Seth Jones

Nashville’s defense loses Weber but helps team tie series

By Jim Diamond

As the first period neared its end Friday night, Predators defenseman Roman Josi picked up the puck in his own end near the blue line on the left boards. Josi carried the puck into the Chicago zone, seemingly dancing across the blue line before unleashing a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford high to the stick side, aided by a screen from Mike Santorelli. Just 3.4 seconds showed on the clock.

Goals scored in the last minute of periods are often referred to as momentum goals, and with the difficulties the Predators have experienced in the second period recently, they needed all the help they could get.

“He picked up the puck in our end with less than 10 seconds left on the clock and you’re thinking the period is probably just going to run out,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “But Roman has carried the puck so many times for us this year. Cutting through the neutral zone, but even then with less than six seconds on the entry to cut it across the ice and find a little bit of wiggle room to get a shot off. Santo made a nice screen in front of the net. That was a big moment in the game as well.”

And some adversity did appear in the second. At 9:17, Brandon Saad ran into Nashville captain Shea Weber at the end boards. The hit didn’t appear all that rough, but Weber collapsed to the ice. He got up quickly and skated off, putting no weight on his right leg. The team announced that he would not return to the game due to a lower-body injury.

Losing Weber meant the Predators had to go with five defensemen the rest of the way, a challenge since they did not have the traditional three pairings.

“Lot of talk, talk is always big in any type of situation, especially in the playoffs,” Cody Franson said. “It’s so loud out there and things happen so fast, that communication is just as important as anything else. When you go down to five guys like that, you try and keep your shifts short, don’t get overextended, and keep your energy levels high.”

Later in the second, Patrick Kane tied the game 2-2 on a goal that appeared to come with six Blackhawks on the ice. Running the risk of losing the first two games at home, the Predators rallied after the Kane goal, scoring the final four to win going away 6-2.

Josi had to adjust to multiple partners down the stretch. He got an opportunity to play some with Seth Jones, who was playing in just his second career NHL playoff game.

“He did great,” Josi said. “I thought he did great in the first game too. He’s such a confident guy with the puck and he makes those little plays. I thought he was awesome those two games.”

For his part, Jones retuned the admiration in Josi’s direction.

“It’s unbelievable some of the stuff he does,” Jones said. “It’s a pleasure to play with a guy like that. He makes the game so simple. We kind of had to rotate pairs a little bit this year, so it’s pretty easy playing with anyone on our D corps.”

The Predators did not have any further updates on Weber’s condition after the game.

Jones, Josi anchor 5-on-3 kill in Predators win

By Jim Diamond

At 8:33 of the third period of Thursday night’s game against the visiting Winnipeg Jets, Predators defenseman Victor Bartley was whistled for an interference minor. 29 seconds later, at 9:02, fellow blueliner Shea Weber was sent off for cross-checking, giving the Jets a lengthy two-man advantage of 1:31.

The old adage is that a goaltender is a team’s best penalty killer, but the effort displayed by the two defensemen and two forwards used on that PK was more than impressive in support of Pekka Rinne.

It is fairly customary for teams down two players to use a one forward and two defensemen formation, and that is exactly what Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette did in sending out Mike Fisher up front and Seth Jones and Roman Josi on defense.

After one shot on goal and two more attempts blocked, Gaustad was able to get off in favor of Mike Fisher at 9:48, but Jones and Josi were unable to change. Fisher did his part in the penalty kill, recording three consecutive blocked shots on Winnipeg’s hulking defenseman Dustin Byfuglien in the span of 21 seconds.

“That was a huge kill,” Jones said. “Just try to get in some shot lanes and Mike, and Goose, and Jos did a great job as well getting in shot lanes. We didn’t give them really anything, and Pekks made a huge save there in the crease as well.”

Josi, who started his shift after the Bartley penalty at 8:33, came off at 10:35 after Rinne stopped and covered a shot from Andrew Ladd. The shift of 2:02 was just the third-longest of the night for Josi, who also clocked shifts of 3:04 and 2:13 in the game en route to a game-high 28:00 of ice time.

