Robitaille back to Preds

Thursday, March 1, 2001 at 1:00am

Almost everyone needs a second chance at one time or another and Randy Robitaille is getting his.

The Nashville Predators have recalled Robitaille from the Milwaukee Admirals where he had scored 10 goals and collected 23 assists in 19 games. He left the International Hockey League with a bang after scoring four goals Tuesday night in the Admirals 6-5 overtime victory over the Chicago Wolves. He also received an assist on the game-winning goal by defenseman Bubba Berenzweig. To make room for Robitaille the Predators reassigned center Greg Classen who had two goals and four assists in 27 games this season.

Robitaille will be in uniform tonight when the Predators try to get back on the winning track against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Game time is at 7 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

The Predators have dropped into 11th place in the Western Conference with a 26-29-8-2 record after Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. The Chicago Blackhawks are 10th with a 27=29-5-3 record. Both teams have 62 points.

The Predators hope that Robitaille can bring them a scoring spark at a point in the season when goals are hard to come by.

"Randy has gone down there and worked very hard," said Predators coach Barry Trotz. "We have talked to the coaching staff and they are delighted with him. He is putting up great numbers. All of those are things that you look for. He has gone down there and made a statement our organization and other organizations that maybe he doesn't belong in the International Hockey League.

"I think he believes he belongs here (NHL). Actually, I know that he does believe that."

Robitaille was sent to Milwaukee after scoring only 15 points (five goals and 10 assists) in 45 games for the Predators. It was presumed at the time it would be his last opportunity to wear a Predators jersey.

"Randy is bright and creative," Trotz said. "He has a lot of talent. He just has to prove it in the NHL."

Trotz was often at odds with the way Robitaille played and once stated that he needed to sometimes use "tough love" to get his points across, which loosely translated means Robitaille lost playing time when he didn't perform to expectations.

"He has had the puck a lot more down there (Milwaukee)," Trotz said. "It's league lower. That is just common that you would have the puck more in the IHL.

"To play up here he has to be more responsible in some areas. There are parts of his game he needs to improve on."

Robitaille has been a prolific goal scorer in both the American Hockey League and the IHL, but he has yet to prove in two seasons that he is up to the challenge of being a scorer in the NHL. Trotz admits the jury is still out.

"He just has to come in here and play hard and play consistent," Trotz said. "He needs to come in here and do the things he can do and make good decisions. At times you can see his ability. We want to get it out of him consistently and make him a more well-rounded player."

Trotz stressed that the demotion of Classen was not a reflection of his performance, but an opportunity for him to get more playing time. He will be evaluated after six games with the Admirals.

"The last time we sent Greg down was for the same reason," Trotz said. "We want him to play in lots of games, get some ice time, handle the puck more and get some confidence.

"We haven't been getting him a lot of minutes here. It may not be a permanent thing. He's going to be a very good player for us. This is by no means a punishment thing for him."

The Predators close out this four-game homestand Sunday when the New York Rangers, minus Theo Fleury who has checked himself into a rehab center, visit for a 2 p.m. faceoff.

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