After a hot 2-0 start on the road, the Nashville Predators took it on the chin at the Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night in front of a sold out opening night crowd of 17,113. The Phoenix Coyotes bested the Preds 5-2 on a night when little clicked for the home team.
The Predators got behind the eight-ball early in the first period, going down 3-0 with Phoenix taking advantage of a slow reacting defense in the opening period. It didn't get significantly better but the Preds did get a short-handed goal from Ryan Suter in the second period and Colin Wilson's first goal of the season in the third.
There were three players who played their first game with Nashville. Rookie Mattias Ekholm, Niclas Bergfors, and recent acquisition Brian McCrattan made their Predator debuts.
The new guy that received the most praise from coach Barry Trotz was the heavyweight, McGrattan. "McGrattan was a pleasant surprise. Grats is a big guy that is very physical and gets around the ice pretty well."
"He made a couple of plays and hadn't been on the ice since Saturday so I knew he wasn't going to play a lot. He deserved to play a lot more than some guys that you thought would do more than he would. He was fine and I was very pleased with his game."
McGrattan was pleased to be on the ice in Smashville. "It felt good to be out on the ice. It has been a long week traveling and getting visa stuff organized but it felt pretty good. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the win tonight but I played a solid game and I hope that's what they are looking for."
The 6'4" 235 pounder had started the season with Anaheim before being place on waivers on Monday. "I knew my situation going in and I tried to do my best to push a couple of guys out and unfortunately it didn't work out but fortunately I got picked up here. Hopefully I can earn a spot here and the coaches' trust and managements' trust to keep me."
Last year was McGrattan's first full season out of the NHL since the lockout. "It was an up and down year last year, playing most of the year in the minors. It's rewarding after all the hard work I put in last year and then during the summer. The next thing is to stay here and hopefully, I can do that."
He has visited Nashville several times while with Ottawa, Phoenix, and Calgary. "I've been here playing on the road and it was always a tough building to come in and win in. It's a loud rink and a hard working team to play against so I'm glad to be here."
McGrattan is known as one of the toughest enforcers in hockey. During the game he tried to use his physical game to no avail. "I tried a couple of times but if you don't have a taker then you can't take yourself out of the game trying to do that the whole game. You ask once or twice and if nothing's there you try to do other things."
The guy that wouldn't participate was Coyote tough-guy Paul Bisssonette. McGrattan said "He didn't even look at me."
Trotz was pleased with McGratten's efforts to encourage the team. "He was trying to light a spark. We didn't have too many flames going at that point and he was trying to get something going."
He liked playing in Nashville more wearing the Predator uniform. "The crowd was good. It's tough when you get a couple of goals scored against you early. We will rebound and get them back on Saturday night."
Game time on Saturday is 7 p.m. when the New Jersey Devils come to town.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass