Last night, the Nashville Predators took on the Phoenix Coyotes in a game that began a seven-game road trip and marked the return of Roman Josi to the lineup. Josi had been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion on October 4th against Colorado, missing a total of ten games.
Josi played well in his return to the lineup. He played 22:41 with two shots on goal and recorded a minus one. Josi manned the blue line on the power play with Ryan Ellis and also played some shorthanded minutes. Having Josi back in the lineup should improve the second play unit and allow Trotz to move some even strength minutes away from Shea Weber and Seth Jones. While Weber and Jones have been solid as the top pair, both are in the top twelve in time on ice. Weber has been playing big-time minutes for a couple of seasons, but allowing Josi to pick up some minutes for Jones could pay dividends over the course of the season. Jones is currently averaging almost four minutes more than the next rookie defender and has never played more than 61 games in a season.
Getting back to the game, the Preds jumped out to a three goal lead in the first period on goals by Matt Hendricks, Eric Nystrom and David Legwand. Legwand’s goal was on the power play, where Nashville finished 1 of 2. Hendricks’ goal was his first with the Preds, but his night ended early after hitting his head after a collision with the Coyotes’ Derek Morris. Phoenix rallied in the second to cut the lead to one, then a goal by Paul Gaustad early in the third gave the Preds another two-goal lead. Unfortunately, the Preds could not hold the lead and ended up falling 5-4 in the shootout.
Carter Hutton made 21 saves but was out-dueled by Thomas Greiss who stopped 36 Predator shots. Hutton let in a weak shot from Jordan Szwarz to open the scoring for Phoenix, and while he was steady, he never really made that big save that the Preds needed. Hutton did stop 4 of 5 attempts in the shootout.
The Preds have to be a little disappointed to end up with one point in a game where they led by two in the third period. Nashville is usually better at closing the door in those situations, especially on the road, and will need to take advantage of these opportunities if they hope to make the playoffs.
The loss of Hendricks allowed Viktor Stalberg to play his most minutes of the season and while he still hasn’t picked up a point, he made a key defensive play to save a goal. Hopefully, Hendricks is not out of the lineup long, but if he is, this may be the chance Stalberg needs to get some more quality minutes and get going offensively.