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Grimaldi Steps Into Lineup, Drives Preds to Win in Game 2

Nashville Winger Scores First Playoff Goal, Helps Predators to Even Series with Stars

by Zach Gilchriest @PredsNHL /

Rocco Grimaldi needed a nap.

Like normal, the Predators forward attended a morning skate for the players not expected to suit up in Game 2 against the Dallas Stars, not thinking he'd be getting the directive to play in his first Stanley Cup Playoff game since 2016 just hours later.

But as soon as Grimaldi got home from practice, that's exactly the call he got.

"I was on the ice this morning at 9:30 a.m. so it was a bit of an earlier morning. I knew I was going to warm up, but I didn't think I was going to play," Grimaldi said. "Right when I got home, I got the call saying I was in. So I said, all right let's get some pasta in me, let's get a nap and let's get ready to go."

Filling in for Brian Boyle - who was unable to play Saturday due to illness - on the Preds fourth line, the 5-foot-6 Grimaldi brought the speed, tenacity and fearlessness that he's become known for throughout the Nashville locker room this season.

"Those games are why you play, they're really fun and obviously I was well rested. I'd been out for a few weeks, and I'm healthy again, and got the call this afternoon that I'd be playing," Grimaldi said. "I just want to help this team get a win every night that I'm in there, whether it's scoring a goal or taking a hit to make the play, whatever it is. Just the looks that the guys give you when you do something, that's one reason why you play."

And Grimaldi definitely earned the looks of his teammates on Saturday night.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm2: Grimaldi scores off feed from Watson

Ripping a feed from linemate Austin Watson past Stars goaltender Ben Bishop and into the back of the net, Grimaldi evened the score for the Preds in the second period, forced the game into overtime and earning his first-career playoff goal all in one fell swoop.

"He brings a lot of juice and a lot of jam and that's why he's here, that's why he made the team this year," Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. "Personally, I've got a really good relationship with him and I just like his compete level. To play in the NHL, it takes a lot of heart and guts and competitiveness. For the smallest guy in the League, he surely shows that and we're happy to have him."

For a roster full of healthy players, getting Grimaldi into the game was not a given, but when the moment presented itself, Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette knew who he wanted back in his lineup.

"He jumped into the lineup as a late decision here today and just the way the game played out with the penalties that were called early on, he was always kind of the odd man out. It makes it more difficult to keep your legs in the game and keep your head in the game," Laviolette said. "He did an excellent job. The shifts that he took, even between the specialty teams, I thought he was really strong. Once we did get clear of the penalties, it seemed whoever [Calle] Jarnkrok and Rocco played with, that was a good line. Rocco was a big part of it. He used his speed and his tenacity, put the puck in the right zone and pushed his speed to create."

For Grimaldi, the road to the NHL has not been an easy one. But if one thing has remained consistent throughout his career, it's his intense and unrelenting work ethic on and off the ice.

Video: Subban, Grimaldi, Smith and others discuss Game 2 win

It's the same work ethic that helped Grimaldi score the game-winner for the United States in the 2013 World Junior Championship game against Sweden that showed up in Game Two for the Predators.

"I try to bring the same identity, and I think my consistency is probably the best part of my game. You know what you're getting from me every night," Grimaldi said. "Whether it's great or not great, I'm still going to give an effort and that's what I pride myself on and what the team expects from me."

Grimaldi plays his heart out not just for his team, but also for the people who encouraged him and kept him going every step of the way. And there's no better time to do it than in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's taken me five years to become an NHL player, and I'm still fighting to do that. Every game that I play, whether it's regular season, playoffs, whatever it is, I'm super excited to play. I've gone through a lot to get here, I know people have been with me and pushing me through when I felt like I wasn't going to make it and wanted to give up," Grimaldi said. "I play for those people. I play for the people who have always believed in me, I play for the people when I was a kid who pushed me and said I could accomplish this dream.

"Any time I get the nod I'm super excited to go out there and have fun with my buddies."

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