The last three players on the ice at the Nashville Predators’ practice on Tuesday were Colin Wilson, Martin Erat and Joel Ward.
It was hockey’s version of speed dating — second-line style.
Cobbled together in the third period of Monday’s loss to Edmonton, that trio spent the extra time familiarizing themselves with each other and working with assistant coach Peter Horachek on puck movement down low during the power play.
It was a clear indication that Wilson, the team’s top draft choice in 2008, will get a chance to audition as the Predators’ second-line center, most likely beginning with Wednesday’s game at Dallas (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Tennessee-Comcast Ch. 28). In recent seasons and the first four games of this one, that job has belonged to David Legwand.
“(Wilson’s) career consists of one game, so you don’t want to put the cart ahead of the horse,” coach Barry Trotz said. “But if guys can do it and can produce, we’re not going to be stubborn.”
Having finally recovered from a groin injury, which limited him to one preseason game and caused him to miss the first three regular season contests, Wilson made his professional debut Monday and blocked two shots, got one shot on goal and delivered on hit in 16:41 of ice time. He even got nearly a minute of playing time on the power play.
“I’m coming in here and I’m trying to help the team,” Wilson said following the contest. “So, you know, I want to do as well as possible.”
Legwand played just 13:48 and had one shot on goal. He and his line — Erat and rookie Mike Santorelli — remained scoreless this season. He averaged better than 20 minutes of playing time and had a total of five shots in the first three games.
“Four games into it and one line has scored all of our goals,” Trotz said. “…I’m looking at trying to go forward here. I’m looking at trying to get multiple scoring (units).
“I put Wilson, Erat and Ward together. Who knows, maybe they’ll be able to do some scoring. They had some chances, I thought they were pretty good. The last couple of years I’ve had (Legwand) and Erat tied together, but I’m not getting any production there. So we’ll move them around. …I don’t have a whole lot to lose.”
In two seasons at Boston University, Wilson had 29 goals and 61 points in 80 games. He helped lead his team to the 2009 NCAA championship with two goals and three assists in four tournament contests.
The 20-year-old was the 2009 USA Hockey College Player of the Year and the United States’ most outstanding player at the 2009 World Junior Championships.
“For someone who hadn’t played in quite a few weeks, he jumped in there pretty good,” Trotz said. “… He’s only going to get better. At his age, with his size and strength he’s going to be a pretty good player for us.”
Against the Stars, he’ll – at the very least – be a prominent one.
• Stat of the day: The Predators have scored a total of six goals in their first four games. Through Monday’s games, 13 different teams had scored at least six in a single game (some in more than one).
• Forward Triston Grant was reassigned to Milwaukee following the team’s workout. Grant averaged 7:14 of ice time and had nine penalty minutes, including Nashville’s only fighting major, in three appearances.
• Forward J.P. Dumont skated with the team Monday but did not make the trip to Dallas, which meant he will miss his fourth straight game since he absorbed a big it in the season opener. The earliest Dumont will play is Thursday at home against Chicago.
• Jordin Tootoo (hip flexor) did not skate with the team and remains out of action.