Photo: Doug Brumley
Center David Legwand joined the group of younger prospects for part of its Tuesday practice, skating in the lone red jersey among blues and whites.
After spending Monday off the ice to participate in the annual First Tennessee Predators Foundation Golf Tournament, the Predators regulars and prospects returned to Centennial Sportsplex Tuesday for the sixth day of training camp. The big story emerging from Day 6 was the introduction of Paul Kariya and David Legwand
to group practice. Kariya skated with the 10:00 a.m. group, which consisted primarily of Predators regulars, while Legwand took the ice with the prospects at 11:00 a.m. The camp roster of 48 players was split into these two groups for Tuesday, creating a pretty clear delineation of where players stood at this point. Predators head coach Barry Trotz explained the rational for the groupings after both had concluded their practice sessions.
"One of the things that we talked about is that there's such a short camp that we need to get a lot of things under way," he said. "So the sooner we can get sort of the majority of the group that we think might be there [the better]--it's no slight against anybody that's in any group.
"Tomorrow there will be a couple changes from the first group," he added. "If you have a good day we'll move you in that group and if somebody has a bad day in the other group they could go down. It's not necessarily [all based on the previous day's performance]. It's also looking at how players fit in with the majority of the Predator group."
Tuesday's early squad consisted of 23 players split over four forward lines, four defense pairings and goaltenders Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason. The lines were divided by color, with Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat wearing blue; Jerred Smithson, Darcy Hordichuk, and Jordin Tootoo wearing yellow; Scott Nichol, Scottie Upshall and Scott Hartnell wearing gray; and Vern Fiddler and Josef Vasicek taking turns between Paul Kariya and J.P. Dumont in white. On defense, Ryan Suter and Marek Zidlicky were paired, as were Alex Henry and Mikko Lehtonen, Kimmo Timonen and Shea Weber, and Greg Zanon and Kevin Klein.
"You're starting to see lines form and guys click with one another," said Upshall, who played with the same linemates--Nichol and Hartnell--in the Predators' preseason opener Sunday. "That's what we're using this time for, to get everyone ready to play, get conditioning levels up and just mix and match guys to see who plays well."
The closest thing to a surprise among the later, 22-man squad was the inclusion of forward Alexander Radulov, the Canadian Hockey League player of the year who is getting a long look from the Predators coaches and management at this year's camp. The 20-year-old Russian stood out from his peers during Tuesday's practice, beating defenders and goaltenders repeatedly in one-on-one and two-on-one drills.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff has been working on rosters for a trio of upcoming preseason games, which will be played on three consecutive nights in three different cities beginning Thursday. "We sort of have a template of what we think should happen based on some performances and where we feel guys are," said Trotz of the exhibition lineups. "We're sort of coming up with ghost rosters for the next three games."
Many players currently in camp will likely not be around when Thursday comes, as the reassignment of prospects to their junior teams or minor-league training camps has already begun. Two 2006 draft choices, Niko Snellman and Viktor Sjodin, were reassigned to their respective Western Hockey League teams Monday.
"I think what you'll see is probably a couple of younger guys maybe in the next day or so, having them head home," Trotz said. "Also, some of the guys that are here that are maybe looking to turn pro in Milwaukee or some guys that maybe got off to slow starts in camp, we'll probably sort of filter 'em out in the next three to four days. Before the weekend's up, I hope to be down to 25, 26 guys for the trip to Orlando."
NOTES: During one five-on-five drill amid the veterans' one-and-a-half-hour practice, Arnott ripped a shot from the slot that caught Vokoun in the mask. The Preds' No. 1 goalie seemed somewhat stunned by the blast as he held his pose momentarily, then readjusted his helmet. Arnott skated straight to Vokoun to check on his teammate and gave him a couple of light taps on the head. Shortly thereafter, Vokoun noticed a strap would no longer snap the mask tight and called out to the equipment staff for a new helmet.... Trotz said the following about Kariya after the winger's practice session on Tuesday: "He felt really good. He looked like he didn't miss a beat. He had lots of jump. We'll see how that responds tomorrow, if he's sore or if he's not. We'll take it easy. He's a guy who let's you know if he can go or not."... Of Snellman, Nashville's 2006 fourth-round pick who was reassigned to Regina of the WHL Monday, Trotz said: "He was overwhelmed by the pace and the strength and all that. He got a sense. He probably went back going, 'I'm glad I'm going back to junior.' He'll have the experience. That's the reason we bring everybody in here."