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Despite loss to Flyers, Predators young defense shines

Roman Josi

Dec 1, 2013


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A series of injuries forced Nashville to field a decidedly different lineup in Saturday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

After Shea Weber was struck in the face by an errant puck on Thursday night and Kevin Klein later went down with a lower-body injury, the Predators were forced to scramble to fill the two open defensive positions.

While Mattias Ekholm was already on Nashville’s roster, the loss of two players necessitated the need to call up Joe Piskula from Milwaukee. Piskula had previously appeared in very brief stints with the Los Angeles Kings and the Calgary Flames.

As a result, Nashville fielded a team whose total NHL experience equaled 307 total games. No defenseman on Nashville’s roster on Saturday night had ever played in a full 82-game season. Roman Josi, who was on the roster for all of the shortened 2012-13 season, was the most experienced blue-liner with 116 games.

“Our goal was to play our game – it didn’t matter who was out,” Josi said. “Just keep playing how we were playing. I thought we played solid and intense and we just had to find a way to score more goals.”

Nashville only allowed two goals on 24 Philadelphia shots. However, the Predators were only able to beat Flyers netminder Steve Mason two times, as well. The Flyers finally overtook the Predators in the shootout.

“I thought we played well,” Josi said. “Actually, the whole team played a really solid game. We had a lot of chances but our power play wasn’t very good tonight. We just have to find a way to score that third goal and keep them at two and we win the game. I thought Piskula did a great job coming in today and all of the other guys played well.

Both Seth Jones and Josi played for over 30 minutes on Saturday. Josi appeared in a game-high 32:26 – virtually half of the 65 minute contest. Jones played 30:43.

“That’s what you work out for all summer – to be in good shape,” Josi said.

Nashville held the Flyers scoreless on three power plays. However, Nashville was unable to convert on their own five power plays. The Predators were noticeably struggling without Shea Weber on the blue line to blast away shots. Weber is currently the leading defenseman in the NHL in terms of power play goals and ranks seventh among all skaters.

“Obviously, he’s our biggest threat on the power play,” Josi said. “We want to get it to him and get his one-timer going. We obviously missed him on the power play, but we still have to make some better plays and get a goal on the power play.”

Meanwhile, Piskula, whose flight arrived at two o’clock, had very little trouble adjusting to his new surroundings.

“I was with Milwaukee and we were on the road in Charlotte,” Piskula said. “I took pregame skate in Charlotte and then found out for sure that I was coming at about one o’clock. So I jumped on a plane and I was here. There was no time to really overthink it, which was nice.”

Part of what helped Piskula have a succesful debut in Nashville was the familiarity that came with his teammates. Piskula was acquired in a trade last year from Calgary for Brian McGrattan and spent the latter half of last season in Milwaukee.

“At this level everybody can adapt to new partners,” Piskula said. “I’ve played with three out of the five defensive partners in Milwaukee last year. It’s nice having some familiar faces. I played with Ellis a lot and Ekholm a lot. Bartley was up and down when I got traded for McGrattan.”

With Weber and Klein out for an indeterminate amount of time, Piskula is prepared to fill the gap. He only played for a little over 10 minutes on Saturday, but he showed that he was able to fill in for the time being.

“I think being an older guy at 29 years old and having a couple of call-ups in my career, it puts things in perspective,” Piskula said. “I’m able to go out and play my game and try not to let the nerves get you too much like when it’s your first game. I felt good – I just have to play a solid defensive game and earn some trust back there. I feel like I can bring some stuff to this team as a solid defenseman.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua