Paul Gaustad

Paul Gaustad leaves game after hit from Alex Burrows

By Jim Diamond

Late in the third period of Tuesday night’s game against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, Predators center Paul Gaustad collided with Vancouver winger Alex Burrows near the blue line in front of the Canucks bench. Burrows’ shoulder appeared to catch Gaustad up high, and he grabbed at his face as he was falling to the ice.

Goddess of the Gifs Steph caught it here:

Play continued for a bit before it was whistled down. Since there was no delayed penalty indicated, the ensuing 5-minute interference major that was assessed to Burrows was likely seen by one of the linesmen and communicated to the referees at the stoppage.

“I felt that we collided more than anything, but you never want to see someone go down,” Burrows said. “I’ve been on the wrong side sometimes and you never want to see someone be down. I hope he’s alright.”

Burrows was ejected from the game, as is mandatory when an interference major is called.

“My intentions weren’t to hurt him or anything,” Burrows said.

Gaustad’s fellow center Mike Fisher did not like the hit.

“The refs made the right call,” Fisher said. “That was a cheap shot. Hopefully Paul is going to be okay. That’s the main thing.”

As Gaustad was down on the ice, Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa skated by him and yelled in his direction and was immediately given a game misconduct by referee Francois St. Laurent.

Gaustad skated off the ice under his own power and went directly back to the Nashville locker room. A team spokesman said that they did not have an update on his condition.

In his postgame press conference, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said that he did not see the hit.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will likely review the hit. Burrows is no stranger to controversial plays. Earlier this season, he was suspended for three games as a result of a late and high hit on Montreal’s Alexei Emelin.

“You’re always worried,” Burrows said when asked if he was concerned about a suspension. “It’s not for me to judge or forecast what’s going to happen. We’ll let the people that are in charge make the call and we’ll go from there.”

Should Gaustad be sidelined, he will join a growing list of banged up Nashville forwards. Although Matt Cullen, James Neal, and Eric Nystrom have all resumed skating, none played in Tuesday night’s game.

Not known for his offensive prowess, Gaustad chipped in with an assist on Nashville’s second goal Tuesday. He is relied upon heavily for his faceoff and penalty killing acumen. With a 56.1 success rate, Gaustad entered the night as the team’s best faceoff man, placing him in the top 10 of the NHL. His 2:16 of average shorthanded ice time per game is tops among Nashville forwards.

Favorite Thanksgiving foods of some U.S.-born Predators

By Jim Diamond

On the eve of Thanksgiving in the United States, many will gather around the dinner table Thursday to celebrate the holiday with friends and family. With a Thursday evening game against the Edmonton Oilers on the schedule, it is a workday for the Nashville Predators, so a gigantic feast and an L-tryptophan induced sleep is not in the cards for the players.

When asked about their traditional Thanksgiving routines, many of the American-born Predators said that when they were growing up, they were often away from home playing in hockey tournaments this time of year, so it was difficult to develop many family traditions revolving around Thanksgiving. For Seth Jones and Eric Nystrom, their fathers being professional athletes made getting together for turkey on the assigned day that much more of a challenge.

“It was pretty tough, but we tried to sit down as a family,” Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, said. “It’s not like an overwhelming meal, but we tried to sit down and have a nice family dinner together.”

“There’s not too many Thanksgivings that I can say that I have spent with the family,” Nystrom said. “The whole family goes to Florida for the holidays, so there is no way I was going to get them to come to some of the places I have played around the holidays. They FaceTime me, so that is nice.”

Despite the fact that their Thanksgiving routines may differ from the general populace, several of the American Predators weighed in on their favorite Thanksgiving food items.

Jones: “I would probably say the sweet potatoes. You put some marshmallows and brown sugar on top, makes it a little better.”

Nystrom: “I go for the dark meat turkey, straight for it. Protein all day. My mom makes a great apple crisp that’s amazing that I always dive face-first into. Maybe she will send me the recipe and I will make it this year. Just small portions though. I like to push away before I get to the point where I feel like I am going to explode.”

Matt Cullen: “I was a huge fan of the stuffing. When I was a kid, I used to eat it until I was sick. I do love it. I used to love Thanksgiving, I still do. We used to have huge meals. We play on Thanksgiving Day, so we always have to adjust our schedules a little bit. It’s a little bit of a challenge with the travel and everything, but we make time to do it.”

Paul Gaustad:  “My wife makes the whole Thanksgiving dinner. She’s fantastic at it. Her turkey is the best. Thanksgiving is my favorite.”

Paul Gaustad dominates in the faceoff circle, picks up two assists, and grabs a present for his coach

By Jim Diamond

Midway through the third period holding a one-goal lead, and with a faceoff in the defensive zone, who to send out to take that draw was almost a no-brainer for new Predators head coach Peter Laviolette.

Known as one of the NHL’s best in the faceoff circle, Paul Gaustad is often called upon to take draws in the shadow of his own net, and more often than not, telling him he is up is the right call.

