Patric Hornqvist did more than just step up in the lineup. He stood out.
Playing alongside Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, Hornqvist had a goal and an assist Saturday in the Nashville Predators’ 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at the Sommet Center.
The two points made Hornqvist the Predators’ top scorer during the preseason. In four appearances he posted one goal and five assists as well as 20 shots, one off of the team lead.
“They put me up on the first line, and, of course, it was a good opportunity for me,” he said. “They’re two great players to play with.”
Hornqvist was in the lineup again Sunday, when the Predators capped the preseason with a 4-2 victory at Columbus. He added to his point total with a second-period goal, which put Nashville on top 2-1.
His seven points were two more than any Nashville player had during the 2008 preseason.
Coach Barry Trotz planned to employ his top two lines in Saturday's contest but was forced to change when Steve Sullivan was scratched at the last minute. Sullivan had battled a groin injury throughout the week and the decision to hold him out was called “precautionary.”
Free agent forward Peter Olvecky took Sullivan’s place in the lineup, but Hornqvist was given Sullivan’s spot on the top line. The seventh-round pick in the 2005 draft took full advantage of the opportunity.
The second unit of David Legwand, Martin Erat and Mike Santorelli was held scoreless for the first time in three appearances.
“(Hornqvist) is one of those guys you talk about in training camp doing the things to earn a spot and to get into the mix,” Trotz said. “He goes to the hard areas, plays hard and does a lot of those things – and he’s being productive doing that.
“That line of Dumont, Arnott and Hornqvist was probably my best line by a longshot.”
Hornqvist got the primary assist on Nashville’s first goal, which tied the score 1-1, when he fed a pass through the slot toward Dumont. Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen stopped the puck, but Dumont quickly jumped on it and stuffed it home at 14:19 of the first period.
He then got his first goal of the preseason with 8:43 to play in the second when he squeezed a shot between Carolina goalie Micheal Leighton and the post. The goal came 57 seconds into the Predators’ second power play of the contest and cut a two-goal deficit to one, 3-2.
Olvecky worked on a unit with Marcel Goc and Ryan Jones.
Three forwards other than Sullivan – Joel Ward, Colin Wilson and Wade Belak – also were held out with groin injuries.
“You want everybody to be ready for the season,” Dumont, who also had a goal and an assist, said. “We all came (to training camp) ready this year. There have been a few minor injuries, but that’s all they are, minor.”
As others have healed, Hornqvist has looked like anything but a minor-leaguer.
He played professionally in his native Sweden for three years before he came to North America last season. He made the Nashville roster out of training camp but ultimately played more games in the AHL (49) than he did in the NHL (28).
“I felt good,” he said. “I’ve got my confidence back and all that stuff. I think the team has played pretty well too.”
• Pekka Rinne played the entire game in goal, a first for Nashville netminders this preseason. He allowed four goals on 23 shots. One of the goals was the result.of an unusual carom off the glass behind the net, another came off a deflection which caused the puck to bounce into the net.
“I made a few good saves, obviously that helps,” Rinne said. “But I’m not happy. Obviously when you go out, you want to win the game. That’s the only thing that matters, even in preseason games.”
Dan Ellis is scheduled to play the entire game Sunday at Columbus.
• While the Nashville lineup was rather similar to the one that will be on the ice at the start of the regular season, the way Trotz used it was not. All four lines were used almost equally as every forward got between 14 and 23 shifts, and only one (Jones) played fewer than 10 minutes.