Predators forward Colin Wilson stood in front of his locker on Thursday afternoon, unable to wipe the smile off his face as he spoke to reporters.
It was a different individual from when Smashville 24/ 7 interviewed him in early April. That Colin Wilson was frustrated and upset about not getting in the lineup.
This Colin Wilson, a day after he saw action in back-to-back games for the first time since mid-March, was excited about getting an opportunity to play in the playoffs.
“This is so much fun this time of year and I’m really excited to be playing,” Wilson said. “My motivation is to win the [Stanley] Cup; at the same time I want to be a big part of it. I want to be out there helping the team win. Those two key components really motivate me right now.”
Wilson, a first-round draft choice in 2008, was a healthy scratch for the duration of the first round for the second straight postseason. Yet, he didn’t throw in the towel and continued to work hard in practice. As a result he has finally been given a chance to see some action here in the second round, and he has taken advantage of it thus far.
“There’s been a lot of growth in Colin from last year,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Last year he didn’t play in the first series and responded and played in the second. Same thing happened this year, but his actions are better this year in terms of understanding [he’s] got a whole career ahead of [him].
“You get bumped back [in the lineup] and sometimes you get out of sorts, you forget about what you need to do just to get back in the lineup. I think he lost a little bit of that, but he wrapped his arms around it and said ‘You know what I’m just going to start getting back in the lineup and work my way into it.’”
Trotz was pleased with Wilson’s effort in Game Three on Wednesday, as Wilson logged 12:21 of ice-time in his second game back in the lineup. He saw 9:04 of ice-time in Game Two.
“I thought he played really well – created some chances, was good defensively, had lots of detail,” Trotz said. “He did a lot for going forward here.”
Between March 15th and Game Two in Phoenix, Wilson played in just two games including the regular season finale that had no playoff implications. He said it didn’t take long to get re-acclimated into the playoff setting, though.
“I think I made all my adjustments in the first period of that first game I played in. The pace is quicker from the regular season and I just had to get acclimated to that,” said Wilson, who had 35 points in 68 regular season games. “After that I just got back to my game.”
Wilson was criticized when he made a costly turnover on March 27th that led to a St. Louis Blues goal. That lackluster shift in the third period of that game caused him to sit for the next four games and the entire first round.
“I’m not going to be trying those plays at the blue-line that I tried during the season,” said Wilson. “I’m trying to get the puck low and off the other team’s stick and create offense down low.”
When he was asked how frustrating it was to be a healthy scratch late in the regular season and the start of the playoffs, Wilson said, “It’s really frustrating. It’s terrible. When you’re an athlete you want to be playing. It’s tough not being in [the lineup] every day. Coming to the rink but not actually playing, it wears on you mentally. As soon as you get back in, you just want to keep going.”
Wilson has played a quality two-way game in the limited action he’s seen in the last two games, which is what he needs to do to stay in Trotz’s lineup. In Game Three he skated on a line with Nick Spaling and Brandon Yip.
“We’re an energy and grinding kind of line,” Wilson said of his current line. “We play keep away and try to get it to the net. That can frustrate teams and wear them down, so that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
No matter what line he is on, though, Wilson is ecstatic to be getting a chance to play in the playoffs after weeks of frustration.
“I’m really happy to be back in,” he said. “Now that I’m back in I don’t want to ever come back out.”