Predators show plenty of promise in preseason opener

Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 10:27pm

You could not count on just one hand all the reasons for optimism the Nashville Predators gave a crowd of 14,103 at Sommet Center on Thursday.

Too bad the game did not count.

A 5-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers in the preseason opener featured veteran players producing as expected, a prized prospect performing well in his first opportunity, effective and opportunistic special teams, solid play from a pair of goaltenders and much more.

In short, similar performances in the regular season will go a long way toward returning the Predators to the playoffs.

“It was a good win,” captain Jason Arnott said. “It’s still preseason, but better to have a lot of pluses than a lot of negatives.”

Arnott and Steve Sullivan — playing with J.P. Dumont — had two points apiece as the top line from the second half of last season was reunited.

Arnott scored a hard goal that made it 2-0 when he established position at the front of the net and converted a rebound. He then made the pass the Dumont one-timed for a pretty goal and a 3-0 advantage. Sullivan assisted on both.

“They created some stuff,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You can see that they have lots of poise and a little bit of chemistry. There’s still some things they can do a little better, but I thought, for it being early, they acquitted themselves quite well.”

Colin Wilson, the 2008 top draft choice and a likely candidate to make his NHL debut sometime this season, added a goal and two assists in his professional preseason debut. He assisted on goals by defensemen Teemu Laakso and Shea Weber before he finally capped the scoring with one of his own 4:40 into the final period.

Wilson also won 13 of 19 faceoffs.

“I think getting a goal is pretty good, and I’ll definitely take it,” Wilson said. “There’s definitely more to the game. I think there were a few plays in the (defensive) zone I could have done a little better. So there’s always room for improvement.”

Goalies Dan Ellis and Mark Dekanich, who currently are Nos. 2 and 3 on the organizational depth chart, combined for 22 saves as Nashville notched its first preseason shutout since Sept. 19, 2003 (5-0 at Chicago) and the first at home since Oct. 1, 2002 (2-0 vs. Chicago).

Dekanich came on with 9:21 to play in the second period and did not face his first shot until there were 56 seconds to go before the second intermission. His next four saves came with Atlanta on a power play, three of them during a 5-on-3 advantage.

“I think we had a little more of a veteran lineup in comparison to theirs,” Ellis said. “… Regardless of whether it’s a preseason game or a regular-season game, you want to begin the season on a good note. Each one of these games is a small stepping stone to starting the season on the right track. We just have to build on this.”

BRIEFLY

• The Predators officially unveiled their new alternate jersey prior to the start of the contest.

Forwards David Legwand, Martin Erat and Joel Ward — who did not play in the contest — came onto the ice in the jersey, which features the familiar sabre tooth tiger logo on the front — albeit with slightly different colors — but is mostly blue with white trim. The jersey also figures a lace-up collar.

• Free agent forward Ben Eaves sustained a groin injury on his final shift of the first period and did not return. According to Trotz, the initial diagnosis for Eaves, who had an assist and one shot on goal, to miss four-five days of camp.

• Nashville continues preseason play Thursday with a game at Carolina (6 p.m., CST). The lineup for that one will include Legwand, Erat, goalie Pekka Rinne and defenseman Dan Hamhuis.