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The Preds Duct Tape: Calle Jarnkrok

Since Move to Center, Jarnkrok Has Added Offensive Elements and Paces Preds in Goals

by John Glennon @glennonsports / jg1sport@aol.com

Think of forward Calle Jarnkrok as the Predators' version of duct tape.

Having problems on the third line's right wing? Wrap it in Jarnkrok and watch the situation improve.

Dealing with issues at center on the second line? Same solution. Use Jarnkrok to pull it together and things should be just fine.

Changing roles, plugging holes and making everything he touches work a little better are now the norm for Jarnkrok, the fourth-year forward who's become especially important to the Predators in recent weeks.

"If you think about Calle since he's been here, he's done just about everything we've asked him to do," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's gone from fourth-line left wing to second-line center to third-line right wing to first-line any position. He's been a really good player for us."

Jarnkrok's talents have been magnified over the last 11 games, ever since the Predators gave him dramatically increased responsibilities following the decision to put center Mike Ribeiro on waivers.

The Preds needed someone that could not only provide offense in the middle of talented wingers, but carry his weight defensively as well. Enter Jarnkrok, the natural first call when looking to make repairs.

Though he'd primarily played in more defensive-minded, third- and fourth-line spots for the bulk of the team's first 48 games, Jarnkrok stepped comfortably into the more offensive-minded center vacancy.

In the past 11 games, Jarnkrok is tied for the team lead in goals (six), ranks third on the team in points (nine) and ranks third among forwards in ice time, averaging 17:48 per contest. He's one of the reasons the Preds have scored an average of 3.18 goals during that stretch, the ninth-best figure in the NHL.

Video: DAL@NSH: Jarnkrok beats Lehtonen with top-shelf snipe

"I think he's always been a smart player, and now he's just coming into his own," said teammate James Neal, who's been Jarnkrok's right wing in recent games. "He's a good guy to play with. He's good defensively, and he's got a really good shot, a sneaky release. I think he surprises goalies when he shoots the puck."

Added Jarnkrok with a smile: "That's probably because (my shot) isn't hard enough, I don't know."

There are likely a few reasons Jarnkrok has been able to turn up the offense since Ribeiro's departure.

One is that he's now playing with more skill on his wings. He's flanked most often by Neal, a sniper who's closing in on 20 goals for the ninth-straight season, and Colin Wilson, one of the team's best puck-possession forwards.

"Nealer has one of the best shots in the League, so you always keep your eyes open and look for him," Jarnkrok said. "Willy is great protecting the puck, very strong on the puck. So it's two really good players to play with."

Second, Jarnkrok is taking advantage of much-increased opportunity.

In his first 48 games of the season, Jarnkrok averaged 14:18 time on ice per game and just 15 seconds of power-play time. In the last 11 contests, he's averaged 17:48 per game and 1:32 on the power play.

The results? Jarnkrok's six goals in those last 11 games are the same number he'd totaled in his first 48.

"It's more fun to play some more minutes and to play some more offense," Jarnkrok said. "With that comes confidence, and that's what you need to get better."

Third, Jarnkrok is playing at what he considers his most natural position.

"I used to play center all the time," said the 25-year-old Jarnkrok, originally a second-round draft pick of Detroit. "So that's what I'm most comfortable with."

Jarnkrok, of course, is quick to say that he'd be ready and eager to shift back to left or right wing if need be.

Wherever the Preds have a need, it seems, he's often the best solution.

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