Predators left winger Kevin Fiala got the news he was looking for at the start of the season after making the team out of training camp and even starting on the first line. It wasn’t long though before he started to drop down the depth chart and after collecting two points in ten games, he was sent back to the minors in November.
After a strong stint with their AHL affiliate (eight points in seven games), he was brought back to the NHL late last month and he is faring much better this time around. He has three goals and an assist in seven games since rejoining the team and as Adam Vingan of The Tennessean writes, Fiala believes that his time in the minors has given him the confidence that was lacking earlier on in the year.
He certainly has earned the confidence of head coach Peter Laviolette as in five of his last six games, the 20 year old first rounder (11th overall in 2014) has played more minutes than his season average, including over 15 minutes in four of those contests.
When Fiala was recalled, the Preds were dealing with several injuries up front but now only Colton Sissons and Miikka Salomaki are on IR (and Salomaki, who has been out since mid-October, could be activated in time for tonight’s game against St. Louis). Fiala has managed to stay in the lineup as those players returned and should stay in if Salomaki is indeed activated later today. It’s still too early to suggest he has earned a full-time spot but with his recent play, he should have a longer leash this time around compared to the start of the season.
[Related: Predators Depth Chart]
More from Nashville:
- Defenseman Ryan Ellis (along with Sissons) both participated in Monday’s practice and the 25 year old blueliner isn’t ruling out being ready to go against the Blues as well, writes Brooks Bratten of Nashville’s team website. Ellis was paired with Roman Josi at practice while Sissons took line rushes on the fourth line alongside Austin Watson and Calle Jarnkrok.
- The play of winger Viktor Arvidsson could be creating some challenges for GM David Poile when it comes to the expansion draft. As Vingan notes in a reader mailbag, the Predators are likely to protect eight skaters instead of the standard seven forwards and three defensemen. That would allow them to protect their top four blueliners but only four forwards. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and James Neal would figure to have three of those spots sewn up which leaves one slot for one of Arvidsson, Jarnkrok, Colin Wilson, or Craig Smith. Vingan suggests that even if they aren’t able to protect Arvidsson, they’d look to make a trade with Las Vegas, sending them a draft pick or some form of consideration to ensure that they don’t select him in June’s draft.