The younger players at Nashville Predators’ training camp have no choice. General manager David Poile hopes the veterans make the wise choice.
The rookies and prospects all were ordered to wear a protective shield that covered the top and sides of their skates beginning with their Tuesday workout and their scrimmages with the Florida Panthers’ rookies each of the next two days.
Veterans have been strongly encouraged to do so as well with their first on-ice session of training camp Saturday morning.
“Certainly, I hope the guys give it a try,” Poile said. “If you break a toe or something like that, you’re out six weeks and it’s a very frustrating injury. Now, we have the equipment to prevent that. So why wouldn’t they use it?”
The shields are made of thin, clear material, often polycarbonate, which also is used in bulletproof glass and compact discs. They fit on the outside of the skates in a way that creates little – if any – obstruction.
“Sometimes if you get really down on your edges you’ll feel them scraping the ice,” defenseman Jonathon Blum said. “It’s something you’ve got to get used to, I guess.
“…They’re a little goofy looking, but when you’ve got Shea Weber shooting the puck through the net and breaking people’s bones they’re going to save you in the long run.”
Weber’s slap shot is one of the Predators’ greatest assets, but it is not without its downside. In recent seasons, he has knocked his own teammates out of action for a time after they got in the way of one of them.
Given that between now and the start of the season on Oct. 9, it primarily will be Nashville’s players and prospects skating against Weber it seems to make sense.
The truth is, though, that most players in the NHL can fire a frozen piece of vulcanized rubber to do some damage. Weber’s just does a little more.
“I’m sure if you get Shea Weber’s shot on your foot, I’m pretty sure that foot’s shot for a while,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “You have to think ahead before stuff like that happens, and I think that’s what the organization is doing.
“The first time out there you’re going to be like, ‘Oh, these are kind of bulky and these are kind of annoying.’ As you go on you’re not going to notice them as much and they’re going to become more of just daily equipment.”
Poile believes that already is the case.
“To me, there appears to be no downside,” Poile said. “Nobody said anything after the rookie scrimmages, which I assume meant that weren’t even thinking about them. Charles-Oliver Roussel blocked a shot with his foot in (Wednesday’s rookie) game and it didn’t seem to even bother him.
“It’s something that could be advantageous to the players, so we’ve recommended that all our guys use them.”
• The Predators’ rookies completed a two-game sweep of their Florida counterparts with a 5-1 victory Thursday morning.
Taylor Beck (one goal, one assist) had multiple points in both contests. He had a pair of goals in Wednesday’s 5-0 victory.
Peter Mueller had two goals, and 2010 first-round draft pick Austin Watson had two assists on Thursday.
“Excellent,” Poile said. “Two very positive games on every front. … We felt every player made a contribution.”