When Jonathon Blum
began the 2011-12 season, the Nashville Predators defenseman struggled in certain areas. It was an odd sight, considering how well the rookie had played late last season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Preds coach Barry Trotz offered a simple explanation on Wednesday.
“The expectations for him entering the season were fairly high,” Trotz said. “I don’t blame Jonathon. I think we put him in a position where he was going to have trouble being successful. He sort of didn’t have the same game. I don’t put that on the player at all. That’s us as coaches and an organization. We put him in a tough spot.”
Since then, Blum has been moved to the third pairing with Jack Hillen
, and his game has improved. The last three games he's been either a "plus" or "even" player and has only been on the ice for one of the team's seven even-strength goals allowed against Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Chicago (three of the more intimidating offenses in the league).
“At the start of the season, I wasn’t as sharp and the details weren’t there,” Blum, 22, said. “In the last couple of games, I think I’ve played with more detail. I just need to keep it up. It’s a long season and there a lot of games. It’s your first real year, and there are a lot of ups and downs, but you try to make it as positive as you can.”
Blum burst onto the scene last year and immediately became a big part of Nashville’s historic playoff run. He was featured on the second defensive pairing, and was not intimidated facing Anaheim and Vancouver, who boast some of the NHL’s top forwards.
“Through the Anaheim series, he did a pretty decent job,” Trotz said. “In the Vancouver series, he did a pretty decent job. But you could see him falling off. We put him into the third pairing (recently) and I think he’s more comfortable there. He’s stabilizing his game. Obviously you play fewer minutes against top forwards there, and that’s an easier transition.”
Helping Blum’s recent improved play is the move to having him play on his forehand side. While in Milwaukee, Blum played mostly on his backhand side because the Admirals were stocked with right-handed shooting defensemen and he was more skilled than most.
“There are a lot of benefits being on your forehand,” Blum said. “You can make plays on your forehand instead of always getting the puck on your backhand on the walls. Down low, you’re always blind. That had to do with some of the struggles. I feel a lot more comfortable being back on the right side, and playing with a guy like Hillen who can skate well.”
Trotz said he expects Blum to continue to progress.
“Once he gets his game totally back and his confidence totally back, we can move him up,” Trotz said.Injury update:
Forwards Mike Fisher
(upper body) and Sergei Kostitsyn
(lower body) practiced with the team on Wednesday and are with the club for Nashville’s four-game road trip to the West Coast.
On Saturday, Fisher was blindsided by Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin in the first period and did not return to the game. He also missed Monday’s game at Chicago.
“I’ve felt pretty good the last couple of days on the ice,” Fisher said. “It could have been a lot worse. Sometimes you never know how bad those can be. Thankfully, it looks like I’ll be good to go tomorrow.”
Kostitsyn, who suffered a lower-body injury during the second period against Tampa Bay last Thursday, will be a game-time decision, Trotz said. Sweet present:
At the Peterson for Parkinson’s Foundation party in September, a cool item was up for auction. The winner would receive a trip for two to Nashville’s four-game West Coast road trip, which starts Thursday at Anaheim, and would fly with the team. So who won? Fisher’s wife, country music superstar Carrie Underwood. She bought it so Fisher’s brothers, Bud, 24, and Rob, 33, could make the trip. Underwood, for her part, will be a little busy this week; she's co-hosting the CMA Music Awards held November 9 at Bridgestone Arena
, the night of the last game on the Preds road trip.