Scratch That…

By: Miranda Martin

With the Nashville Predators taking yet another loss against the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 Thursday night, there will likely be another big shakeup to the lineup.

In all honesty, there were some very positive highlights to the loss, more so than usual. Even without Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist, the offense was able to score 4 goals for the second game in a row, making the same amount goals in the past two road games than the previous 5 road games combined. After having a deficit early in the first period, the Predators put forth a lot of pressure, and the Preds led the majority of the game in shots on goal and scoring chances. The team attempted to be resilient and rebounded with goals throughout the game. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean anything in the standings, and the effort wasn’t enough for a win. Pekka Rinne simply had a rough start, allowing 4 goals on 12 shots, proving that even the guy who has been holding the team on his shoulders has to fall once in a while. Mason had no chance on the Henrik Sedin penalty shot. And the poor empty net had no chance on that odd man rush to make it seven.

Registering 36 points in 58 games with the Milwaukee Admirals, forward and Chris Mueller was called up on Wednesday after Paul Gaustad left the Stars game with an injury. It seems more than likely that he will be placed in the lineup, therefore someone has to take the cut on the roster. So who makes the lineup and who gets scratched?

First, let’s start with who should NOT sit out the game:

Nick Spaling: After building up a rather unfortunate minus-7 rating, the center found himself as the healthy scratch last Friday against the Oilers. Ironically, the Oilers game would be the game that the Predators didn’t face a true penalty kill. Since being the healthy scratch that night, Spaling has had a good run. In three games, he’s had two goals on this road trip, and has attained an even plus/minus rating.

Matt Halischuk: Being the go-to healthy scratch for a majority of the first half of the season, Halischuk found himself on a “conditioning assignment” to Milwaukee to try to find his footing again. After posting 3 points (2 G, 1 A) for the Admirals, Halischuk was recalled after both Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson found themselves on Injured Reserve. Since then, he has once again attained his twitter nickname “Hustlechuk,” including the first goal of the Vancouver game last night. He registered 2 points and a plus-2 rating in the loss last night, as well, being one of the only highlights. Besides… Spaling looks lost without his identical counterpart.

Craig Smith: No one’s calling for his head, but just for security purposes, he’s showing up on this list. The poor kid. He is probably one of the hardest working players on the team right now, and he can’t seem to find the net. But the kid hustles, and that’s definitely something the Predators need right now. Plus, he has basically become the Preds secret shootout weapon.

Zach Boychuk: With just two games in a Predators jersey, the coaching staff found it necessary to sit Boychuk for the game against Dallas Tuesday night. He didn’t have a bad start at all to the start of his career in Nashville, including a goal in his first game against Edmonton and an assist against Vancouver. But, alas, familiarity always wins in the Predators system, and he’ll probably find himself in the press box soon enough. So essentially… the Boychuk/Halischuk/Smith line was the most effective line of the night, and, like they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Now… who SHOULD sit:

Brandon Yip: He’s doing the magical David Legwand-esque disappearing act, and it started before his injury in early March. Against Vancouver, he was a minus-3. That may not sound too bad, considering the Canucks registered 7 goals, but Yip registered the second lowest time on ice, with only 10:51. Rich Clune is the only player who had less time than him. Though he registered 2 goals in January, he has only registered two points in the last 13 games. His only real saving grace is that he has scored his only goals on the road… something that was a rarity before this trip.

Martin Erat: If the twitterverse had their say, Erat would have been sat weeks ago, and with good cause. People in the twitter world have even been making up their own drinking game ideas solely based on Erat’s screw-ups, such as his very ineffective passes, poor decisions, and ridiculous amount of giveaways. Sorry, Marty, but your “erat”ic play (yes, I’ve been waiting too long to make that pun) really deserves some time up in the press box. Sure, he started strong this season, posting 6 points (3 G, 3 A) in the first 10 games, but the scoring has stopped. His last goal was over a month ago in the 6-1 victory against St. Louis on February 5th. In the past 10 games, he has only had 3 assists. Three players who have already been healthy scratches (Spaling, Halischuk, Boychuk) have had more goals in the last four games combined than Erat has had this season. Yet he is still registering about 18 minutes on the ice every night. Yes, other first liners have played poorly offensively, but they’re working on their play. Legwand has scored 2 goals in the past 4 games, Fisher is showing his physical side, and Kostitsyn is trying something new by being the point on the power play. Erat… still playing the same game he’s been playing all season, and somehow he still gets a pass (oh look, another pun!).

Of course, I’m not a hockey coach. I don’t see what happens in the locker room or outside of the arena. But Trotz and company have talked about wanting to send a message. Want to know the best way to send a message? Sit one of the guys who is making seven digits and is “safe” because he has a no-trade clause. Unfortunately, if history repeats itself and the system stays the same, Erat will still play… he does have the “veteran Predator” part on his side. Yip “needs time to adjust” after just coming off of IR, so he’ll likely be safe as well. So the boys that shouldn’t sit probably will. Boychuk hasn’t been on the team long enough to “earn” a spot, and his waiver partner Bobby Butler may be on the scratching block too, though Trotz has called Butler the “more consistent” of the two. Spaling and Halischuk? Their goals may keep them safe, considering the offensive woes the team has faced. Smith may get scratched, and then the team will inevitably lose in a shootout. Or maybe Mueller becomes the new scratchgoat for the team, and his sherseys will still be hanging on the wall of the Pro Shop, collecting dust and leaving the casual fan puzzled.

Who knows?

I’m just a girl who writes hockey posts based off a decade of learning and watching the game. I probably have no room to talk… but I do hope the right choice is made for this game and the rest of the season. It’s a hard decision… and (thankfully) I don’t get to make it.

The Predators face the Calgary Flames tonight in the Scotiabank Saddledome at 8 PM. Though the Preds find themselves four points ahead of Calgary, they are only one ahead of them in the win column. Let’s hope they can make that two, no matter the roster.

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