By Jim Diamond
As the Nashville Predators prepare for their upcoming three-game road trip, which begins Friday in Anaheim, the team looks to be getting two players back into the fold. Both defenseman Seth Jones and center Paul Gaustad, each sidelined with concussions, have rejoined the team in practice and appear to be set to return to the active roster.
The team announced Wednesday that both players will make the trip out west.
Jones has been out since late in the first period of March 23rd’s game in Chicago when the Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw hit him close to the boards at center ice.
Jones participated in last Sunday’s morning skate, but he did not play in that evening’s game against the Washington Capitals. Following Tuesday’s practice at Centennial Sportsplex, Jones said that he had received full clearance from the team’s medical staff to return to game action.
“Never been better,” Jones said. “I feel great. I’m excited to get ramped back up here and play the rest of the season.”
Predators head coach Barry Trotz was non-committal when asked how Jones would be used or who would come out of the lineup.
“It will be game-to-game,” he said. “We will see where Seth is come Friday. There’s no guarantee that he automatically goes in. He’s healthy, so we will play it as we go along here.”
The Predators have not played since Sunday’s shootout win over the Capitals. Jones thinks the team’s rare four-day break between games may be beneficial to him.
“It’s kind of nice,” he said. “You can’t just get right back into games when you are hurt like that, so it was kind of nice to get in a couple of practices before we have a game.”
Gaustad rejoined the team at Wednesday’s practice. He has been out of the Nashville lineup since taking a hard hit by Alex Edler March 9th in Vancouver.
“It was good,” Gaustad said following Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve progressed pretty well with everything. The next step is just getting totally cleared by the doctors and hoping for the game in Anaheim.”
After Friday’s game in Anaheim, the team turns right around and plays Saturday night in San Jose. Should he be cleared, Gaustad could be counted on to counter the highly skilled forwards that the Ducks and Sharks both possess.
“He’s a pretty useful player for us,” Trotz said. “He plays in a lot of different situations. He’s a big body. He kills penalties, takes important draws, a real character guy in our room and on our bench. It will be nice to have him back.”
As with Jones, Trotz was unsure Wednesday as to how or when Gaustad would be used on the upcoming trip.
“They are both going to go on the trip, and I am not quite sure that I am going to play them in the first two games,” Trotz said. “I might play them in one instead of both just because they are coming back from concussions and when you come back from those, from that standpoint, sometimes it’s hard to catch a train right out of the gate; back-to-back might be a little bit tough.”