If Matt Haslichuk has looked lost at any time during games this season, well … he actually might have been.
“He’s had real good stretches and a couple little stretches where he’s been off,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I don’t know if that’s his fault or if it’s my fault because I keep moving him left to right and I’m not saying ‘You’re going to be playing [one side] these next couple games.’
“It’s almost shift-to-shift where he’s left or right.”
Halischuk is not the Predators’ highest scoring forward. He is not near the top in ice time or in shots on goal as they continue their current five-game road trip Thursday at Phoenix (9 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
It is a virtual certainty, though, that no one has changed positions and lines and responsibilities more this season than the 23-year-old who made his NHL debut less than a year ago.
“I have to just try to be ready to play and do whatever I can,” Halischuk said. “Wherever [Trotz] puts me out there I just try to do my best and play hard. It doesn’t matter to me. Anytime I can get out there, try to help my team win and contribute I look forward to it.”
Halischuk was prelude to Nashville’s latest youth movement when he was acquired prior to last season in the deal that sent Jason Arnott to New Jersey. That created a shift in the leadership group in which defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter became the leading voices in the locker room.
Then his play, along with that of Nick Spaling, Blake Geoffrion and the like, down the stretch and in the playoffs last season convinced management that it could live without forwards Joel Ward, Steve Sullivan and Marcel Goc, who were not re-signed, and J-P Dumont, whose contract was bought out.
Halichuck got off to the best start among the group of Predators who opened the season on an NHL roster for the first time. He played more than 15 minutes in each of the first five games and scored in the season-opening victory over Columbus.
“[Halischuk] and anybody like [him] who can play multiple positions, I have pretty good trust in him,” Trotz said. “They’re very valuable for you.”
That value has been evident as Spaling, Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn, Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat all have missed time already with injuries.
“We have a lot of guys who can play center or wing,” Fisher said. “That kind of shows our depth. Those guys are key in those situations where you know you’re juggling and guys can play different positions and they’re comfortable, smart and they make good plays when they need to. Matt’s done a really good job of that, for sure.”
Lately, though, his workload has decreased. He played a season-low 11:22 in Tuesday’s loss at Chicago, when he also was a minus-2 for the first time.
“If a player has a bad game you want to blame the player, but sometimes I’ll blame what we had to do,” Trotz said. “… We get a couple guys injured or get a couple guys thrown in the box and all of the sudden you’re making new lines and stuff like that.
“[Halischuk} is quite valuable. He’s a detail guy. When I do that sometimes he has trouble adjusting and it plays into his confidence. I’ll take the blame for that.”
Fisher and Kostitsyn both practiced at full speed Wednesday.
Trotz said that Fisher likely would play Thursday at Phoenix but that a decision on Kostitsyn would not be made until after the morning skate.
“I’ve felt pretty good the last few days and felt great on the ice [Wednesday].”
Spaling did not practice.