By Jim Diamond
After missing the start of training camp while waiting for his contract situation to settle, Predators defenseman Ryan saw his first game action Monday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets visited Nashville.
Ellis inked a five-year, $12.5 million contract with the Predators late Thursday and arrived in Nashville early Friday after a long drive south from Windsor, Ontario.
The Predators came out on the losing end of a 3-0 decision Monday night, but Ellis was encouraged by how he felt physically.
“I was actually really surprised,” Ellis said. “I didn’t know what to expect. The first shift we got extended a bit and I was kind of winded there, but after that I felt really good.”
Ellis posted four shots on goal along with two attempts blocked and one missed shot in 19:51 of ice time in the game. He played 4:12 on the power play.
Nashville came up empty in six opportunities with the man advantage, even surrendering a shorthanded goal against early in the second period.
Ellis played with Mattias Ekholm Monday. The team’s top defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Roman Josi appears set, but who will play in the other two pairings is still a work in progress. Along with Ellis and Ekholm, Seth Jones, Anton Volchenkov, and Victor Bartley appear to be in the mix for defensemen positions four through seven, but Joe Piskula and Johan Alm are still in camp looking to make the roster.
Peter Laviolette seemed encouraged by Ellis’ performance in his first preseason game.
“He was noticeable for me offensively,” Laviolette said. “I thought for jumping in, really just arriving a couple of days ago, I thought he did a nice job. He had a couple of looks where he could have scored a goal. He made some nice plays. He was active on the back end. I thought his game was okay.”
With just a couple of practices and Monday’s game under his belt, Ellis thinks the new system put in place for this season suits his playing style well.
“The system has changed and it is a little more high-risk, which I like, and going forward hopefully it can be successful for our team,” Ellis said.
After playing four games in the span of five days, the Predators do not have any more games until the team plays their preseason finale Saturday in Columbus. While more of the expected opening night roster played Monday than in previous games, it is likely that Saturday’s game will feature more of the regulars in the last preseason tune-up.