Eric Nystrom has been arguably the most versatile player for the Nashville Predators so far this season. He’s played on every single line and also kills penalties and brings a physical presence to the game when necessary.On Monday night against his former team in the Dallas Stars, Nystrom was able to contribute on the score sheet with two assists en route to a 4-1 victory by Nashville.
Nystrom’s versatility has made him arguably the most valuable free agent signing from last summer for the Predators. He’s recorded seven goals and four assists, but more importantly, has been able to fill virtually any role the Predators have asked him to play so far this season.
“I think that’s kind of what they brought me in here to do is play up and down the lineup in all kinds of situations,” Nystrom said. “I pride myself in that. I’m playing the right side now. I’ve played the left most of the year. I just have to come and worry about my own game and make sure I’m doing my job.”
Nystrom, known as “Bobby Ny” to his teammates because of his father Bobby Nystrom who played in the NHL with the New York Islanders for 14 seasons, is a player fueled by passion. He gives everything he has on every shift, and that approach to the game has earned the respect of his coach Barry Trotz.
“Bobby Ny is a hockey player,” Trotz said. “That’s what he is. He’s a salt of the earth guy who’s team first; wherever you want to play him, he’ll play. The great thing about him is it doesn’t matter where he plays. All he does is care about the team and how we do and how he can contribute in some way, and I embrace those guys. Those are guys that they’re just hockey players.”
On Monday night against the Stars, Nystrom recorded two assists on goals by Shea Weber and Roman Josi. Both of those assists came from working close to the net and making plays to keep pucks alive.
“The last few games I’ve just made an effort to start getting around the crease area more. I didn’t have much confidence. I found myself being so tentative and hanging around high in the zone and playing really defensive. My game is being in those hard areas, and since I’ve been going there it’s been night and day how much more involved I am in the game,” Nystrom said.
Nashville’s three-goal victory over the Stars was an important win for them on the ice, but it was a little more special for Nystrom. He spent two seasons with Dallas before signing with the Predators and still maintains some relationships with some of their players.
“I’ve got a lot of friends over there,” Nystrom said. “It’s tough playing against your old teammates, it really is, but at the end of the day you’ve just got to go out there and do your job the best you can. It doesn’t matter who’s under the other jersey, you’ve just got to play.”
One of the big moments in Monday night’s game came when Kevin Klein dropped the gloves with Antoine Roussel. It was an incredible fight by both combatants that created a lot of energy in the building, and Nystrom was standing right next to it slamming his stick in encouragement for his teammate.
“That was just a great scrap,” Nystrom said. “I’ve been in a few of those, and the bottom line is that that takes the most courage in this whole sport, dropping the gloves and engaging like that for your teammates. That was just some heck of a scrap. The guys responded really well from that, and that’s how you get a little space out there, too. Guys are looking over their shoulder when you have one like that.”
It was a big win for a Predators team that had a little momentum heading into the game after a furious comeback attempt against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. The Avalanche had a 5-1 lead in the third period until the Predators rallied to pull within one goal. Nashville ended up losing the game, but they seemed to pick up right where they left off from Saturday’s game against the Stars.
“We had that late push in that game, and it felt good to come back in that game but we ultimately lost. Today after they got their first one, you could just see the work ethic and the battle level of all the guys. That’s when we’re good, and we were hard to play against tonight,” Nystrom said.
The Predators will now embark on a road trip to Canada where they’ll take on Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. It’s a crucial road trip for a team that needs every point it can get from now until the end of the season.
“We’ve been good on the road because we’ve had the ability to roll lines on the road,” Nystrom said. “Once everybody’s involved, we have a really deep team that can play hard. This is a huge road trip for us, and hopefully it’s a good one.”