After a season-long, five-game stretch in Music City, the Nashville Predators jetted off to Columbus on Friday afternoon upon completing practice at Centennial Sportsplex. Nashville now begins an equally long, five-game road trip. The excursion will take the Preds to the Buckeye State, followed by stops in Minnesota, Manhattan and Buffalo before finishing off with an afternoon tilt next Friday in Philadelphia.
To this point in the season, the schedule has been predominantly routine for the Preds; three games here, three games there, four games here, and so forth. It won’t always be like that through April, but the club doesn’t mind it at all, especially when that amount of time spent either in the comfort of home, or getting into the road mindset, allows the Predators to settle into a regular rhythm, no matter the location.
“I like this schedule; you spend two weeks at home, two weeks on the road, you get in your routine both ways,” forward Cody Hodgson said. “You’re not flying at two or three in the morning and trying to get some rest to play the next night or something like that. But this next road trip is going to test us. We’ve got some back-to-backs and they’re not short distances either. It’ll be tough for us, but I think we’re up to it.”
First up for Nashville is a Columbus Blue Jackets team who saw their now former head coach, Todd Richards, fired in favor of John Tortorella after the club lost eight games to begin the 2015-16 season. The Jackets have won three straight heading into Thursday’s action, and the Preds aren’t expecting an easy Friday night in Ohio’s capital.
“They’re playing well right now, and they’re playing with confidence,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “When we played them in the exhibition season, they were really a tough team. They just maybe lost their way a little bit at the beginning and sometimes that happens; I think every team goes through it through the course of the year, they just hit their rough patch right at the beginning. It’s going to be a good test for us.”
Salomaki Throwing Weight Around, Throwing Opponents Off:
Miikka Salomaki got a taste of life in the NHL last season, just one game to be exact. But not everyone gets to score in their first outing in the League. Salomaki got that milestone out of the way on night one.
It was the only contest the now 22-year-old winger skated in for the Preds last season. After his debut, Salomaki was reassigned to AHL Milwaukee, where he soon suffered a season-ending injury.
Salomaki admitted it was a long summer after the frustration of his season being cut short, but the stocky, 5-11, 203-pound Finn soon got his first call of the season to Nashville on Oct. 26. He’s appeared in six more games than his last recall, including seeing time on the Predators third line, even scoring what turned out to be the game winner (the first of his career) in Nashville’s 3-2 victory over Anaheim on Tuesday.
And while scoring is great, Salomaki admits he might enjoy throwing his weight around even more than putting the puck in the net.
“I’ve always been like that since I started hockey; it’s just how I play, and I’m not going to change it,” Salomaki said of his physical style. “I like the physical game and if the [opposition] comes after me, I just like it. I just enjoy it when people come after me and try to hit me and things like that.”
When Salomaki does throw a big hit, like the one he put on Ducks forward Corey Perry last Tuesday, it often attracts the opponent into searching for some type of retribution. Salomaki is just fine with that, and so are his teammates. They have his back if necessary, but there are more advantages to a thunderous body check than just the jolt it provides to the Nashville bench.
“It gets everyone fired up, but at the same time, it messes them up,” Hodgson said of Salomaki’s ability to affect momentum with his physical play. “They change their focus on trying to score goals to trying to get back at Miikka, so it’s fun to be on his line, that’s for sure. You see big hits going on all the time, and he generates a lot of speed and translates that into big hits; he’s had some good ones.”
The hits may come easier for Salomaki, and even though he may enjoy throwing the opposition’s top players off their game whenever possible with his body, he doesn’t mind doing it every once in awhile with a stick and a puck either.
“Mostly, I just like to hit people; it’s always fun, but of course a goal is a great thing,” Salomaki smiled. “It’s more special; I don’t score that much.”
Forwards Eric Nystrom (Injured Reserve, upper-body) and Paul Gaustad (day-to-day, lower-body) both participated fully in Thursday’s practice. Preds Captain Shea Weber was absent from Thursday’s session due to the birth of his second child. Weber is expected to join the Preds on the road in Columbus before Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets.
Thursday’s line rushes during practice were as follows:
| ||Forwards || |
|Miikka Salomaki ||Mike Fisher ||James Neal |
|Filip Forsberg ||Mike Ribeiro ||Craig Smith |
|C. Wilson/E. Nystrom ||Calle Jarnkrok ||Austin Watson |
|Gabriel Bourque ||P. Gaustad/C. Sissons ||Cody Hodgson |
Shot of the Day: