It took longer than expected for the Nashville Predators’ new players to join the team. Due to inclement weather in Nashville, defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli, who were acquired via trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 15, were unable to secure a P-1 visa to temporarily reside in the United States.
The ex-Leafs joined the team during the second intermission against the New York Islanders on Thursday. That game ended in a 5-2 loss, which made it easier for Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette to put Franson and Santorelli in the lineup for back-to-back road games in Philadelphia on Saturday and Buffalo on Sunday.
To not expect a few growing pains after adding a player, nonetheless two players, on an NHL team mid-way through the season is unrealistic. That is why general manager David Poile added Franson and Santorelli weeks before the trade deadline.
Oddly enough, their arrival to the team symbolized their performance: appearing later than expected.
3-2 shootout loss vs Philadelphia
This matinee at Wells Fargo Center may have been the worst game the Predators played all season but were extremely fortunate to walk away with a point. Through two periods, the Philadelphia Flyers led Nashville in shots, 22-7.
Santorelli made his debut on the right wing with Matt Cullen on the left side and Calle Jarnkrok at center. They were on the ice for Ryan White’s goal that gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead at 11:21 of the second period. Despite being marked with a -1 rating, it was not Santorelli’s fault.
The only bad play Santorelli made was in overtime when he decided to go 1-on-3 with wingers open for a pass. Instead, his shot was deflected to the corner.
In addition to the -1 rating, Santorelli’s stats included 12:11 of time on ice, 1 shot and 2 hits.
Franson began the game paired with Mattias Ekholm, but due to lack of performance, Laviolette put Franson with Victor Bartley and re-paired Ekholm with Seth Jones. Of six defensemen, Franson recorded the fifth most ice time with 17:52. He also had 2 shots, a hit and 3 blocked shots.
In short, neither did much of anything in their debut.
2-1 shootout win vs Buffalo
The Predators narrowly avoided a bag skate when they arrived back to Nashville because it took 15:43 into the third period before they scored. Sabres’ goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who made 37 saves in the loss, was the only reason the Predators did not run away with the game.
As opposed to the day before in Philadelphia, Franson and Santorelli made an impact on the game in Buffalo. Franson was re-paired with Ekholm, while Santorelli played third line center for Colin Wilson and Taylor Beck on the wings. Franson assisted on the aforementioned lone Nashville goal by Mike Ribeiro on the power play.
Franson did not look so hot earlier in the game, however. In the first period, he over-handled the puck in the neutral zone and collided with Ekholm, which led to a Buffalo 2-on-1 that they were unable to capitalize on. Then with 14 seconds left in the second period, Tyler Ennis scored on a 2-on-1 after Franson got caught pinching and effortlessly backchecked.
Franson ended the night with an assist, -1 rating, 19:22 of time on ice, 2 shots and a hit.
Similarly to Franson, Santorelli’s game went from forgettable to memorable. Santorelli put Nashville on the penalty kill twice for tripping at 9:45 in the first period and goaltender interference at 2:23 in the second period. Throughout the night, it was clear Santorelli wanted to get his first goal since returning to the Predators out of the way. While it does not count as a goal, a shootout tally may have calmed some of Santorelli’s nerves. In 11:54 of ice time, he amassed 4 shots and won 4-of-8 in the face-off dot.
Franson and Santorelli are sure to get a warm round of applause when they return to Bridgestone Arena when the Predators play the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW.