Preds focus on season opener, keep an eye toward future

Monday, October 3, 2011 at 5:39pm

The talk around the Nashville Predators on Monday had to do with when several players — and possibly where, in the case of one — would be in the NHL this season.

Two injured veterans, center Mike Fisher and defenseman Francis Bouillon, took part in a portion of the day’s workout and served notice that they could play within a matter of weeks. Also, top defense prospect Ryan Ellis was reassigned to Milwaukee and forward Kyle Wilson was placed on waivers with the idea that he would end up in Milwaukee, but neither was ruled out of the team’s long-range plans.

“There’s nothing set in stone,” coach Barry Trotz said. “The decisions that we make from now until opening night are the decisions for right now. They might not be the long-term decisions.”

There is little to decide in terms of Fisher and Bouillon, both of whom missed all of training camp. Neither has been cleared for contact and they already have been ruled out for Friday’s season opener at Columbus.

The most likely course of action is to have them start the season on injured reserve, which would allow team officials to delay decisions on other prospects.

Currently the roster is at 26, three above the maximum allowed by Wednesday. That includes Fisher and Bouillon.

“The injuries are different but the timeframes are sort of similar,” Trotz said. “So we’ll see where that takes us.”

Fisher has been sidelined by offseason shoulder surgery. Bouillon has yet to fully overcome a concussion, which caused him to miss the final three months (plus the playoffs) of the 2010-11 season.

“Right now it’s been two-three weeks that I’ve pushed really pretty hard,” Bouillon said. “I don’t see any signs of the concussion, so that’s a good sign. I’m really happy about it. … We’re going step-by-step. It’s all a process and it’s going well.

“[Monday] was a step forward for me and it’s great to be there.”

With only two games this week — Friday at Columbus and Saturday at St. Louis — and two more the following week — Oct. 13 and 15 against Phoenix and New Jersey, respectively, at Bridgestone Arena — it is possible that neither will miss much game action.

“I’ll be back soon,” Fisher said. “It’s a long season. My main goal is to get strong and healthy and help this team the whole year. If I have to miss some games, so be it, but I have to be smart.”

The decision to send down Ellis, the first-round pick (11th overall) in 2009, leaves seven defensemen on the roster, not counting Bouillon. That group currently includes prospects Teemu Laakso and Mattias Ekholm.

Trotz said, though, that Ellis, who had one assist and tied for the team lead with a plus-3 rating during the preseason, almost certainly would be back in the NHL before the end of the season.

“I expect him [to play for the Predators],” he said. “He’s going to go to Milwaukee right now, start there and just get a little bit of that [junior hockey] style out of his game. … We’ll just allow him to grow just like we did with Suter, Weber and guys like that and go from there.”

Wilson, a free agent addition this offseason, had a goal and an assist with a plus-2 rating in four preseason appearances. He split time last season between Columbus and its AHL affilate.

Because of his age (he is 28), he is subject to waivers, which means he could be claimed by another team. If that happens, he would start the season on that team’s NHL roster. If not, it is likely he will find his way back to the Predators’ roster eventually.

“I think he’s going to be a good player for us in the organization here,” Trotz said. “But as I told him, selfishly, I hope he gets through waivers but at the same time I hope someone grabs him and he’s playing in the league. That’s part of the waiver process.”

3 Comments on this post:

By: BigPapa on 10/4/11 at 8:35

Hockey needs to cut 30 games off the schedule and start the season in December when people might actually care.

By: MusicCity615 on 10/4/11 at 10:58

I definitely care.


By: OneTimer on 10/4/11 at 3:50

BP, i'm going to replace "people" with "I". makes it more accurate.