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Colin Wilson Nearing Return for Predators

The Winger Has Turned in Strong Performances at Practice; Led Preds in Playoff Points in 2016

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / Digital Manager & Producer

Colin Wilson said he was dying to take the ice when he felt the energy inside Bridgestone Arena and saw the light show leading up to Game Three of the Predators' Round One series.

The forward had missed the first two games of the playoff matchup with the Blackhawks - and the final two contests of the regular season - with a lower-body injury and suiting up for Nashville wasn't going to be an option just yet. But that didn't stop him from being a bit irrational when he saw his teammates greeted with a deafening decibel as they skated through the Pred Head outside of the Lexus Lounge.

"You come home and see the place like this, we were lucky we all weren't jumping off the bench that first shift. It was that crazy," forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. "The playoffs ramp it up even that much more, but just sitting out and going through an injury and not being able to be out there with the guys is a tough thing... It's a difficult time and [Wilson's] been battling and doing a great job and it's positive to see him out there."

The positive Zolnierczyk references is Wilson's participation in the team's two practices prior to opening Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday in St. Louis. So far, Wilson has looked like his old self: carrying the puck up and down the ice with speed, while using his size to keep possession.

"Willy is such a strong guy on his skates, he's one of the best in the League at protecting the puck down low, holding onto it and making plays with guys draped all over him," winger Austin Watson said. "Willy is such a huge part of our team, but definitely in this series, playing a heavy team like St. Louis, a guy like Willy can be really effective and help our team."

Watson echoed comments from Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette at Centennial Sportsplex on Tuesday. Both expressed Wilson's potentially game-changing impact in a series between the Blues and Preds that's already been described as "heavy" a dozen times.

"I think that they're a heavy team, so you have to have some heavy players down low and that's why my game can work well against them to battle their attributes," Wilson said of St. Louis. "I think I've always played well against the Blues."

If Wilson is able to return for the Predators in Game One - or at any point in Round Two - he would carry with him quite the postseason resume. The 27-year-old power forward led the Preds in playoff points in 2016 with 13 (5g-8a) and in goals (with five) in 2015.

Wilson says a narrowed focus may be the reason he's been able to turn it up in the games after No. 82.

"The playoffs are just a bit of a different beast. Your focus is kind of just in one spot. It's fun. It's a good time," Wilson said. "It's a pretty exciting time. I get excited for it, not saying that I don't get excited for the regular season... It's kind of hard to say, but my head just kind of clears for the playoffs."

Video: NSH@STL: Wilson scores on Forsberg's rebound for PPG

If there's one advantage to not joining the fray for Games Three or Four at Bridgestone Arena as the Preds swept Chicago, it's that Wilson, the second-longest tenured player on the Predators roster, had a moment to think about the significance of where this year's team may be headed.  

"It's a young group last year that's now a year older, all our players are starting to develop and really come into their own," Wilson said. "We have great puck-moving [defensemen], a great goaltender - we have all of the assets and we seem to have the mindset too. You know it's a special group.

"I was hoping to get back as soon as possible. Hopping into the Second Round all rested, I'm looking forward to it, if I can get back in there."

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