Photo: John Russell
Steve Sullivan (right), seen here on Tuesday with Josef Vasicek, left practice early on Wednesday with a sore groin.
One day after Paul Kariya and David Legwand
were cleared to join group practice, the specter of injuries subtly reappeared at Predators training camp Wednesday. Defenseman Alex Henry sat out the latest on-ice session with a foot injury sustained from a shot in Sunday's exhibition game, and forwards Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan cut their practice times short after experiencing sore groins from the amount of recent skating. While none of the injuries is considered serious, the mounting number is complicating matters for Predators head coach Barry Trotz as he attempts to compile rosters for the next three preseason games.
"[One] of the things that happen[s] in camp is you get through a few days, then you start having some groin injuries," Trotz said Wednesday. "Now, putting lineups together, you've got five or six guys that are veteran players that are out with groin injuries or what have you, and then you're playing three games in three nights. What you perceived would be a lineup and lines that you could put together and work on things, they're not going to be there. So all of the sudden, what you had planned for the next three days, you can throw it in the garbage and sort of start all over."
As on Tuesday, the camp attendees were split into a veteran group and a prospect group. Veterans took the Centennial Sportsplex ice first again on Wednesday, skating at 10:00 a.m. for an hour and a half. The prospects squad began its on-ice workout at 11:00 a.m. Lineup changes made to the first group since Tuesday were minimal. Aside from the injury absences, defenseman Sheldon Brookbank was promoted to the veteran team, swapping places with fellow blueliner Mikko Lehtonen. Brookbank spent last season with Nashville's American Hockey League developmental affiliate in Milwaukee.
"Every day we try to evaluate the defensemen," Trotz said. "We're sort of slotting them into pairings of guys and trying to give everybody a real good look--see how they practice with a higher tempo group. Sometimes you can get fooled when you have the groups split, where you have maybe half Milwaukee, half [Predators]. In the AHL, the tempo's not as quick. Every day we're changing guys. We talk to [Milwaukee coaches] Claude Noel and Lane Lambert, and guys that they thought worked real hard, we have them come with the big team and [we] take a look at them. It's a little bit of a reward and also an indicator that we should not lose sight of this guy or that guy."
Given that the coaches are looking at defensive pairings, Lehtonen's switch to the prospect squad may be partially attributable to Henry's injury. Lehtonen and Henry were paired in Tuesday's practice. Henry, meanwhile, will likely miss one or more exhibition games after taking a puck off the skate in Sunday's preseason opener. "Once we get the swelling down and he's able to get his foot in his boot, he'll be able to go again," Trotz said about the 6'5", 220-pound blueliner. "He practiced [Tuesday] but it got too painful."
This week Nashville has three games in three nights--Thursday in Memphis against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Friday in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes, and Saturday at home against the Hurricanes again. A narrowed roster of 25 or so players will then head to Orlando, Fla. for the final week of camp before closing out the preseason with a home-and-home series against the Atlanta Thrashers next Friday and Saturday.
In positive injury news, center David Legwand continues to progress well while recovering from off-season knee surgery. On Wednesday, he practiced with a line on the prospect squad and stayed out longer than he did on Tuesday. "[Legwand] is still on the shelf with the knee," Trotz said. "He's very close. We're hoping that by the weekend, when we get to Orlando, that he'll start having contact. We'll get him in the last couple of games."
NOTES: The veteran squad concluded Wednesday's practice with a shootout relay. Center Scott Nichol won the competition for his side when he scored on goaltender Tomas Vokoun with a deke to his backhand. Earlier, Jordin Tootoo earned ooh's and ah's from teammates with a similar move on goalie Chris Mason at the other end of the rink. The losing side, which featured the white jerseys (Paul Kariya, Martin Erat and Josef Vasicek), the gold jerseys (Jerred Smithson, Darcy Hordichuk and Jordin Tootoo), and defensemen Ryan Suter, Kimmo Timonen and Greg Zanon, was forced to skate tight laps along two of the face-off circles and perform push-ups and sit-ups in two others... Trotz said Arnott and Sullivan are considered day-to-day and could potentially return to practice Thursday... Goaltender Karl Goehring, who was injured during a collision with Tootoo earlier in camp, remained sidelined Wednesday.