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Preds coach Trotz says Sullivan, Erat ready

by Curtis Zupke
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nashville will have nearly all its key offensive players available when it opens its first-round playoff series against Anaheim on Wednesday night at Honda Center.

Predators coach Barry Trotz said Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat are good to go after they sat out the last regular-season game or two with injuries.

"Basically all our forwards are ready to go," Trotz said. "They've all been cleared to play."

Sullivan had groin surgery in early March and returned for the Predators' penultimate game. He said he has been skating for more than three weeks and feels good.

"That's going to be getting better every single day," Sullivan said. "That's going to be a continuation. I think every touch I can get on the ice -- good practices, games -- I'm going to continue to get better every time."

Sullivan, whose career was sidetracked for nearly two years because of a back injury, knows better than anyone what it means to be back in the lineup for the playoffs. He didn't yet know if he was playing after the morning skate, but said it would be special.

"We tried to time it that way," he said. "We tried to make sure that I made the decision to go because if I was able make a good comeback I would be ready in time for the playoffs. If it just kind of works out, I'll really be happy about it."

Erat missed the last two regular-season games because of a back injury. Trotz said the return of the two allows more flexibility with his lineup.

"We haven't had any depth for a while," Trotz said. "It's allowed us to make more moves if we need to if the series goes on."

Ellis to face former teammates: Dan Ellis was first off the ice and is expected to start for Anaheim against his former team.

Ellis lost his job to Pekka Rinne in Nashville before landing in Anaheim, but he still has positive memories of his time there.

"(There are) a lot of guys over there that I had solid friendships with and I miss a lot of those guys I went to war with," Ellis said. "A lot of fond memories, a lot of great friendships. They gave me my chance to get into the NHL. I'm always in debt to the Preds, but this is a different chapter, a new team."

Ellis was asked if he gave Anaheim a good scouting report on the Predators.

"I'm sure I gave them a few tips here and there," he said. "You play with those guys long enough, you know a few of them. In the same way, I'm sure (Nashville goaltending coach) Mitch (Korn) has been telling all their guys about the different goalies here as well."

Bonino in? Nick Bonino skated again with Matt Beleskey and Brandon McMillan and could be in the lineup tonight as the third line center for Anaheim.

It wouldn't be an unorthodox move for the Ducks, who are known for calling upon their minor league players during the playoffs.

Bonino was with the team earlier this season for 26 games before the club re-assigned him in January to Syracuse to work on his game.

"He really has picked up the level of his game where he was dominant in the American Hockey League from a skating standpoint and from a puck possession standpoint," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.

Bonino said being re-assigned turned out to be a good thing for his development.

"Just more confidence as the year went on," Bonino said. "I adapted more to the pro game, the length of the season and kind of the grind of it. We had 18 games in 30 days down there in one stretch. It's good to be playing games, getting the confidence back. The last month or so I've played my best hockey."
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