With the departure of David Legwand to the Detroit Red Wings, the Nashville Predators chose to place Colin Wilson in the role that was previously held by Legwand before he was traded. The results weren’t there for Wilson on Thursday night against the suffocating St. Louis Blues as the Predators fell by a 2-1 score.
Wilson started the night on a line with Gabriel Bourque and Craig Smith and also took Legwand’s place on Nashville’s first power play unit. He didn’t have a great night for the Predators offensively, failing to register a shot on goal throughout the entire game. However, he did well in the faceoff circle, winning 58 percent of his draws.
For the past few years, Wilson has been fairly vocal about his desire to play center. After all, that’s the position he was playing when he was drafted by the Predators seventh overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. With Legwand now gone, Wilson is finally getting his opportunity to prove that he can be a legitimate number one or number two centerman in the NHL.
“It’s a big opportunity,” Wilson said. “I had fun with it tonight, and I’m just going to continue to try and play my game and see how it goes.”
One of the biggest knocks on Wilson during his young NHL career so far has been his consistency level. It seemed as if he turned a corner last season before his shoulder injury, but Wilson has been inconsistent offensively this season. Consistency was an issue for Wilson again in his new role on Thursday night.
“At times I thought he looked good and other times I think we needed more from him,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz.
These last two months of the regular season are going to be crucial for Wilson and the Predators. Nashville is giving him the opportunity to play down the middle at his natural position and see if he can be the player they hoped he could be when they drafted him. It’s an opportunity the Predators are hoping Wilson will be able to seize over the course of the last two months of the regular season.
While the Wilson line wasn’t able to get much going offensively against St. Louis, the rest of the lineup for the Predators didn’t fare much better. Nashville managed just one goal for the third consecutive game, all of which have been losses. According to Trotz, Nashville’s best line of the night didn’t show up on the score sheet at all.
“I thought by far our best line tonight was [Matt] Cullen, [Eric] Nystrom and [Viktor] Stalberg,” Trotz said. “They were the ones that were buzzing and creating a little bit more havoc for St. Louis. I was a little disappointed that the other two lines weren’t able to create more.”
St. Louis was able to get a 2-1 lead on the Predators in the second period on a nice goal by Magnus Paajarvi and shut the door after that. The Blues are such a hard team to play against when they have the lead, which was the case once again on Thursday night.
“They’re a good, strong team,” Wilson said. “They’re good defensively and play tight so yeah, pretty hard, but I think in the third we had our chances and did a pretty good job. Just didn’t bury them.”