-way trade with the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche, was largely responsible for Fiala's first scoring surge earlier this season. Fiala, playing with Turris and Smith, had 19 points in the next 19 games after the trade.

Then came an eight-game pointless streak for Fiala, from Dec. 23 through Jan. 16.

"Two players that were not exactly lighting it up, in Fiala and Smith, and they pretty much found instantaneous chemistry, which supports how good a player Kyle Turris is," Poile said.

"The other part of it Kevin Fiala was coming off a leg injury and probably there's some physical time that he needs to get under his belt, and probably some mental issues just to overcome in terms of what happened. So all in all, I think he's just gotten better."

Josi noted that the transition from the European game takes time even for players with an elite skill level. Fiala, 21, played in Sweden before coming to North America and had played in 60 NHL regular-season games before this season.

"He was always really talented," Josi said. "Even when he came up, you could see that talent that he had -- the hands, the skill level. As a young guy coming over from Europe especially, there's a lot more games over here. The game is a little different so it takes some time to figure out little things and be consistent.

Video: WPG@NSH: Fiala snaps wrister top shelf late in 1st

"That was the thing I struggled the most with too -- just playing consistent every night because there's so many games. But you could always see the skill level, and he's playing extremely well this year." Correspondent Robby Stanley contributed to this report

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