By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators edged the Atlanta Thrashers 2-1 in their final preseason game at Bridgestone Arena. It was the fourth of six preseason games for Nashville, who play in Atlanta on Wednesday and in Washington Sunday afternoon. Monday’s contest marked the third preseason game for the Thrashers, who remain winless.
The game saw most of the Predators key players in the lineup. Potential line combinations continued to be juggled as the dynamic duo of Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn from Saturday night’s game was split up. Kostitsyn played on a line with David Legwand and Joel Ward, which proved to quite effective.
Kostitsyn deflected a Shea Weber blast for his first goal as a Nashville Predator less than 4 minutes into the first period. Kostitsyn played a strong game, despite playing less minutes than all other forwards, except for the fourth line of Jordin Tootoo, Jamie Lundmark and Jerred Smithson, with 13:06 total ice time. The Belorussian scored on his only shot on goal, had one take away, and also had a great set up pass to David Legwand in the slot during the second period. Legwand couldn’t bury the puck at the back of the net.
“He’s starting to buy into our system and buy into what we do,” Trotz said of Kostitsyn during the post-game press conference. “Every game he’s playing, he’s playing a little bit better and has a better understanding. I think he’s a real intelligent player and he’s got some gifts.”
The Predators appeared to be the team setting the pace, with speedster Matt Lombardi seeing 20:29 minutes of ice time. With under 6 minutes to play in the first period, Colin Wilson and Lombardi had a 2 on 1, but Wilson’s pass was deflected. Martin Erat finished that line combination for most of the night.
The other offensive unit for Nashville was Steve Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist and center Cal O’Reilly. It looks like the Predators are really giving O’Reilly a shot at making the team this year. O’Reilly played an aggressive forechecking game. Hornqvist continues to generate chance after chance and has been playing like a man who wants to prove why he is listed as the 15th best player at the position of right wing in hockey today.
With 32 seconds left in the second period, what appeared to be a 2 on 1 between Sullivan and Hornqvist was blown dead because of what the referee determined to be a hand pass. Hornqvist did not agree with the call (it was a questionable call), banged his stick on the ice and then proceeded to slam the door shut when he went to sit down. This sort of intensity is not typical of a preseason game, but it isn’t untypical of a Predators organization that prides itself on hard work.
Pekka Rinne stood tall in the early part of the second period, saving a point blank shot at 8:34 of the second by Chris Thorburn and was then saved by the post moments later by a lazer shot from Alexander Burmistrov. At 15:30 of the second period, Nashville’s lead was erased when former Chicago Blackhawk, Ben Eager scored on a tic-tac-toe play with linemates Thorburn and Anthony Stewart.
Nashville regained its lead on the second power play of the game when Zach Bogosian was called for holding the stick of David Legwand with 9 minutes left in the third. Shea Weber scored a blast from the point 40 seconds into the power play to end a 0-13 drought on the man advantage this preseason.
On the goalie situation in Nashville:
Chet Pickard was the backup goalie for Nashville. He didn’t play. Coach Trotz said during the post-game press conference that he decided to keep Rinne in goal because he hadn’t faced many shots through the first two periods of play, but added that Pickard has been working hard and deserved to dress during an NHL preseason game. Cuts were expected to be made after the game and Pickard will be sent to Milwaukee. The fight for the vacant backup spot to starter Pekka Rinne is between Mark Dekanich and Anders Lindback.
Other Roster Moves:
Most people know by now, Blake Geoffrion has been sent to the Milwaukee Admirals. This homegrown talent will play in Nashville this year as a call up. The move makes sense because he’ll get major minutes in the American Hockey League, whereas he would be playing behind 9 forwards here in Nashville.
Teemu Laakso and Andreas Thuresson were put on waivers by the Nashville Predators. If unclaimed by noon tomorrow, they will be sent to Milwaukee.
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