There was plenty of elbow room on the ice during Saturday’s morning skate for the Predators. Only players who were not in the Preds’ lineup versus Detroit Friday night were required to lace up, leading one to believe that head coach Barry Trotz may very well go with the same lineup at home against Chicago Saturday.
Supporting that theory is the fact that Trotz told gathered media Saturday morning that he’s more interested in steadying the lineup than tinkering with it.
“I think it’s starting to fall into place a little bit,” Trotz said. “I’m not going to do a lot of tinkering unless it’s called for in terms of injuries or poor play.”
The head coach believes the team’s close to having a set lineup, with the first three lines looking pretty established and the fourth line varying between a checking role and a mix of specialists—“be it a penalty killer, maybe an energy guy, maybe a face-off guy.” Getting three important players back from injury Friday night in Detroit was key as well.
“I was very happy with [defenseman Roman Josi
],” Trotz said, reflecting on Friday’s 4-1 road win. “[Jordin Tootoo
] was instrumental in the first goal. The guys came in and did a really good job after being out of the lineup. I thought [Martin Erat
] had a little bit of a slow start and then he got going. I thought he was pretty good after that.”
Josi, who missed nine games with an upper-body injury, said Saturday morning that’s he’s glad to be back.
“I’m feeling great,” the 6-foot-2 Swiss blueliner said. “It’s great to be back. You don’t want to watch games, you want to be playing. I felt good yesterday.”
He was also among those pleased with how the team performed Friday in Detroit. “[The Red Wings] had some chances and [goaltender Pekka Rinne
] was great all night,” Josi said. “But I think we played pretty good defensively and our forwards forechecked them really hard and made it hard for them.”
Tonight’s opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, likely has last Sunday’s 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Predators fresh on its mind.
“They’re probably going to be mad about that tonight and try to come back from that loss,” Josi said. “They have a great team. They’ve got some great talent up front. We’ve just got to make sure we play the same way as yesterday. Forecheck them hard and don’t give them any time.”
Chicago has gone 7-1-2 over its last ten games but remains without All-Stars Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. Toews, the team’s captain, has yet to return from an upper-body injury that has kept him out of 18 games. Keith will serve the fourth game of his five-game suspension for elbowing Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin on March 21.