But in Thursday night’s season opener, Gaustad did more than just win the defensive zone faceoff. Just a few seconds after winning it and then a turnover forced by Filip Forsberg, Gaustad was carrying the puck into the Ottawa zone on what was basically a 2-on-0 with linemate Eric Nystrom. Gaustad sent a pass from the right side across the low slot to Nystrom, who made no mistake in recording his first goal of the season.

“Filip did a good job of creating the turnover and that’s where it started really,” Gaustad said. “Bobby really got a step on the guy. He made a great shot to put it in too.”

Gaustad was fourth-best in the NHL in faceoff win percentage last season at 58, and his picked right back up Thursday, winning 14 of 17 for a bawdy 82% success rate.

All but two of Gaustad’s Thursday night faceoffs came in the defensive zone. Winning 12 of 15 draws backed up in your own end is pretty impressive.

“Like tonight, he was taking all of the really big faceoffs,” Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “It was really nice to see Goose get rewarded. He does a lot of dirty work. He kills penalties, takes the most important faceoffs, and those other stuff that a lot of people don’t notice, but to us, he is a really important player.”

Nystrom often gets the calls alongside Gaustad for the defensive zone draws, but he knows his center’s abilities mean they can go from defense to offense very quickly.

“I know exactly where to go because I know he is going to win it a lot of the time,” Nystrom said. “That’s huge having the confidence in your centerman to win faceoffs because that is starting with the puck. There is nothing more frustrating when you have faceoffs and you are losing them constantly and you are chasing the puck. That’s what he does and that’s what he is great at.”

Less than a minute and a half before Nystrom’s goal, Gaustad picked up the secondary assist on Shea Weber’s first goal of the season.

After the game, Laviolette deflected any attention away from his first win at the helm of the Predators.

“Honestly, I’m happy for the guys and I’m happy for Nashville and the fans,” he said. “You want to come to your home opener and be successful for everybody. It’s a special night because it’s the first game, it’s in our building, there’s new players here; there’s a lot of new players, not just a new coach. There’s lots of people that were added.”

Gaustad’s only offensive zone faceoff came with just over 10 seconds remaining in the third and the Predators protecting their 3-2 lead. He won that one and Ottawa eventually tried a Hail Mary shot at the end that sailed wide. As the final horn sounded, the puck ricocheted off the end boards and drifted toward center ice. The Nashville players emptied off the bench onto the ice to congratulate Rinne on the win. Gaustad followed the puck, picked it up with his glove, and then joined the celebration.

The puck was for Laviolette. While the coach didn’t want any of the attention of the win on himself, Gaustad made sure he had a reminder of the milestone event.

“Yeah, that was the first win as a team and as a unit that we are building here,” Gaustad said. “It was important for us to get that first win and that puck.”

Concussed Predators Jones and Gaustad close to returning to game action

By Jim Diamond

As the Nashville Predators prepare for their upcoming three-game road trip, which begins Friday in Anaheim, the team looks to be getting two players back into the fold. Both defenseman Seth Jones and center Paul Gaustad, each sidelined with concussions, have rejoined the team in practice and appear to be set to return to the active roster.

The team announced Wednesday that both players will make the trip out west.

Jones has been out since late in the first period of March 23rd’s game in Chicago when the Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw hit him close to the boards at center ice.

Jones participated in last Sunday’s morning skate, but he did not play in that evening’s game against the Washington Capitals. Following Tuesday’s practice at Centennial Sportsplex, Jones said that he had received full clearance from the team’s medical staff to return to game action.

“Never been better,” Jones said. “I feel great. I’m excited to get ramped back up here and play the rest of the season.”

Predators head coach Barry Trotz was non-committal when asked how Jones would be used or who would come out of the lineup.

“It will be game-to-game,” he said. “We will see where Seth is come Friday. There’s no guarantee that he automatically goes in. He’s healthy, so we will play it as we go along here.”

The Predators have not played since Sunday’s shootout win over the Capitals. Jones thinks the team’s rare four-day break between games may be beneficial to him.

“It’s kind of nice,” he said. “You can’t just get right back into games when you are hurt like that, so it was kind of nice to get in a couple of practices before we have a game.”

Gaustad rejoined the team at Wednesday’s practice. He has been out of the Nashville lineup since taking a hard hit by Alex Edler March 9th in Vancouver.

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“It was good,” Gaustad said following Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve progressed pretty well with everything. The next step is just getting totally cleared by the doctors and hoping for the game in Anaheim.”

After Friday’s game in Anaheim, the team turns right around and plays Saturday night in San Jose. Should he be cleared, Gaustad could be counted on to counter the highly skilled forwards that the Ducks and Sharks both possess.

“He’s a pretty useful player for us,” Trotz said. “He plays in a lot of different situations. He’s a big body. He kills penalties, takes important draws, a real character guy in our room and on our bench. It will be nice to have him back.”

As with Jones, Trotz was unsure Wednesday as to how or when Gaustad would be used on the upcoming trip.

“They are both going to go on the trip, and I am not quite sure that I am going to play them in the first two games,” Trotz said. “I might play them in one instead of both just because they are coming back from concussions and when you come back from those, from that standpoint, sometimes it’s hard to catch a train right out of the gate; back-to-back might be a little bit tough.”