Remember when Jonathon Blum had a stellar stretch run in the spring of 2011? Though it’s been just two games thus far in 2013, Blum has shown that he still has that level of play in him.
Saturday in San Jose, Predators head coach Barry Trotz opted to dress seven defensemen instead of the usual six. That decision gave Blum an opportunity he’s been waiting on for over a year – a chance to prove he has a place in the NHL. This opportunity came after being a healthy scratch for the first seven games of the season; after not playing in an NHL game since December of 2011.
“It’s new to me,” Blum said of being scratched regularly from the lineup. “I come from Milwaukee where I was playing 30 minutes a night. It’s all different; it’s all a learning curve. You just have to make the best of the situation and work hard, and then when your time comes make the best of it.”
Blum’s time came Saturday night, and he made the best of the opportunity.
He was solid in 11:21 of ice time against the Sharks, followed by a two-assist performance Tuesday in St. Louis. In both games he saw some power play time, giving the Predators four quality puck-moving defensemen to spread out between the two units.
Though it’s a small sample size, Blum boasts a plus-2 rating and 12:06 of average ice time through two games – all of this coming a month after he played the last of his 34 pre-lockout games in Milwaukee.
“He’s done very well,” head coach Barry Trotz said Wednesday. “Playing in Milwaukee for that length of time paid dividends. He has stepped in and been very poised with a lot of jump in his game. It looks like he hasn’t missed a beat, which is good.”
Before the signing of Scott Hannan, it appeared Blum, a first-round draft pick in 2007, was going to be in the defense’s top-six. However, the signing of Hannan (in August) and re-signing of Hal Gill (in June) pushed Blum down the depth chart. In the mean time, he has patiently waited for the call from Trotz to re-enter the lineup.
“When you’re not playing you’re skating after practices and working out during games,” Blum said, “so it’s nice to be on that bench and battling with the guys.”
In September, he called a disappointing 2011-12 campaign a “wake-up call.” He’s responded well in this young NHL season, and hopes to stick in Trotz’s lineup for the foreseen future.
“You can’t take nights off in this league. In the minors you can get away with stuff like that and still be one of the better players out there,” Blum said. “I just have to keep playing the way I did when I first got called up [in 2011] to keep my spot.”