Kevin Fiala

Kevin Fiala excited about possible NHL playoff debut

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.”

Kevin Fiala shows well in surprise NHL debut

By Jim Diamond

As the cast of injured Predators grew in numbers prior to Tuesday night’s home game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, with the names Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg added to the list of Nashville’s wounded, reinforcements were needed from Milwaukee.

The brass at 501 Broadway eschewed the names of some older and more experienced players down on the farm for that of 18-year-old Kevin Fiala, the Predators first round pick (11th overall) in last June’s NHL Entry Draft.

With Cullen not taking part in the morning skate and Stalberg leaving said skate prior to its conclusion, the Predators needed a body, and time was of the essence. Since there are no direct flights between Milwaukee and Nashville, making travel arrangements was a challenge.

But Fiala caught a ride to Chicago in order to get a direct flight to Nashville.

In addition to the airplane flying, there were some butterflies flying around as well.

“I was nervous, very nervous on the flight,” Fiala said. “I was very excited and I just wanted to go to the game.”

When he heard his fellow countryman was coming up to the big club, defenseman Roman Josi gave Fiala a call.

“I just told him to play his game,” Josi said. “He’s here for a reason, and I just told him to play his game. He’s got nothing to lose and I thought he did a great job.”

That call made an impression on Fiala, who looks up to Josi.

“Roman Josi is a very good guy here,” Fiala said. “He’s one of the best defense here. He’s a good friend. He’s a good guy and I like him. He helps me a lot.”

Unlike Admiral teammate Anthony Bitetto in one of his recent call-ups, both Fiala and his equipment made it to Bridgestone Arena in time for the pregame warmup, enabling the 18-year-old St. Gallen, Switzerland native to get a full warmup in before making his NHL debut.

Once the game started, the nerves calmed down a little, but they were still there.

“After the first period, I felt more comfortable than in the first period,” Fiala said. “It went better and better I guess.”

In the game, Fiala was given the assignment of playing on a line with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith. The triumvirate, working title the Fish Cheese Line, clicked well, creating multiple scoring chances from the start of the game.

Their best scoring chance came in the second period in what quickly turned into a 3-on-1.

Carrying the puck out of the Nashville zone, Fiala danced around Tomas Plekanec at the blue line then carried the puck into the Montreal zone on the right side. Fiala then passed to Smith in the high slot before immediately getting the puck back. Rapidly approaching the goal line, Fiala sent a pass to Fisher skating down the left side, where he was unable to connect with the puck.

Friend o’ Rinkside Report @myregularface has the play here:

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette liked what he saw from Fiala in his matchup against the Atlantic Division’s top team.

“Things happen when he’s on the ice,” Laviolette said. “He’s a player that when he gets the puck on his stick, you saw some of the things that he did off the rush and in the offensive zone play. The puck sticks to him a little bit and that’s a good thing when you’re an offensive player.”