Patrick Cehlin has not registered a point yet this preseason, but he has suited up in an NHL jersey for the first two times in his career.
On Sunday night, Nashville made their preseason home debut and Cehlin skated for the first time in front of a crowd at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators manhandled the New York Islanders, taking a 2-0 win for their first victory of the preseason.
“It’s huge,” Cehlin said. “It’s not a real NHL game, but for the most part it is. It’s just great being out there and getting some confidence out there. Tonight felt good. We had a good game and a good win.”
On his first shift of the game, Cehlin skated into the Islanders zone and unleashed a shot that nearly beat Islanders netminder Anders Nilsson. He finished the evening with 12:17 of ice time and two shots on goal.
“The first shift there I had a puck,” Cehlin said. “I was third guy high and just tried to shoot it through their d-man. I had a couple of good shots just trying to take it to the net and play my game.”
Cehlin spent all of last season with Milwaukee, playing 70 games and scoring 32 points (9 G – 23 A). Due to the shortened NHL season, he was unable to take part in training camp and even make a run at a roster spot during his first North American season.
“Last year was the first year I came over here and it was a lockout,” Cehlin said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to be here. I had a year in the AHL and that felt good, so I’m looking forward to this season and trying to stay up here as long as possible.”
Cehlin is realistic about the outlook on his season. Despite the fact that he has made it through the first two rounds of roster cuts, he sees himself starting the season in the same place he started last year – Milwaukee.
“(Starting the season in the AHL) is in my plans,” Cehlin said. “Of course, everyday you get to be up here is a terrific experience for me, but it’s hard to make it onto a roster with such a talented team. I have two years left on my contract, though, so I’m ready to do battle hard down in Milwaukee and have as good a season as possible and just get going.”
“It’s hard if you’re going to skate around thinking about whether you are going to get a chance or not,” he added. “I just show up every day and give my all. If it happens, it happens and we’ll just go from there. I’m just happy as long as I’m up here and enjoying the opportunity and experience while I’m here.
Cehlin also believes that skating against partial NHL rosters gives him a mental advantage heading into the year.
“There are definitely a lot more skill guys at every position and it’s definitely faster,” Cehlin said. “I felt good out there and it felt great to compete with some of the best guys in the world. (The Islanders) had a couple of really good NHL players in the lineup tonight. It felt good being out there and it was a great experience for me.”
While he believes that his season will begin with the Admirals, Cehlin is taking the time to soak in his experience with the Predators.
“It’s a great experience just being around (Shea) Weber, (Pekka) Rinne and all of these guys,” Cehlin said. “It’s incredible just seeing how they work and learn. It’s been a great experience for me.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
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