In a series that is bound to be a physical grind, the Nashville Predators are preparing for the undisciplined Anaheim Ducks who led the league in penalty minutes in the regular season.
Anaheim has six players with over 60 penalty minutes compared to Nashville’s mere two. Kevin Bieksa ranks highest among the Ducks with 99 then is trailed by Ryan Kesler with 78, Josh Manson with 74, Chris Stewart with 73, Corey Perry with 68 and Clayton Stoner with 67.
In the final meeting between the Ducks and the Predators on Nov. 17, Bieksa and Mike Fisher dropped the gloves, and Fisher knocked Bieksa’s tooth out. As entertaining as that was, the Preds certainly do not want Fisher in the penalty box for five minutes. Shea Weber, who is known to be extra physical in the postseason, is not an ideal player to spend time in the box, either.
So that means Nashville has to put enforcer Cody Bass in the lineup for Game One.
Bass, a 6-foot, 205-pound winger, has 17 penalty minutes, three fighting majors and 26 hits in 17 games for the Predators. Most of Bass’ season has been spent with the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL), where he has racked up 84 penalty minutes in 39 games.
With Bass in the lineup, Eric Nystrom, Colton Sissons and Austin Watson will be healthy scratches to begin the series. However, this does not mean it is permanent. All three provide more on-ice value than Bass, with all due respect.
Nystrom is a veteran penalty-killer and was consistently Nashville’s fourth line left winger prior to breaking his foot on Jan. 26 which caused him to miss 23 games. In 46 games, he has seven goals.
Sissons is the team’s best face-off centerman winning 56-percent of draws. Additionally, he has an offensive presence. He has 19 points (8g, 11a) in 38 games with Milwaukee and six points (4G, 2A) in 34 games with Nashville. Really, it could be debated for Sissons replacing Gaustad.
Watson is a big-body at 6-foot-4, 204 pounds and has shown flashes of offensive skill this season. In 57 games, he has three goals and seven assists. Additionally, he ranks second among Nashville forwards in blocked shots with 45.
But for now, Bass can send an early message to the Ducks that the Predators will not be pushed around.