Last Friday morning, Jonathon Blum stopped by a hotel near the Nashville Predators’ practice rink and picked up Roman Josi.
Less than a week later, the young defensemen attempted to pick up where they left off 10 months ago. Before Blum was recalled and made his NHL debut last February, the two were the Milwaukee Admirals’ top defense pair.
“We’re close buddies,” Blum said late last week. “I like to say he was probably my best friend last year in Milwaukee. … Hopefully he gets a couple games on this road trip and kind of does what I did last year.”
Blum parlayed his opportunity into a full-time role for the remainder of the 2010-11 regular season and the playoffs. He effectively was guaranteed a roster spot with the Predators when training camp opened in September.
Josi, 21, came to camp as one of the organization’s top prospects on defense and a leading candidate to earn a place on the third defense pairing. An injury caused him to miss all of the preseason and kept him sidelined until earlier this month. He played five games for the Admirals before he was recalled late last week as Nashville’s seventh defenseman.
“The whole plan is to have him come up and just get acclimatized to playing,” coach Barry Trotz said at the time. “The players need to see what he can bring, and we just want to see where he was in terms of his overall conditioning and all that.”
That plan changed last Saturday at Detroit when veteran Francis Bouillon was injured and sent home as the team headed to western Canada for the final three contests of a five-game stretch on the road.
The trip ends Thursday at Vancouver (9 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
Blum and Josi were together again as the Predators’ third defense pair in Tuesday’s 1-0 loss at Calgary. Josi logged 17 minutes of ice time — his highest so far — and Blum played 17:38. That included roughly a minute and a half for each on the power play.
“[Josi] definitely brings his speed and his ability to skate the puck,” Blum said. “It’s huge for him. He’s a guy who’s smart and will make a good first pass.
“What I really noticed when I was playing with him [last season] was just his skating and the way he moves up the ice. Him playing in Europe, he just has a confidence and that ability to skate.”
Josi, a second-round draft choice in 2008 out of Switzerland, has a history of offensive production. He also has a long injury history.
Last year, in his first North American season, he sustained a broken wrist during a scrimmage in the opening days of training camp, missed all of the preseason and the first three weeks of the regular season at Milwaukee. Several health issues limited him to 26 games in 2009-10 — his final season in Switzerland’s top league — and caused him to miss the 2010 Olympics.
Despite all of that, he had 40 points (tops among Milwaukee defenseman) in 69 games for the Admirals in 2010-11 after having produced 21 in those 26 games for Bern in the previous campaign. He added seven points in 13 games during last season’s AHL playoffs and then had four points in his five games this season, which led to his recall.
“He, obviously, missed a good portion of training camp and also the start of the season,” Trotz said. “He was trying to catch up a little bit, but once he’s sort of got to where he’s playing [and] got minutes, he’s been playing quite well.
“He’s been the best one [at Milwaukee].”
Three games into his NHL career, he’s still looking for his first point.
If nothing else, though, he sees a familiar face on the ice with him.