J.P. Dumont admits that playing without Jason Arnott in recent weeks has been an adjustment.
“It’s different, of course,” Dumont said. “I’m used to playing with a pure shooter and a righty.”
Even with left-handed grinder Vernon Fiddler as his center, though, not much has changed. Dumont has continued to dole out assists at a prolific pace because he has continued to find right-handed shooters who have taken advantage of his passing ability.
The 31-year-old notched four assists in the final three games of last week’s road trip out west, which raised his team-leading total to 43 and gave him 15 in his last 15 games.
All 15 of those assists have been on goals scored by a quartet of right-handers– Arnott, Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward and Shea Weber. In fact, Dumont’s last 18 helpers have been limited to those four, a stretch that dates back to Jan. 6 when he assisted on a Ryan Jones goal.
Arnott has been the finisher of seven of those 18, Sullivan on six, Ward on three and Weber on two.
“Your job when you play on a line with (Dumont) is to get open, keep your stick on the ice and be ready at all times,” Sullivan said. “That’s the biggest thing you learn playing with guys like that. You have to always be ready because you might think there’s not a lane there but they see something different so just be ready for it.”
Until Arnott sustained an upper body injury March 10 against Washington, which has caused him to miss the last five games, Sullivan was one of those regularly on the receiving end. He, Arnott and Dumont comprised the Predators’ top offensive unit, and during a four-game stretch from Feb. 24 to March 3, Arnott had five goals and Sullivan had three — all of which included an assist by Dumont.
With Arnott injured, Dumont has moved to a line with Fiddler and Ward. Three of Dumont’s four assists in the last three contests were on goals by Ward.
Dumont, a left-handed shooter, insists, though, that he does not discriminate when he looks to pass.
“I always look for a guy, and if somebody’s open, I’ll give it to him,” Dumont said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. It’s just how I am, the kind of player I am. I always try to find somebody open. I enjoy much more giving an empty net to somebody than scoring my own goals.”
With 10 games remaining, he is two shy of his career-high for assists in a season and 11 away from Paul Kariya’s franchise record of 54 set in 2005-06. Already he is the only Nashville player ever with more than 40 assists in three different seasons and currently has three of the top seven single-season totals in franchise history.
With just 15 goals, though, he is in danger of failing to score at least 20 for the first time since 2002-03.
“When J.P. has balance between shooting the puck and distributing it, he’s probably more effective,” coach Barry Trotz said. “For a while there during the year … all he tried to do was get it to (Arnott) and passed up some of his own shots.
“When he has that good balance he probably gets more production because he gets a little more unpredictable.”
Seven of Dumont’s goals have come in the 26 games since the All-Star break. Prior to that he scored eight times in 46 contests.
“It seems like as a team we’ve been much better since the All-Star break,” Dumont said. “That makes it easier on everybody. When we’re playing all together and we play some really good hockey it seems that every play you try works.
“Sometimes when you’re struggling … you try a play and it’s not even close to happening. It’s all about confidence and right now we’re playing some good hockey so it seems a little bit easier sometimes to make some plays.”
A right-handed shooter on the ice apparently does not hurt either.
A rundown of the top single-season assist totals in Nashville Predators’ history:
PLAYER SEASON ASSISTS
Paul Kariya 2005-06 54
Paul Kariya 2006-07 52
J.P. Dumont 2006-07 45
Jason Arnott 2007-08 44
J.P. Dumont 2008-09 43
J.P. Dumont 2007-08 43
Cliff Ronning 2000-01 43
Scott Walker 2003-04 42
Martin Erat 2006-07 41