He has been in the Nashville Predators line-up for exactly 10 games now, which is how long Peter Forsberg thought it would take him to get comfortable, playing for a new team, in a new city, for the first time in his hockey-playing life.
Forsberg will admit it too - it hasn't been all smooth sailing, since he joined the Predators, a Stanley Cup contender, from the Philadelphia Flyers, an NHL also-ran, just before last month's trading deadline.
Forsberg missed time with yet another injury since arriving in Nashville ("to my upper body," he says with a laugh), and only now, looks as if he's starting to roll again. His two assists in last Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary were vintage Forsberg plays - smart nicely threaded passes that only a handful of talents can make. The Predators traded away a big chunk of their future - two young players and a No. 1 draft choice - to rent Forsberg for the final six weeks of the season, plus playoffs, in the hopes that his presence in the line-up, and playoff experience, would help them win a round or four in this year's post-season.
Nashville made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, but was eliminated in the first round by Detroit and San Jose respectively. Apart from Forsberg, Paul Kariya and Jason Arnott, the young Predators have limited playoff experience. Forsberg twice led the post-season in scoring and is the only multiple Stanley Cup winner on the Nashville roster.
"It's hard to jump into a team midway through the season," said Forsberg, in an interview. "It's never happened to me before because I've always been on a team that made the playoffs. I don't think I've played as good as I want to, but it's starting to get better. I'm starting to get used to my teammates and line-mates, so it should go uphill from here."
The problem, from Nashville's perspective, is that they haven't had a chance to get their full team together since making the Forsberg trade. They currently have three top-nine forwards (Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat and Scott Hartnell) out of their line-up, with relatively serious injuries. Nashville's strength is its balanced three-line attack. Forsberg is one point shy of 50 for the season; when he reaches that mark, he will be the eighth Predators' forward to do so this season. Only the Buffalo Sabres can match that sort of offensive depth. Sullivan and Hartnell are among their five, 20-goal scorers; Erat is tied for second in assists (with 41), trailing only Kariya.
The test for coach Barry Trotz will be to sort out who plays where and with whom, once he gets all hands back on deck. Normally, the Predators play Kariya and Erat with David Legwand; and Arnott, with J.P. Dumont and Sullivan. For a time, Forsberg replaced Legwand on the top line, but more recently, he has been playing with dynamic rookie Alexander Radulov and Vernon Fiddler. If Trotz was of a mind to keep Forsberg with Radulov and Hartnell once he returns, that would provide a dynamic third line - and then let the Predators select a fourth line from among Fiddler, Scott Nichol, Jerred Smithson and the currently suspended Jordin Tootoo.
"There's almost like a primary guy from every line missing," said Trotz. "It's been a little frustrating and there's been a little bit of concern because we went through that last year; we had a number of guys injured at the end and it's hard to catch up
"But we've learned from last year, we're going to train our guys a little different. Hopefully, we'll get everybody back and get ready for the playoffs and it'll be great - toss a coin."Report Typo/Error