Joel Ward could not wait for the 2009-10 season to start. But he had to.
The Nashville Predators’ forward missed all six preseason games and the first two contests of the regular season with a groin injury.
Friday, however, he completed another full practice session with the team and was declared ready to return to action.
The plan is for him to be removed from Injured Reserve and to be in the lineup Saturday when the Predators play Buffalo, 7 p.m. at Sommet Center (WGFX 104.5 FM, no television).
“My goal all summer was to kind of build off of last year,” Ward said. “I came in in pretty good shape, but I got a little bit of a downer with my groin. There’s nothing I can do right now except … work hard when I get back in.”
Ward, 29, was a revelation in last season’s training camp and earned a full-time NHL job for the first time in his career. He played 79 games for the Predators and finished with 17 goals and 18 assists.
“He brings a real dependable two-way game into the lineup,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s a guy who can play in almost any situation. … He’s one of those complement players. Whatever line you put Joel on is a better line for it.
“He’s a good add right now.”
Not moment too soon, as far as Ward is concerned.
“It’s definitely frustrating because I consider myself a teammate first and I just try to earn the respect of my teammates,” Ward said. “Right now I kind of feel down about it because I haven’t been out there to show my stuff.”
• Ward’s return does not mean a return trip to Milwaukee for forward Triston Grant, who was recalled Thursday and had two penalties and three hits in that night’s victory over Colorado.
“He had a good game … I like the way he played,” Trotz said. “He has pretty good hands, he’s tough and he bangs. He was just a little bit anxious (on the penalties), trying to impress.”
• Neither Jordin Tootoo (hip flexor) or J.P. Dumont (soreness) skated on Friday. Consequently, both were ruled out for Saturday’s game against Buffalo.
Colin Wilson (groin) did a hard conditioning skate on his own as he continued his rehab.
• Jason Arnott did not practice but was expected to play against the Sabres.
“He played hard (Thursday) and got banged up a little bit,” Trotz said. “He should be fine.”