For Martin Erat, the worst is behind him.
He hopes that’s not the case with the best as well.
Erat watched the last two games of the Nashville Predators’ Western Conference quarterfinal series — both victories — as Nashville made its way to the conference semifinals for the first time in franchise history. He was a key participant in the series until Game 4 when he sustained an upper body injury in a mid-ice collision with Anaheim’s Jarkko Ruutu.
“The guys did it — they moved to the second round,” Erat said Tuesday. “That’s the best part for me.”
Erat once again was one of the guys Tuesday when he took part in a full workout and was one of the last players to leave the ice. He skated in his normal spot on the left wing of a line with center David Legwand and right wing Joel Ward and gave every indication that he would be ready when the Predators resume games later in the week.
“It’s good to get back with the guys on the ice and on the bench,” Erat said. “It’s just a great feeling to be able to play hockey. … It seems like I feel OK. I’ve felt good the last four or five days, so we’ll see how it’s going to go.”
Erat missed 18 games during the regular season with a recurring back issue, and often jumped right back into his role as one of the Predators’ top offensive performers.
He was out for nearly two weeks in early November and then had a point in each of his first two games back (one goal, one assist). He then missed three weeks in late December, early January and promptly delivered 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in the first 16 games after he returned.
As such, he is optimistic about his chances to contribute as the Predators go forward.
“I’m going to be probably back in shape when the time comes,” Erat said. “I was out for three or four days [so] I didn’t lose the edge all the way. It’s a train. You just jump on it and keep going.”
Of course, for the 1999 draft pick who has spent his entire NHL career with Nashville, he — and his teammates — are going someplace completely new.
“When I first came to the NHL, it was to get to the playoffs,” Erat said. “It was so frustrating that we couldn’t get to the second round.
“It’s just something like I’ll never forget in my life — how the guys battled so hard to just get to the second round. It’s just so rewarding for the organization and for the people here.”