By Jim Diamond
After missing 21 games with a lower-body injury, Ryan Ellis returned to the lineup for the Nashville Predators Thursday night in their home game against the Minnesota Wild. Ellis sustained his injury Jan. 8 against Dallas, and his rehab has been a long, slow process.
He has been skating with the team recently and at Thursday’s morning skate proclaimed that he was ready to see game action. In the 4-2 loss to the Wild, Ellis saw just 11:29 of ice time, his lowest total of the season save for the game in which he was injured.
“It was a rough game,” Ellis said. “It was fast-paced. Not playing for seven weeks, obviously it is tough to get back into it, but it’s kind of to be expected.”
With the team’s game-heavy schedule in the month of February, the Predators have not had a lot of practice time where Ellis could get closer to replicating game speed, so it will have to come through game action.
“There’s nothing like a game to prepare yourself,” Ellis said. “You can skate. You can ride the bike as much as you want, but you kind of have to play games to get in that mode.”
Neither Ellis nor Cody Franson saw the ice after the 11:06 mark of the third period. Asked about the pair spending the last half of the third on the bench, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette did not shine a whole lot of light on the situation.
“We were just moving the other four a little bit,” Laviolette said. “We were in a position where we were trying to push. It was just the way the bench rolled I think at the end.”
Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, and Mattias Ekholm all played north of 20 minutes in the game, led by Josi’s 27:36.
Homeboys on the Blue Line
Long known for their prowess for drafting and developing defenseman, Ellis’ re-insertion into the lineup meant that all six Nashville blueliners in Thursday’s game were Predator draftees.
Add in the fact that Ryan Suter, the guy who the Bridgestone faithful booed each time he touched the puck per usual, was also a Predators draftee, and seven of the 12 defensemen in the game fit that definition.
As unusual as it is for a team to have all six of its defensemen homegrown, this was not the first time the Predators dressed a defense corps comprised entirely of players who had their name called by David Poile or a member of his front office when they were drafted. On January 9, 2010, Weber and Franson were joined by Suter, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Klein, and Alex Sulzer. In Sunday’s game in Buffalo, Weber, Josi, Jones, Ekholm, Franson, and Anthony Bitetto made up the D corps.