Predators send young defenseman back to Milwaukee

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 11:37am

Barry Trotz stressed that Cody Franson has not laid claim to the role of the Nashville Predators’ sixth defenseman.

As of Tuesday morning, though, there were no other possibilities. Alexander Sulzer was reassigned to Nashville’s AHL affiliate at Milwaukee, which left just six defensemen among the 21 players on the active roster.

“The decision with Franson over Sulzer was more because our power play was really struggling at that time,” Trotz, the Predators’ coach, said. “(Franson) has come in and filled a pretty good role and has done pretty well defensively in 5-on-5 as well.”

Sulzer and Franson, third-round draft choices in 2003 and 2005, respectively, were among the final training camp cuts and started the season with Milwaukee.

Franson was recalled on Oct. 16 and has played all 16 games since. He got his first NHL point (an assist) on Oct. 21 at Boston and notched his first goal the next night at Ottawa.

Following Monday’s 3-1 victory over Detroit, he was tied for fifth in points (five) and was fourth in goals (three) among all rookie defensemen in the NHL.

He has one assist on the power play, which makes him the only Nashville rookie with any power-play points. He also has a plus-3 rating, which ties him with three others for the team lead.

“Any time you get sent down it’s disappointing,” Franson said. “The biggest thing is to stay positive with it and keep working, and hopefully it works out. Luckily for me, it’s going well.”

Sulzer was recalled Oct. 20 and played three games in four nights beginning Oct. 21 at Boston. He got his first career assist Oct. 22 at Ottawa.

Since then he has played in just two of the last 12 contests, none of the last seven. His most recent appearance was Nov. 7 at Los Angeles.

“Sulzer has been an absolute pro,” Trotz said. “He’s hard working, he’s been paying attention to detail. He’s putting in the work. So when he gets a chance to come in he’s going to be very prepared. … I’m very happy with his attitude.”

Sulzer was expected to play for Milwaukee on Tuesday in San Antonio, the first of four games in a span of five nights. He had one goal and five assists in five games with the Admirals at the start of the season.

Trotz said Sulzer could be brought back as soon as Wednesday morning and in the lineup that night at Colorado. A more likely scenario was that he would stay with Milwaukee through the next four games.

“I need him some ice time,” Trotz said. “I think he’s very close to getting back in the lineup here. So I wanted to get him some ice time.

“… It’s more just to keep him fresh in terms of game skills. He hasn’t played in a while.”

Briefly

• Wednesday’s game at Colorado (8 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee, WGFX-104.5 FM) is Nashville’s only one on the road during the final 18 days of this month.

The Predators have a 5-5-1 record away from home as compared to 8-3-0 at home.

“We just have to continue to play the same way on the road,” defenseman Shea Weber said. “The last few years we haven’t had a problem playing at home. We’ve had a good home record, and we have to make a point to be over .500 on the road as well.”

• Nashville’s current six-game win streak is tied for the second-longest in franchise history.

The team won eight in a row from Oct. 5-25, 2005 and six in a row four previous times, the most recent of which was last Feb. 21-March 5.

“We’ve had a couple of overtimes and a few shootouts (during the current streak),” captain Jason Arnott said. “There’s no team that you can take lightly anymore. So we have to be ready every time we step on the ice. Every team we face, it’s going to be that much harder.”

• Nashville has scored in the first period in each of the last five games. Prior to that it scored in the opening 20 minutes just six times in the first 17 contests.