Photo: Doug Brumley
Players' travel bags are lined up in the hallway of the Predators' practice facility Sunday as the team prepares for the trip to Columbus.
Only four days into training camp, the Predators travel to Columbus, Ohio for a Sunday afternoon preseason game. Twenty players are making the trip, including summer acquisitions Josef Vasicek and J.P. Dumont. The group practiced for an hour Sunday morning at the Centennial Sportsplex before setting out for the charter flight that will carry them north to Columbus. Despite the tough process of selecting a lineup of twenty guys from a camp roster of 50, Predators head coach Barry Trotz knows what he'll be watching for tonight.
"Obviously we're keying on a few people," Trotz said. "I'm looking for people who have impact on the game. A lot of times you can take the skills, you can take all those things, but if you don't have impact in your game then you're not doing yourself justice. So we're going to look for guys that have impact on the game. We're going to look for guys that could maybe fit a piece or a role for us."
Trotz added that he's been impressed by a number of players so far in camp. "Quite frankly, some guys have separated themselves early," he said. He went on to list defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and forward Scottie Upshall as examples of those who have stood out. Each of those players will be skating in tonight's game.
During practice, Weber was paired with Finnish prospect Mikko Lehtonen and Suter was skating with hulking 6'6" blueliner Nolan Yonkman. Upshall, meanwhile, was on a line with Vernon Fiddler and Dumont. (For a complete list of players skating in tonight's game, see this morning's blog entry from the rink.)
Dumont and Vasicek are two players that Trotz said he will be keeping a watchful eye on tonight as well. "I've got to get to know them and their game and see what their game stands for," the coach said. Vasicek will likely be centering the top line against Columbus, flanked by Scott Hartnell and Alexander Radulov
For some players, it may be the only in-game chance to make an impression before being returned to junior or college teams.
"I was talking to [forward prospect] Brandon Segal," Trotz said. "He went through a couple camps here and never got an NHL game. Last year he got one.... It's a process. Some guys get that at an earlier age and sometimes it takes a little longer for guys to get it. I've got some great stories, like Andrew Brunette, who played here. He didn't get it early. It took him a couple of years to get it and now he's a pretty good NHL player. Everybody has their own rate of progress and their own rate of development. As long as they understand the process.
"To me there shouldn't be a sense of entitlement in the organization," he added. "The only thing that you're entitled to is to have a shot to make our team and develop your skills and develop your game so you may someday play in Nashville. That's really the promise that we make. We're going to help you get your game."
NOTES: Tonight's Predators-Blue Jackets game, which faces off at 5:00 p.m., will be broadcast on 104.5 FM The Zone. New Predators radio play-by-play announcer Eli Gold will be introduced, calling the game with color analyst Terry Crisp.... Players not going to Columbus for the preseason game practiced at Centennial from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m., then participated in an informal scrimmage amongst themselves.... Forward Martin Erat won a shootout contest conducted at the end of the on-ice session.