A short vacation/work trip to southern California to take in the Rose Bowl afforded me the chance to spectate the Milwaukee Admirals’ parent club, the Nashville Predators, as they competed in Anaheim one night prior to my return voyage back to frosty Wisconsin.
Here are four of my observations from the Predators 4-1 victory over the Ducks.
1) Chris Mueller fits right in with Nashville.
Though Chris Mueller finished the night with just 8:28 of playing time (the second fewest minutes of any Predators forward) he played a strong two-way game, registering two shots on goal and contributing to several sustained Nashville shifts in the offensive zone. Though Mueller is slightly undersized by NHL standards, the work ethic he showed all year in Milwaukee was evident at the Honda Center. In three games of NHL action through Thursday, Mueller has yet to score, but I have a feeling that will change in the near future.
2) Wade Belak over Linus Klasen? Seriously, Why?
I have seen enough of Wade Belak’s career to really wonder why he has an NHL job in the first place. Against Anaheim, Belak played a whole 1:55, picking up an entertaining scrap with veteran NHL goon George Parros. Belak was in the lineup against the Ducks simply to match up against Anaheim’s size, but everyone else seemed to be doing just fine, including the 5’10” Mueller. Instead of Belak, I wanted to watch Linus Klasen skate alongside Mueller to give Nashville another potential scoring option.
With a back-to-back game in Los Angeles on Thursday, I certainly would have plugged Klasen into the lineup against the more up-tempo Kings. Belak was a complete non-factor, getting less than four minutes of ice time in this game. I have to think that Klasen would have made a more positive impression than Belak, especially as a player hungry to get into the line up. Still, Nashville dominated for a 5-2 come from behind win.
3) Jerred Smithson and Nick Spaling made big impressions.
Jerred Smithson might not be the most exciting player on the Predators, but the former Admiral plays with a ton of heart. Smithson worked his tail off the whole game, and got rewarded with fluky goal that only he knew was in. Playing on the same line as Smithson, Nick Spaling played what I thought was his best game so far with Nashville. He logged over 17 minutes of ice time, assisted on Smithson’s goal and was all over the place on the Predators relentless forecheck.
4) Sheldon Brookbank is stuck as the odd man out in Anaheim.
The remembrance of Brian Burke’s general manager days in Anaheim remains obvious in the team’s defensive corps. Despite losing Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer over the past two years, there are few precious open slots on the Ducks blueline. With all eight rostered defensemen currently healthy, former Admiral Sheldon Brookbank is finding a hard time getting into the line up, much like fellow veteran Paul Mara. From watching him during the pregame skate, Brookbank looked like he was itching to get back to competing rather than spectating.