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Sissons Suits Up for Preds; Season Turnaround in Winnipeg

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

When Colton Sissons next appears in the Nashville Predators lineup, he’ll be doing so with a bit of a different look on the roster list.

Recalled from AHL Milwaukee on Monday morning, Sissons has changed his number from 84 to 10, a tweak the North Vancouver, B.C., native explained after practice.

“Eighty-four was a little bit too skilled of a number I think, so I’m bringing it back down to under 20,” Sissons said with a laugh.

No matter the jersey number, Sissons is grateful to be back with the big club. He’s recorded one goal and one assist through 19 games with the Preds this season, to go along with a 59 percent success rate in the face-off circle, the best among all NHLers taking at least 100 draws.

As Sissons works to one day become a full-time NHL player, he’s become adept at not getting too high or too low when the call does or doesn’t come. Rather, he’s learned how to channel whatever he’s feeling and turn it into positivity on the ice.

“The biggest learning curve that I’ve had to deal with is just staying positive and optimistic,” Sissons said. “It’s always kind of a bummer when you get sent back because you kind of feel maybe you left something on the table or you didn’t quite play to your potential. But I think it’s just a matter of being patient and just understanding the process, and I’ve learned that over the years.”

According to Head Coach Peter Laviolette, when Sissons has gone back down to the AHL, it certainly hasn’t been due to a lack of execution.

“He’s proven that he can play really well at this level,” Laviolette said of Sissons. “We’re happy to have him back, and he’s going to get an opportunity. [When he gets sent back down] it’s not necessarily that he was doing something wrong and now he’s doing it right; he was a really solid player here and solid player for them down there, and we’ll need that the same coming up here.”

Not only does he continue to improve at the AHL level, but the 22-year-old Sissons is also serving as Milwaukee’s captain this season, the youngest player to wear the “C” in Admirals history.

“That’s not really a surprise to anyone who knows him,” forward Mike Fisher said of Sissons’ captaincy. “He’s just a hard-working, good, solid, team guy. He plays hard and does a lot of little things so well and kind of plays in all types of roles. He can do everything, and we can see him being a big part of our team in the future here.”

“I’ve always prided myself in being a leader on any team that I’ve played for since junior hockey,” Sissons said. “I was fortunate enough to wear the ‘C’ in Kelowna in my junior days, and to have it on again, and especially being the youngest captain that they’ve had, is pretty special.”

Sissons is also excited to be joining the Preds at the current juncture, thanks to a current 12-game point streak, a stark contrast to when Sissons was with the team earlier this season. Now, at least for the time being, he’ll get a chance to play a role in helping the club secure that coveted postseason berth.

“It’s unreal; it was tough times when I was up here just after Christmas, so to see that turnaround and to just step into the lineup and be a part of that run, it’s going to be great,” Sissons said. “This is where I want to be. This is what I work for every single day at the rink, so I’m really happy to be back for the playoff push. It’s going to be awesome.”

Turnaround in the ‘Peg:

In January, the Predators faced the Winnipeg Jets twice in a week’s time. Coming into the initial contest in the year’s first month, Nashville carried a 19-17-8 record. Fast forward two months, and the Predators return to Manitoba with a 12-game point streak and a 33-21-12 mark in tow.

The contrast in records is apparent; the NHL club from Music City has gone 14-4-4 (including a 4-1 triumph in their second visit to Winnipeg in January) since the first road date with their Central Division rival in 2016, but did those pair of contests play any role in the team’s turnaround?

Several in the Predators locker room say, yes.

“I remember after that game, it didn’t feel like a loss,” Preds blueliner Roman Josi said of the team’s Jan. 14 meeting with the Jets, which included a triumphant third period. “We had been struggling before then, and lost a lot of games, but we had a big comeback. We fought really hard, and you could feel the urgency coming in that game. We didn’t get the win, but it didn’t feel like we lost. It felt like it gave us some momentum and energy for the next several games.”

That’s right, the Preds didn’t even win the contest that may stand as one of the markers where the club took a 180-degree turn. The Preds push in the final few minutes to claw back from a three-goal deficit to force overtime, however, is what sticks with several of the players and may be the important point to remember. It was Ryan Johansen’s tally that first gave the Preds some confidence midway through the final frame; then Eric Nystrom’s marker roughly three minutes later that gave the team a bit more hope.

A one timer from James Neal off the right circle with a mere 14 seconds left completed the comeback and seemed to give the Predators new life. Even Head Coach Peter Laviolette jumped over the bench to hug some of his celebrating players. That attack of desperation seemed to say Nashville wouldn’t fade away quietly, and Neal said the feeling stuck with him for a few days afterward.

“It was a big point for us at that time, especially against the Jets,” Neal said. “Since then, we’ve been building on our confidence, and I think every guy is doing that. I think a sense of urgency came into our locker room that day, that we needed to win games or we weren’t going to make the playoffs. We’re playing for our playoff lives and things have gone well thus far.”

Tuesday, the Predators will return to Winnipeg for the first time since January, carrying with them an 11-game road point streak - the first two of which were claimed versus the Jets.

Any added moxie since then? You could say that, Josi says.

“It definitely gives us confidence,” Josi said. “They’re going to be tough games too, those games in Winnipeg are usually hard-fought games. We’re definitely playing well right now and getting confidence from that.”

“I think you can just see it in every guy, we’re just building and going in the right direction and we’re doing it at the right time,” said Neal.

Notes and Lines:

Center Paul Gaustad was absent from Monday’s practice and will not travel with the Predators on their road trip to Canada due to an upper-body injury.

Center Colton Sissons was recalled from AHL Milwaukee on Monday morning. Defenseman Barret Jackman skated as the extra blueliner.

Nashville’s rushes during Monday’s practice looked like this:

Calle Jarnkrok Ryan Johansen James Neal
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Craig Smith
Miikka Salomaki Mike Fisher Viktor Arvidsson
Colin Wilson Colton Sissons A.Watson/G. Bourque
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Anthony Bitetto Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm Petter Granberg


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