This morning when I rolled into the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena I did so early enough that the skaters weren’t even on the ice yet. It’s because I left early to vote before morning skate to (1) get it out of the way and (2) do it in case there was a bit of a procession. There was. But I still made it rinkside before the first skater took to the ice. It was then to my shock that a goaltender wearing a highly visible yellow Nashville Predators mask with a catching glove on the wrong hand made his way to the ice. As it so happens there was a roster move officially made as I was kicked back.
This morning the Nashville Predators made a forward and goaltending swap that sees Pontus Åberg and Juuse Saros head up to the NHL while Kevin Fiala and Marek Mazanec make their way to the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL.
Press Release via Nashville Predators:
Nashville, Tenn. (November 8, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Tuesday that the club has recalled forward Pontus Aberg and goalie Juuse Saros from Milwaukee (AHL), and assigned forward Kevin Fiala and goalie Marek Mazanec to Milwaukee.
Aberg, 23 (9/23/93), leads the Admirals in points (9), goals (5) and shots on goal (28) this season, and has added four assists in nine games. In his last game on Saturday, Aberg tallied two goals and recorded an assist to extend his point streak to three games (10/30-11/5: 4g-3a). The Stockholm, Sweden, native played in two Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Predators last season.
Saros, 21 (4/19/95), is 6-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in seven games with the Admirals this season. Recalled on an emergency basis to the Preds on Oct. 22, Saros started and earned the win in a 5-1 victory against Pittsburgh. He stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced, allowing just one goal in 59:22 of ice time. It was Saros’ first career NHL victory and second NHL game.
Fiala has appeared in 10 games for the Predators this season, and earned his first career multi-goal game on Oct. 22 vs. Pittsburgh (2g-0a). Mazanec has played in two games for the Preds in 2016-17, starting one, and stopping 29 of 36 shots faced.
The Preds return to action tonight against the Ottawa Senators at 7:00 p.m. CT at Bridgestone Arena. The game will be televised on FOX Sports Tennessee, beginning with the Predators Live! pregame show at 6:30 p.m. The contest can also be heard on the Preds flagship radio station, 102.5 The Game.
It is a bit of a shake-up for the organization but one that makes sense. Åberg has been outstanding to start the season for the Admirals and has earned a look topside for the Predators. Meanwhile, the Predators would like to lean on Mazanec at some point to give some relief to Pekka Rinne but would rather he fine tune his sharpness in game action rather than daily practice. By doing that in Milwaukee it can bring Saros up and give him a look up with the NHL squad and get a further feeling out process as to the pace and responsibilities on and off the ice that come with being an NHL level talent.
It might not be the longest of moves for all parties involved here. The plan to get Mazanec playing time in net at the AHL level can be worked around the Predators and Admirals schedules easily enough: Predators tonight (home), Admirals tomorrow (home), Predators Thursday and Saturday (home), Admirals Saturday and next Tuesday (home), and then Predators next Tuesday (in Toronto).
If needed that overlap a week from now could see Saros and Mazanec flip after the Admirals play three games and Mazanec could join the Predators once again by their Ottawa game on Thursday. If he just needed the two starts, Wednesday and Saturday in Milwaukee, he could join the Predators in Toronto while Saros returns before the Admirals finish off the five-game homestand on Tuesday. That or we could all be in for a swerve and this is just life now and Mazanec is an Admiral while Saros is in the NHL backing up Rinne. The Predators have plenty of options. It’s just on them to chose how they want to play it.
At forward the Åberg move is an exciting one given just how well he has played to start the season for the Admirals. Åberg has produced 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in 9 games while playing strong enough defensively that he’s been comfortably double-shifted often this season. Fiala had a great Summer and Pre-Season Camp but, like the Predators in general to start this season, isn’t 100% what was expected. Limited ice time can only hinder progress so why not give him a jump-start with double the amount of ice time he is seeing in Nashville by playing him in Milwaukee? He will essentially plug right in where Åberg left off – same line and all.
This all adds a wrinkle to the games ahead for both the Predators and Admirals. Something ever so slightly different for Nashville. Something ever so slightly different for Milwaukee. The biggest difference being that the goaltending swap rotates the starters in Milwaukee. When Mazanec does take the net tomorrow morning it will be the first time since the 2013-14 season that the Admirals will have had four different goalies log a start in a season.
To preview tomorrow’s second school day game for the Admirals I had a chat with President Jon Greenberg this morning. I then spoke with Admirals head coach Dean Evason, the two newly reassigned players from Nashville, and the “gem” himself – defenseman Trevor Murphy. Here were today’s interviews from the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Thoughts on today’s roster moves? How long do you think this goaltending situation will play out? Could this be the first of a few occasions in which Saros and Mazanec rotate in the organization this season? How long do you feel Fiala will remain with the Admirals?
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