Matt Halischuk returned from a healthy scratch on Saturday to score his 11th goal of the 2011-12 season. (Sarah Fuqua)
Until Saturday night, Matt Halischuk was the only Nashville Predator to play every game this season. However, after Nashville claimed Brandon Yip on waivers on Thursday, Halischuk found himself the odd man out as Predators coach Barry Trotz tried to integrate Yip into the lineup.
“That was a really tough thing,” Trotz said. “(Halischuk) was playing so well and I wanted to get (Yip) integrated with the team…I talked to him about not taking him out because of performance, that we were going to integrate a guy and he was right on board.”
“It happens,” Halischuk said. “It’s something that’s out of my control. The only thing I control is making sure that I’m working, getting my work in and being ready to go when I get the chance to go back in.”
On Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena, Halischuk re-entered the Predators lineup.
“I tried to play a solid game first, play harder, keep it simple and play my game,” Halischuk continued.
Play his game, he did. At 7:37 of the third period, Halischuk scored his 11th goal of the season – extending his career year.
“Smithson did a good job getting in there and Smith also – both ‘Smitties’ actually did a good job getting on the puck and forced a turnover,” Halischuk said. “I grabbed it in the slot.”
Trotz was pleased with Halischuk’s performance on the evening – a 4-1 Nashville victory.
“He was fast on the puck,” Trotz said. “He was hard on the puck and he got rewarded. That was a great response. He’s making a statement like a ‘Don’t pick me, coach’ type of thing and that’s what you want.”
“I just try to bring the same game every night and help the team every way I can and hopefully it keeps going,” Halischuk said.
Halischuk now has 15 points on the season. However, 11 of those 15 points are goals.
“It’s tough to read into that,” Halischuk said. “I just play a hard game and go to the net and try to shoot pucks on net and hopefully they keep going in.”
Finally, Halischuk registered a rare moment of power play time, picking up all of 6 seconds with the extra man.
“I actually didn’t know about that,” Halischuk said. “It’s nice.”
Tuesday marked the last home game for the Predators until a February 4 tilt against the St. Louis Blues. Nashville finishes the pre-All Star Game portion of the season with 11 wins in their last 13 home games, including a 5 game home winning streak.
“We want to finish strong and reset here, get to Chicago, get a good sleep in and come out playing hard in that building,” Halischuk said. “It’s always exciting over there, so it shouldn’t be hard to get up for that one.”
After tomorrow night’s game in Chicago, the Predators have a week off until they play in Philadelphia next Tuesday night.
“I’ll just relax,” Halischuk said. “Get some rest in, regroup, reset and come back ready to play.”
As the NHL pulls into the All Star break, Pekka Rinne is in the midst of a 9-game win streak. (Sarah Fuqua)
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