Newcomers make presence felt in win
It didn’t take long for Nashville’s new additions to chip in. During Nashville’s 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers, left wing Andrei Kostitsyn scored a goal, while center Paul Gaustad and defenseman Hal Gill both had assists. Kostitsyn also notched an assist.
There were some questions on how both Gaustad and Kostitsyn would fit in after the trade deadline. Kostitsyn didn’t record a point in his Nashville debut. But both seemed to have their roles down pat in their win over Florida. Gaustad also won 68 percent of his faceoffs.
When Nashville lost the second part of its back-to-back on Tuesday at Carolina, there was some question as to whether it was fatigue or something more symptomatic. The Predators allayed those fears with a decent defensive performance and relying on goalie Pekka Rinne to provide the rest of the stops.
Though the game was against an Eastern Conference foe, it was important to Nashville’s upcoming stretch of games. The Predators have a three-game homestand — starting with Los Angeles on Tuesday. Then they have only three home games the rest of the month.
Those three games either come directly after road games, or following a back-to-back. Basically, the Predators need to get as many points as possible in these three games to keep pace with the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
-Saturday was an emotional night for Florida center Jerred Smithson. He spent seven years with the Predators and became an integral part of the team’s fabric. Many Predators fans endearingly called Smithson “Mr. Predator” for his work ethic and drive. Saturday was his first game against his former team. He was traded to Florida Feb. 24.
“I knew (the Predators) were coming to Florida fairly soon, so that’s kind of one game there I had circled in my head that I was really looking forward to,” Smithson said before the game. “Once I get that first shift out of the way, it’ll be a lot better. It’s just a hockey game.”
-Smithson wasn’t the only former Predator facing his former team for the first time as a Panther. Center Marcel Goc played two seasons with Nashville. During the summer, he signed a three-year, $5.1 million deal with the Panthers. The Predators said they wanted to re-sign Goc, but the center wanted to check his worth.
“I didn’t know what the market would be for Goc, but I know we wanted him back, and he said he was going to test free agency. We would have had a job for him, but he signed in Florida for good money and I don’t blame him for that at all,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “He can be in a checking role or an offensive role. He’s sneaky in terms of what he can do with the puck. He has great puck protection skills and he quietly contributes all the time.”
-Newly acquired center Paul Gaustad played his first game with Nashville. The Predators dealt a first-round pick to Buffalo for the checking center. In order to make room for Gaustad, the Predators sat left wing Matt Halischuk. Gaustad sat out Tuesday’s game at Carolina with what the Predators called an “upper-body” injury.
“I’m going to try to approach it like any other game. I think that’s what has made me successful and that’s what I’m going to try to do tonight,” Gaustad said. “I’ve played against Florida quite a bit this season, so I know how they play, and they play hard, so I think it’s something that is going to be easier for me.”
-LW Andrei Kostitsyn scored his first goal with the Predators and also notched his first assist. Kostitsyn played 12:50 overall.
-C Paul Gaustad picked up his first assist with the Predators. It came in the first period on RW Andrei Kostitsyn’s goal. He also played 3:10 on the penalty kill.
-G Pekka Rinne made 39 saves on 40 shots. The win was his 36th, which tied a franchise record.
-RW Brian McGrattan (upper body) is day-to-day.
-D Kevin Klein (upper body) is day-to-day.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Every once in a while, he comes out and does amazing things, and it blows you away. He’s strong, he’s big, he can shoot the puck and when he unleashes it, it’s tough for goalies to stop.” — D Hal Gill, on LW Andrei Kostitsyn.