When talking about the play of Nashville Predators forward Jordin Tootoo, the words ‘calm’ and ‘patient’ are seldom heard in the conversation.
But Tootoo, known for his ability to bring havoc to the ice, is continuing to refine his game in an effort to become more of an all-around offensive player.
“When you are calm, cool and collected out there the game seems to slow down,” Tootoo said. “You see things better.
“Today (Wednesday) in practice I was trying to handle the puck a little bit more. But, at the same time, I didn’t want to play out of my element such as being physical. I want to bring a well-rounded game. I don’t want to play just the finesse part of the game. I have to also get on the fore check and make plays.”
Predators coach Barry Trotz is giving Tootoo the chance to work on two of the top lines in training camp. He has been teamed with Jason Arnott and J.P Dumont and with David Legwand and Martin Erat.
“If you are going to be a top-six forward then you have to play with top players,” Trotz said. “I want to give him more time with the higher end offensive players and with the hard-working two way players like Scott Nichol and Vern Fiddler.
“He’s getting there. We know he can shoot. And he gets on the fore check hard. But he is a lot more poised with the puck. He has a lot of ability. We are just trying to reinforce that with him.”
Tootoo knows what his role was in his first couple of seasons with the Predators. But each season he has tried to build more of a balance between the physical aspects of the game and his offensive skills.
“That comes with maturity,” Tootoo said. “I expect more out of myself. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I am looking forward to contributing no matter what line I play with.”
“I have worked more on the mental aspects. In years past I was jittery with the puck. The biggest key is to be patient out there and using my linemates. Communication is a huge factor.”
FORWARD COMPETITION: The Predators play their first preseason game of training camp tonight at 7 when the Atlanta Thrashers visit the Sommet Center.
“There are guys who look great in practice, and then you put them in a game and they disappear,” Trotz said. “And there are guys who don’t look great in practice and you put them in a game and they re-appear.
“We have practiced a week now. They want to get at it.”
Trotz expects to take long looks at forwards Patric Hornqvist, Rich Peverley, Ryan Jones and Antti Pihlstrom. He also wants to see how some of the younger defensemen work out in the game such as Alexander Sulzer and Teemu Laakso.
“We will be looking at individuals, especially at the key battle positions,” Trotz said. “Team evaluations will be secondary.”
SPECIAL TEAMS’ EMPHASIS: Wednesday’s sessions centered on the special teams.
“It probably wasn’t as taxing as it had been the last couple of days,” Trotz said. “But it was still a pretty good day. We had a pretty good tempo for the first 45 minutes.
“We tried to put some structure on the special teams, which is always tough to do in preseason because you are using different personnel and different units. We just want to try to get everyone on the same page so it is not as chaotic as it can be.”
The afternoon practice at Centennial Sportsplex ended with a shoot-out session.
“Edmonton got 14 extra points last year in shootouts,” Trotz said. “If they hadn’t had those 14 points they wouldn’t have been in the playoff hunt late in the year. It can be a big factor for getting in the playoffs.
“Ville Koistinen and Hornqvist are pretty good at it. Peverley seems to have a knack for it.”
INJURIES:L Forward Jerred Smithson is expected to skate Thursday in workouts, but will not be on the ice against Carolina. Smithson sustained a pulled muscle in his side in Tuesday’s workout. He skated by himself Wednesday, but did not work with the team.
Arnott, who strained his groin, was back on the ice Wednesday. He will play against Carolina.
Koistinen was back on the ice Wednesday after missing Tuesday with a knee problem.
FREE TICKETS: The Predators are offering all students 18 and younger, along with their accompanying adult, the opportunity to see the Predators preseason contests for free. Now through game time for each of the three preseason games – Thursday vs. Atlanta; Saturday, Sept. 27 vs. Columbus and Thursday, Oct. 2 vs. Carolina. The tickets will be available at the box office at the Sommet Center.