Hockey players have long memories. So while Thursday night will be the first matchup between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars since they last met two days before Christmas, it may not be the appropriate time to try and exact revenge on Stars defenseman Mark Fistric for the elbow he delivered to the chin of Predators captain Shea Weber in Nashville’s 6-3 loss.
Weber sustained a concussion on the play, and he has not played in Nashville’s last four games. The Predators are 3-1 in those four contests.
After a day off Monday, the Predators returned to the ice Tuesday. They traveled a few miles south for that Tuesday afternoon practice, holding it at Franklin’s A-Game Sportsplex in what has become a once per season tradition for the Predators.
Much to the delight of the packed A-Game house, Weber was among the Predators who took part in practice. It was his first practice with the team since he was concussed.
During his availability following practice, head coach Barry Trotz said that there is still no timeline for Weber’s return to the lineup, but that it is obvious that he wants to be in as soon as he receives clearance.
“Shea is one of those competitive guys that it is hard for him to hold back sometimes,” he said. “I think he had a lot of fun today. He said he was going stir crazy just riding the bike. When you are not playing, you turn into a piece of luggage. You are a part of the team but you are not, and he is a big part of our team. It was good to see him smile and have some fun.”
Weber was not made available to the media for comment following Tuesday’s practice.
Whether or not Weber is available for Thursday’s game against Dallas is still very much in question, but Fistric’s hit on Weber will be fresh in the minds of the Predators that do dress for the game. While it may be natural to think that someone will try and extract a pound of flesh from Fistric, that may not necessarily be the case.
“Our main focus is winning hockey games every night,” Jordin Tootoo said. “Stuff happens out there and you can’t let that affect your team play. Whatever comes about it, we will do in whatever fashion. It is definitely in the back of our heads. We just have to play our game and take it to them.”
Asked if he felt the need to stress discipline with his team headed into the Dallas game, Trotz did not seem to feel it would be an issue.
“Right now the most important thing is the two points against Dallas,” Trotz said. “They are a team that we were able to get in front of (in the standings). For the longest time, we were chasing them down from the start of the season. They had a good start. Two points, actually it is a four-point game in terms of the standings – we have to make sure that we get any kind of tiebreakers that are coming up towards the end of the year. You never know, it could be like the NFL where you get three or four teams where certain scenarios work out and you are in, or certain scenarios don’t work out and you are out. We don’t want to be in that position. Number one is to get the two points against Dallas.”
It will not be a surprise if one or more Predators tries to start something with Fistric, but it may not happen Thursday. While not a lot of attention may not have been paid to the game the night before the NHL shut down for its two-day holiday break, there is little doubt that the league and its officials will be focused on what happens on the Bridgestone Arena ice when the Stars and Predators meet Thursday.