Based on how Monday morning’s workout at Bridgestone Arena ended, it’s not likely that defenseman Shane O’Brien will be called upon in any upcoming shootout.
In a departure from the typical manner in which the Nashville Predators practice shootouts, every time a player converted he dropped his gloves and stick somewhere on the ice and headed toward the locker room. Those who missed continued to take turns until they converted and dropped their gloves and sticks.
The last one without a conversion had to clean up all the equipment and return it to the locker room.
That one was O’Brien. It did not mean, however, that the 27-year-old defenseman can’t shoot and score from time to time during regular game action.
He did so in Saturday’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks (the Predators won in a shootout) when he tied the score 1-1 early in the second period. It was his second goal in his 15th game with Nashville since he was acquired in a trade at the conclusion of training camp and that equaled the number he had in 141 games over the past two seasons with Vancouver.
“I think in Vancouver, they had me as just kind of a stay-at-home guy,” O’Brien said. “They weren’t really looking for any offense out of me. Here they want all their (defensemen) to jump up and make it a four-man rush. As a player, you just want to be given opportunity. I’m getting that here, so hopefully, I can just take advantage of it.”
O’Brien is one of five Predators’ defensemen with at least one goal this season. Combined, the blue liners have scored a total of 10.
None of the four opponents Nashville will face on a road trip that begins Tuesday (Toronto, Montreal, Carolina and Columbus) have gotten as many goals from its defensemen, and only one – Montreal – has gotten goals from more players at that position. None of the six Canadiens defensemen who have scored have done so more than once, though.
“We want all our guys to be active,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s tough when five guys are moving and changing lanes and being active. Sometimes you have to manage the game too. You’re going to be a lot more active when you’re behind in a game than when you’re up a goal or two.”
As with most other things, there can be too much scoring from the defense.
All three goals against the Blackhawks came from that spot as Shea Weber and Cody Franson followed O’Brien. Over the last nine games, defensemen have scored 10 of the Predators’ 22 goals.
More importantly, Nashville is 5-0-1 this season in games when forwards have produced all the goals.
“We need some mare balance from our forwards,” Trotz said. “We need our forwards to get hot. I think if we get a couple forwards or even a couple lines to get hot, then it will really serve us well. Especially on the road.”
That does not mean O’Brien, who has 10 career goals with four different teams, won’t continue look for opportunities to get one from time to time.
“It’s funny, everywhere besides Vancouver I usually chipped in with a few a year,” he said. “The main part is we want to win hockey games here. My main job as a defenseman is to be rock solid defensively.
“It’s obviously nice to score. It seems I’ve got a couple early here. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”