Nashville Predators forward Darcy Hordichuk will always be a fighter, but he is doing everything he can to prove he is a more well-rounded player.
The Predators’ ranks have been thinned by injuries, including a knee injury for Hordichuk who missed seven games. This time around he is taking the opportunity to solidify a spot in the four-line rotation. But he is also not shying away from a fight with four fighting majors in his last six games.
“I think I turned the corner in my career a little bit the last 15 games before I got injured,” Hordichuk said. “I just wanted to pick it up where I left off.
“I know if I don’t perform in these games I will be the easy guy to sit out. A lot of the other tough guys around the league are playing. I want to show the coaching staff that not only do I bring toughness, but that they can rely on me to contribute.”
The Predators take on the Detroit Red Wings, their biggest rival in the Central Division, tonight at 7 at the Sommet Center. This is the first of five games against the Red Wings down the stretch run.
It all starts with defense for the Predators and Hordichuk’s line had some issues early in the season.
“Our line got scored on a few times, but over my last 12 games I have been a plus five or plus six,” Hordichuk said. “Another goal I set was to get in a few fights.
“The guys on other teams were running around and taking liberties with our players. My job is to protect my teammates. Players know if they run around on us they are going to have to back it up.”
The Predators have to prove down the stretch that they are a playoff team. Hordichuk has to prove to coach Barry Trotz and general manager David Poile that he is an important part of the team.
“These last games are big for me,” Hordichuk said. “I have battled through injuries. I have to show them after my knee injury that I am back better than ever.
“I think Trotzy has a lot more confidence in me than he did at the start of the year. That is how I will get my minutes. When he gives me minutes he shows that he believes in me.”
BONK BREAKING SLUMP: Forward Radek Bonk scored the first goal Sunday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. It is the type of play Trotz expects to see more of from Bonk.
“Radek has been a pretty useful guy,” Trotz said. “He has played on more of a checking line all year, but he has been on the power play and on the offensive line when Jason Arnott was out.
“I would like to see him have a little more production. He is a very capable player. He has more production than he is giving us.”
PEVERLEY PREVAILS: Forward Rich Peverley continues to make it difficult for the Predators to return him to the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.
He scored his second goal of the season and was credited with his third assist in the 6-3 win over Phoenix. He and forward J.P. Dumont scored within 23 seconds of each other in the third period to help seal the Predators win.
Both of Peverley’s goals have been against Phoenix.
THE HAMMER IS DOWN: Defenseman Dan Hamhuis missed a rare game Sunday night as he battled a flu-like illness. Ville Koistinen replaced Hamhuis in the line-up. Koistinen was making his first appearance since Jan. 29.
Forward Martin Erat missed his second game with a back injury. He is questionable for tonight.
Defenseman Greg Zanon is playing despite a hand injury. Some other players are dealing with the flu-like symptoms.
The Predators took Monday off after playing back-to-back games in San Jose and Phoenix Saturday and Sunday.