By Jim Diamond
More than a day’s worth of work went into trying to get Anthony Bitetto to Nashville for Tuesday night’s game against the visiting San Jose Sharks, and all that work finally came to fruition, albeit just a little late.
Bitetto was needed back in Nashville for the Predators’ tilt against the Sharks because Anton Volchenkov was unable to go and newly acquired defenseman Cody Franson still does not have the green light to suit up for the Predators due to immigration issues.
Now there are no direct flights between Milwaukee and Nashville, and with weather systems wreaking havoc all over North America, including the one that dumped ice on Middle Tennessee Monday, getting between the two cities was not exactly easy.
After a Monday afternoon flight cancellation, he arrived at the airport at 5:30 Tuesday morning ready to fly to Nashville.
“I had a flight at 6:15 yesterday, cancelled, and then 7:00 am, cancelled,” he said. “I had a flight at 11:15 just delayed forever. It was ridiculous. Sometimes you have to go through adversity like that. It was a long day.”
With a 7:00 pm start time to Nashville’s game, there was little margin for any further delays. He said that Tuesday was the first time he ever had to eat his pregame meal in an airport.
Bitetto landed in Nashville in time to make it to Bridgestone Arena, but his gear, not so much.
“I made the flight and I got to baggage claim, and right now it’s probably 5:15 and the meeting is about to happen and I’m stressing out not sure what’s going on,” he said.
Eventually, the bag was retrieved.
As the team’s warmup skate began, Bitetto was not on the ice. In fact, forward Viktor Stalberg was taking line rushes as Seth Jones’ defensive partner. Bitetto was present on the roster card for the game, but when it began, he was not on the bench.
“I guess warmups aren’t that important,” Bitetto said with a laugh.
As the game neared its first media timeout, Bitetto appeared and took his seat on the bench. That media timeout came at 6:26, and while the ice crew did their flying V cleaning, Bitetto took a couple of spins to loosen up his legs. 32 seconds later, he received his first shift of the game.
“I had to get out there and do a couple of hot laps,” he said. “I think my first shift I had a 2-on-1 and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m back.’ I’m glad we got the win. That’s the most important thing about it.”
Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said that getting Bitetto into Nashville was quite the challenge, and that if needed, Stalberg would have gone into the lineup.
“Well, we had one extra player here,” Laviolette said. “There’s nothing really you can do about it. We’ve been trying for what seemed like 30 hours to get him here. The weather’s got everybody on their heels right now, so the fact that he made it here is great. Once he was in the air, we knew he would be here. We knew his equipment would get here at some point and he would join us in the game.”
Bitetto finished with 13:29 of ice time, not too bad for a guy who had been travelling all day, missed warmups, and even the start of the game.