The Nashville Predators returned to the ice Saturday night with renewed energy and handily beat the Chicago Black Hawks 4-1. With a later than normal start due to the Tennessee Titans playoff game, the the Sommet Center crowd arrived early and were ready for action long before the first puck drop.
Before the game was underway, the star of the night was already pegged by the Pred faithful. When Steve Sullivan first exited the tunnel during warm-ups a loud roar went up in the half filled arena. By the second change of shifts when Sully's skates touched the NHL game ice for the first time in 22 1/2 months the crowd was fit to be tied. The cry of "Sully, Sully, Sully..." rang through building.
For the remainder of the game Sullivan played a regular shift on a line with Jordan Tootoo and Vern Fiddler. Surprisingly he saw time on both the second power play unit as well as the penalty kill in logging 12:30 minutes of play on 20 shifts. Although he didn't gather any points for the game he did have three shots and almost scored on what would have been a story book play when he grabbed a puck in neutral ice and matched up one on one with Christobal Huet but was unable to convert. After the game he indicated that his legs were giving out and that he needed one more stride to make the play. The one thing that was missing in Sully's return was a good contact play to give him the confidence to play his old game. He made a little contact with a Blackhawk player on his second shift but was understandably somewhat tentative when getting too close to another player.
The scoring star of the game was David Legwand who scored the Predators first goal and then an empty netter at the end. The Preds also got goals out of All-Star Shea Weber and Radek Bonk who had not scored in over a month. Joel Ward and Ryan Suter both had two assist for the game.
Pekka Rinne further bolstered his claim for the number one goalie position for the Predators. He was solid from start to finish, stopping 34 of 35 Chicago shot attempts. Rinne came up with big saves repeatedly to keep the Hawks out of his net. The one goal that he allowed was on a broken play and there was little he could have done to stop it.
Of some concern to Predator fans was a lower body injury to Captain Jason Arnott who did not return to the bench for the third period. After the game Barry Trotz indicated that it was precautionary move to keep him out and that they were running a few tests but that it did not appear to be something that would be long term. Arnott was not expected to leave with the team after the game but Trotz would not rule out that he would travel on Sunday to rejoin the team.
The Predators return to action Sunday night at 6:00 at the United Center in Chicago to complete the home and home series against Blackhawks. The rematch should prove to be a bit chippier than the first game as tempers were warming up at the end coming to a head in a brief skirmish between Marty Erat and Duncan Keith. The Preds will bring a tougher line up with Wade Belak and Ryan Jones probably playing in the place of Arnott and Sullivan who most likely will rest after his first game action. Sunday's game will be televised by the NHL Network.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass
Predators Post Game Press Conference