By Jim Diamond
With more players than locker stalls available at Bridgestone Arena, recently recalled forward Kevin Fiala has been the odd-man out as far as fixed stalls are concerned in the Predators’ locker room. So after Tuesday’s practice, Fiala took off his equipment while sitting in a chair in front of a portable locker on casters.
The 18-year-old Fiala, a semi-surprise recall from the Milwaukee Admirals Monday in advance of Wednesday’s start of Nashville’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks, could be making his NHL playoff debut should head coach Peter Laviolette elect to pencil his name onto the lineup card at some point during the series. With just one regular season NHL game to his credit thus far, Fiala knows that the NHL’s postseason is vastly different than its regular season.
“Of course I am nervous,” he said. “It’s exciting. Hopefully I will play. If I play, I will do my best and give everything for the team to win.”
Due to a rash of injuries up front for the Predators, Fiala appeared in his first NHL game March 24th against the Montreal Canadiens on an emergency recall basis.
“The playoffs are much better and more physical, but I am ready for that also,” Fiala said.
After starting the season with HV-71 of the Swedish Hockey League, Nashville’s brass thought it was best for Fiala’s development to be playing on North American sized ice, so he was assigned to the Admirals in January. In 33 games with Milwaukee, Fiala had 11 goals and nine assists.
Roman Josi, with 10 NHL playoff games to his credit, is a grizzled veteran compared to his fellow Swiss countryman. Despite his experience, he too is feeling the nerves on the eve of the playoffs.
“Oh definitely,” he said. “I think everybody does. I definitely do. It’s an exciting time and that’s why you play for 82 games and I am definitely going to be a little nervous tomorrow night.”
Josi is proud of all that his friend has accomplished since being drafted eleventh overall by the Predators in last June’s Entry Draft.
“It’s great for him,” Josi said. “It’s awesome for him to be up here for the playoffs.”
The series with Chicago is expected to have a lot of pace to it, as both teams like to play a north-south game with speed. That kind of a game fits Fiala’s skill set perfectly.
“Fiala brings something that’s really special,” Laviolette said. “He’s got a quick, dynamic play to him. He’s got power in his strides. He can find open ice and he’s got skills that match that quickness in which he plays. That makes it tough to defend a guy like that. Young player, but certainly he’s capable, yeah.”