By Amanda DiPaolo
Tonight the Nashville Predators hit the ice against the Carolina Hurricanes for the first of three preseason games being played at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators also play three away road games before the regular season starts on October 7th.
The roster for the Predators is made up of mostly prospects. Cody Franson, Marcel Goc, Jordin Tootoo, JP Dumont, Patrick Hornqvist and Pekka Rinne are the only Predators regulars who’ll be given ice time when the puck drops at 7 p.m.
Carolina, on the other hand, has decided to play their veterans tonight, making the contest even more interesting. The Hurricanes press release for tomorrow’s game states that “only Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash and Patrick O’Sullivan, all of whom played against Florida, are considered outside of the established veteran group” heading to Nashville. Sergei Samsanov, Eric Cole, Joe Corvo, Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Canadian Olympian Eric Staal are all expected to play for the Canes. Justin Peters and Justin Pogge will share time in goal.
Nashville players in the lineup who are vying for roster spots include Sergei Kostitsyn, Jonas Andersson, Ryan Parent as well as top prospects Ryan Ellis, Jonathon Blum and Taylor Beck. Anders Lindback is sharing duties in goal with Rinne. But all eyes will be on Brentwood native, Blake Geoffrion.
Geoffrion will play for the first time in front of his hometown as a member of the Nashville Predators. For Geoffrion, tonight’s game will be a special one. “I’ve been a fan [of the Predators] since they started playing in 1998. To play for your home town is the best thing. It isn’t a huge market but it’s special to play in the rink I grew up.”
While vacant spots up for grabs are scarce, Geoffrion has been playing to stay in Nashville since the start of rookie camp, scoring a goal and adding an assist during the first rookie game against the Florida Panthers prospects, and getting into a fight less than 12 hours later when the two teams met again. During one team scrimmage, the Hobey Baker Award winner actually fell to the ice to block a shot. When asked whether or not shot blocking in the preseason was a bit risky Geoffrion didn’t hide his motives. “I was just trying to do something to standout, obviously. We were trapped in our own zone there for a while. I had an opportunity to make the block and I did it,” he said.
If Geoffrion doesn’t make the team out of camp, he will most likely be called up from Milwaukee if the injury bug hits the Predators. But Geoffrion’s aim isn’t to be a player who splits time between the American Hockey League and the NHL. He’s giving it all he’s got at camp and hoping for the best. “We’ll see what happens,” Geoffrion said, “I just have to go out there every day and work hard. I’m going to control what I can control.”
The former University of Wisconsin Badgers captain does standout. Besides scoring goals and blocking shots, Geoffrion has also shown signs of speed, he carries the puck to the net and has already formed some chemistry with Predators 2008 first round draft pick, Colin Wilson.
Geoffrion’s ability to set himself apart from the others at camp is no surprise as Geoffrion comes with some serious hockey pedigree. He’ll be wearing number 5 for the Predators, a number that has been retired by the Montreal Canadiens because of Geoffrions grandfather, Bernie Boom Boom Geoffrion. According to The Hockey News list of the top 100 hockey players of all time, Geoffrion ranks at number 42. Boom Boom won 6 Stanley Cups, the Calder, Art Ross and Hart trophies. If being the grandson of Bernie Geoffrion were not enough pressure, his great grandfather is Howie Morenz. Morenz is ranked 15th in the same The Hockey News list. His number 7 was also retired by the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, Morenz was the first number the Montreal Organization retired. He is considered one of the most skilled players in the first half of the 20th Century and was also a Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner.
So Predators fans will have to forgive Blake Geoffrion, who goes by Boomer, when he says he wouldn’t mind playing for the Canadiens, given that family history. However, at the end of the day, Geoffrion is excited to be here and wants to be a Predator. From the excitement in his voice, it is evident he means it when he says playing for his home town, and favorite hockey team, is the best thing, a special thing.
Tickets are still available for purchase to tonight’s game at the box office or online.