“Fish had a couple of great blocks and we just tried to take the passing lanes away and obviously Pekks in net made a couple of huge saves,” Josi said. “You obviously try to talk a little bit, but it happens pretty fast on the 5-on-3, so you just try to read off each other, try to read off the forward too. Pekks has the shots and we just try to take the passing lanes away.”

Jones’ shift finally ended at 11:06, a lengthy 2:06 from start to finish. With injuries to Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm, Jones has inherited much more ice time lately.

“He’s getting an opportunity now with the injuries,” Laviolette said. “He’s got one of those endless oxygen tanks that seems like he could stay out there for two minutes, he could stay out there for a long time, one of those guys that can take on a lot of minutes.

“He’s played great, but now in an expanded role, you really get to see who he is. I’m sure he’s loving it.”

Longs shifts are one thing but penalty-killing shifts that exceed two minutes are exhausting. The young duo of Josi and Jones battled through their long shifts and helped preserve Nashville’s fourth consecutive win.

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.”

Seth Jones made a solid first impression on his new coach

By Jim Diamond

Early in the 2013-14 season, Peter Laviolette found himself with a whole lot more free time on his hands than he was anticipating having. The Philadelphia Flyers terminated Laviolette three games into the season, and having been already named one of Team USA’s coaches for the Sochi Olympics, Laviolette was given an opportunity to travel around the NHL scouting potential players for the American squad.

One of the players on Team USA’s radar was Seth Jones, a 19-year-old rookie defenseman with the Nashville Predators. Although Jones did not make the final Olympic roster, his and Laviolette’s paths would cross again in just a matter of months.

After a second consecutive season finishing out of the playoffs, Barry Trotz was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Predators. Nashville general manager David Poile selected Laviolette to succeed Trotz.

Laviolette was also chosen to lead Team USA at the World Championships in Belarus. Jones and fellow Predator Craig Smith were named to that team. The Americans finished outside of the medals in Minsk, but Laviolette gained some very valuable time with his two new charges.

“I think you always learn a little bit more about a player when you get to coach him; one because you get to have meetings with him, you get to talk to him just about the game or a situation or the next day or whatever it might be,” Laviolette said Sunday after his appearance at the Music City Sports Festival. “So right away, you get a better feeling and a better understanding of a player once you get to work with him from a coach-player relationship.”

Smith posted three goals and five assists in eight games played. He averaged 18:56 of ice time per game. Jones had two goals and nine assists, leading the Americans with 11 points. He also led the team in ice time, averaging 25:38.

While he didn’t come back to the US with a medal, Jones did return with multiple accolades. The Directorate named him the best defenseman in the tournament, he and Smith were both named as two of Team USA’s three best players by the coaches, and Jones was also named one of the tournaments all stars as voted by the media.

“Seth Jones got voted best defenseman in the tournament, and I’ll tell you he deserved every vote that was given his way because he was outstanding, he really was,” Laviolette told Sunday’s crowd. “To be able to help be a part of his future and watch him grow and develop into the player that he is going to be is something special for all of us; for me and for you and for the city of Nashville.”

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Like any rookie who makes the jump directly from junior hockey to the NHL, Jones had some ups and downs in his first season with the Predators. With a year of experience under his belt and the confidence of his coach behind him, Jones appears to be set up well for a successful sophomore season when it begins this fall.

“From an on-ice performance, you get to realize how valuable a guy like Seth is that can play 25-plus minutes and play them very well against other team’s best players,” Laviolette said. “And we used him in that role over there. That was a shutdown pair and a shutdown defenseman that we used to put out against the best players that the opponent had to offer that night. He thrived in that role and in that environment. He did a terrific job and had a great tournament.”

Laviolette has the reputation of coaching an up-tempo offensive game, and that type of game suits Jones’ strong skating and above-average on-ice vision.

With Nashville’s top defensive pair of Shea Weber and Roman Josi already set, Laviolette will likely not have to lean on Jones as much as he did in Belarus, but Jones’ continued progression may allow the Predators coaching staff to reduce some of the workload on the Weber/Josi pairing.

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.”