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Veterans Lindback, Zolnierczyk Contribute to Hot Start for Admirals

Milwaukee Leadership Group Contributing for Nashville's AHL Affiliate

by AJ Mazzolini @PredsNHL / NashvillePredators.com

The 2010-11 season feels like a lifetime ago for Anders Lindback, and in a way it is.

The goalie has picked up and moved close to a dozen times, playing for 10 different teams spread across three hockey leagues and in as many countries.

He's almost a different person than the last time he suited up for the Milwaukee Admirals six seasons ago, and certainly different than when the Nashville Predators selected him in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

As the Swedish-born netminder attempts his NHL comeback this winter, he knows what's going on between his ears is just as important as his actions between the pipes.

"It's a lot of the mental aspect, too, what to focus on and what not to focus on - not worrying too much, just go out there and play," Lindback said. "That was hard for me when I was younger. It's a fine balance."

The journeyman goalie is just one of several veterans leading the Admirals so far this season. Milwaukee, the Predators' AHL affiliate, opened its slate on a four-game winning streak and moved out to 5-1 late in October.

"We've played with energy," said Dean Evason, the sixth-year head coach in Milwaukee. "We've got a nice mix, we believe, of veteran people and young people that have stepped up to play extremely well."

That includes Lindback, the 29-year-old who last appeared in the NHL for the Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16. He's shown flashes of the prospect that caught Nashville's eye a decade ago, the one the Preds brought up to the big leagues for stints in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 before trading him to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 6-foot-6 Lindback opened the AHL season with five straight wins and has a .903 save percentage with a 2.72 goals-against average through seven games now.

"He handles the puck extremely well," Evason said. "He's like a third defenseman. He alleviates the forecheck and the aggressiveness of other teams."

Lindback started 28 games for Nashville between 2010-12, posting a 16-13-2 record before going on to make brief appearances with four other NHL teams. He played in the Swedish Hockey League last season but re-signed with the Preds organization this past summer.

Milwaukee, which at 5-3-0 overall sits second in the AHL Central Division with 10 points, is also benefiting from some one-time Predators forwards. Left wing Harry Zolnierczyk, who scored two goals in 24 games with Nashville during last year's regular season, ranks second on the Admirals with four goals in eight games.

He and center Trevor Smith (2g-4a-6pts) and right wing Bobby Butler (3g-2a-5pts) have provided the veteran leadership Evason seeks. Zolnierczyk was a late addition, re-signing with the Preds organization less than a month ago.

"Signing Harry back to us has really given us a leadership group, along with Bobby Butler, that has won in our league before," Evason said. "Harry has been real good for us. Nashville knows the energy player that he is. The attitude he brings every day and the energy he brings in games, that's infectious in practice."

The 30-year-old Zolnierczyk has seen NHL action with five different franchises, but none quite like his stay in Nashville a year ago. He also appeared in 11 playoff games, including three in the Stanley Cup Final.

"That was an experience of a lifetime, being up for most of the season and being part of a team that went on such a run to the Cup Final," Zolnierczyk said. "There's so much to learn in one season and you have to take all that experience and build on it.

"The mental grind of pro hockey is one of the biggest obstacles that guys can face. There can be a lot of frustrating times and you've got to be able to put those things behind you. You can't take that time for granted in the NHL. When Nashville calls, you have to be ready."

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