Joel Ward was the first to admit that he was not at his best Tuesday night.
“I created a few plays and made a few mistakes, which I have to cut down on,” he said. “I just need to be better next game.”
His opportunity to improve comes Thursday when the Nashville Predators host the St. Louis Blues (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena).
Regardless, there are worse things for the Predators than to have one of their most versatile forwards at less than 100 percent. Like not having him at all, for example, which was the case in the previous four contests as Ward was sidelined by an upper body injury.
It was the longest absence of the season for Ward, who has missed time on four different occasions.
His return to the lineup in a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings was the first step in what coach Barry Trotz hopes will be a return to full strength before the end of the regular season.
Captain Jason Arnott has missed six straight games with a head injury, but he was scheduled to skate Wednesday, a day off for the majority of the team. Trotz classified Arnott’s status as day-to-day.
“We’ll see where he is after (Wednesday),” Trotz said.
Also recently Martin Erat missed one game. Plus, defenseman Denis Grebeshkov has been sidelined since March 7 with a lower body injury.
Not coincidentally, the Predators have lost three of their last five (two in overtime) and the power play has not converted in the last seven games. Arnott and Erat have been Nashville’s top two point-producing forwards on the power play.
“We have to get something going on the power play,” Trotz said. “We’ve had a number of people out on it, so it hasn’t been very stabilized, if you will. And we haven’t had a chance to work on it a whole lot, just because of the number of games.
“I think if we get everyone healthy and get a chance to work on it, it will snap back into place here.”
Ward logged 1:55 of power play time Tuesday against the Kings, which was nearly double his average for the season.
Now that he got that first game beyond him, though, he is looking forward to the coming ones.
“I was definitely a little nervous coming in,” he said. “But as the game started I tended to ease up a little bit.”
• Blake Geoffrion, the Predators’ top pick in the 2006 draft (second round, 56th overall) was named one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top college hockey player.
Geoffrion is one of three captains at the University of Wisconsin and – with a team-high 27 goals – has helped lead his team to the Frozen Four. He is tied for second in the nation in goals scored behind one of the other finalists, New Hampshire forward Bobby Butler (29).
Geoffrion recently was named most valuable player of the NCAA west regional, where he had seven points (two goals, five assists) in two games.
The award will be presented April 9 during the Frozen Four festivities.
• Predators’ playoff tickets will go on sale to the general public 10 a.m. Saturday at all traditional outlets.