Photo by Doug Brumley
For the first time in a while, winger Martin Erat was among the players participating in Predators practice Monday morning at Centennial Sportsplex.
Predators forward Martin Erat, who finished the regular season as Nashville's fifth-leading scorer despite missing the final 11 games with a knee sprain, returned to full practice Monday and could possibly be back in the lineup when the Predators host the San Jose Sharks for Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series Wednesday night.
"He skated very well," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said of the 25-year-old Czech winger who played alongside David Legwand and Paul Kariya for much of the season. "We've still got a couple days to determine where he'll be but he looked really good today."
"The skating is good," Erat said after Monday's on-ice session. Erat had been skating apart from the team for a week. "It's more comfortable every day and I'm trying to push it a little and see how it's going to feel the next day. It's just day by day. I have to see how I'm going to feel tomorrow."
The Predators seem to be getting healthy as Game 1 of the playoffs approaches. Scott Hartnell and Scott Nichol recently returned from injuries and Erat is close. Last year, injuries hampered the Predators in their Round 1 series against these same San Jose Sharks. Nashville lost that series 4 games to 1. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun missed all five games with a blood clot condition, Steve Sullivan and Marek Zidlicky returned from injury to play with limited effectiveness and David Legwand battled through the series with torn knee ligaments.
"[Last year,] we had more bodies but a lot of them were coming back and really didn't make the transition going from the injured reserve list to our lineup," Trotz said Monday. "This year, the guys that have been injured have been really seamless [when returning]. Hartnell has come in and looked like he hasn't missed a beat. Nichol has looked that way and Erat is looking that way. In terms of that transition I think it's a lot better than it was last year."
Erat said there's definitely a difference between returning from injury during the regular season and returning during the playoffs. "It's always tough, coming straight into the playoffs [rather] than if you are injured and go to the regular season," he said. "There's nothing you can do about it. It's playoff time. You have to put 100 percent on the ice. I have to feel confident I can play at 100 percent. It's just going to be my decision and I hope it's going to be sooner [rather than] later."
"If I'm not comfortable to play Wednesday, I hope I'm going to play this Friday or [Monday]," Erat added.
"Everything is positive at this point," Trotz said. "He's skating with the team. That's always a good sign."
NOTES: Forward Jerred Smithson, who left Saturday's season finale in Colorado with a leg injury, did not participate in practice Monday. Forward Vern Fiddler, who left the same game with an arm injury, was on the ice with teammates Monday. "We'll see where [Smithson] is," Trotz said after practice. "With [Fiddler], I don't think there will be any problem. I just want to get everybody healed up because it is a grind once you start the playoffs."
There is no update on winger Steve Sullivan's return. Sullivan, who has missed Nashville's last 20 games with a back injury, is still resting.