SATURDAY’S STORY LINES: The last time Wild defenseman Ryan Suter stepped into the visiting team hotel in Nashville was 2003. The NHL draft was in Nashville that year and a young Suter was there to conduct his team interviews. Suter went on to be drafted seventh overall by the Predators and spent the first seven years of his career with the organization.
Friday, Suter walked back into that the hotel, this time as a member of the Minnesota Wild.
“It’s weird walking into that hotel across the street,” Suter said. “That was the thing that made me most nervous walking in there and just knowing I am on the other side now.”
When Suter signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild on July 4, Nashville general manager David Poile very publically showed his disdain, as did many Predators fans. Suter was a fan favorite when he was in Nashville but is aware he might not get a warm reception Saturday night.
“Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “They pay the money, they can do what they want. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them. The Predators are a great organization, and they wouldn’t be that without the fans.” Though Suter may not get a pleasant greeting from the crowd, the reception he has gotten from workers around the arena this weekend has been welcome. The genuine and down-to-earth Suter didn’t just form relationships with his teammates, he also was well-known by the arena staff.
“I try to treat everyone with respect,” he said. “When I was here, I did that and made a lot of nice relationships.”
Coach Mike Yeo knows this will be an emotional game for his star defenseman and spoke with Suter a few days ago.
“It is going to be tough, for sure, for him,” Yeo said. “He is an incredibly sincere and honest and loyal person as it is. I am sure he has a lot of mixed emotions about coming here. It is going to be a challenge but one that I hope we help him. I hope we play a real good game to help him out with it.”
Suter said having played his former team twice already in Minnesota should make Saturday’s game easier, but he still is looking forward to getting his first game in Nashville over with.
“It will be good to put it behind us,” he said. “Hopefully, in the future it won’t be such a big deal and we can just go about it like any other city.”
LINEUP CHANGES: Forward Cal Clutterbuck will return to the lineup Saturday after spending time on injured reserve following a hit from Taylor Hall last month. Forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikael Granlund will be healthy scratches, as will defenseman Nate Prosser. Zenon Konopka will be back in the lineup.
HE SAID IT: “It is not like he had the luxury of having a training camp or exhibition games. The last several years, he just hasn’t played a lot of hockey. If we were at the 20-game mark of a regular season, it probably wouldn’t be a story right now. Unfortunately, this season that means you only have 20-something games left and so that is why we are in a bit of a different spot.” — Yeo on Pierre-Marc Bouchard