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When you think of the Nashville Predators, names like Rinne, Weber, and Suter are likely to be the first to pop into your head. Those three players have certainly been the faces of the franchise for the past five seasons, but there are other Nashville players who tend to get overlooked.
One of the more underrated and unappreciated players in the NHL for the past few years has been, and continues to be, Predators winger Martin Erat.
In his 10th NHL season, all with the Predators, Erat has become one of the franchise’s most integral performers and has done so with little fanfare. The 30-year-old is winding down what will become the finest statistical output of his professional career, a season in which the Predators have become a legitimate Stanley Cup threat.
Despite missing eight of the team’s first nine games, Erat has 18 goals and a team-leading 56 points in 64 games, which is one point off of his previous career-high set in 2007 and then matched the following season.
Ranking second in franchise history in games played, goals, assists and points behind David Legwand, Erat has been one of the Predators’ top offensive players dating back to the 2003-2004 season. Since that time, he has scored 15+ goals in eight straight seasons and should be able to top the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his career this season.
Currently one of the league’s hottest scorers, Erat was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week yesterday for his seven-point outburst in Nashville’s four games last week.
A seventh-round pick in 1999, head coach Barry Trotz agrees that Erat is a vastly underrated player and points to his competitive nature as one of the big reasons he has been successful throughout his career.
"He’s got a really good inner spirit, a competitive spirit that pushes him to that level every year," Trotz told John Manasso of NHL.com. "He’s a real underrated player. You talk about a player that no one talks about in the National Hockey League, Martin Erat might be that guy."
An excellent two-way forward, Erat gives Trotz the option to use him as a scorer on a top line at even strength and on the power play, as well as being someone who can be trusted to play a checking role and kill penalties. Linemate Mike Fisher, although a center, plays a similar, all-around game and says it is fun to play alongside a skilled two-way player like Erat.
"I think any time, to me, you play with offensive guys, you always get chances and its fun," Fisher said in the Manasso interview. "I like to play at both ends of the ice and we try to be responsible defensively. Marty’s an all-around guy who can play with skill. We’ve kind of created a fun line."
Central Divison Notes
Columbus Blue Jackets – The Blue Jackets made two emergency recalls on Monday to help fill a couple of injuries suffered in the team’s win in Calgary on Sunday night. Goaltender Allen York and defenseman David Savard have been recalled from Springfield to replace goaltender Curtis Sanford and defenseman James Wisniewski.
Chicago Blackhawks – Goaltender Corey Crawford has turned his play around once again and was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week yesterday. The up-and-down goalie went 3-0-0 with a 1.09 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage for the surging Blackhawks this past week.
Detroit Red Wings – Jimmy Howard surrendered four goals on 21 shots as the struggling Red Wings dropped their fifth straight decision last night. Kyle Quincey, Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary scored in the 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals, who handed Detroit just their fifth regulation loss at home this season.
Nashville Predators – Alexander Radulov’s agent has confirmed that his client will indeed return to the Nashville Predators and could be in uniform sometime this week. Yahoo! Sports reported yesterday that Radulov’s Russian agent, Yuri Nikolaev, confirmed the 25-year-old winger’s return on Monday, telling Pavel Lysenkov of Sovetsky Sport "the matter has been resolved within the framework of the Kontinental Hockey League regulations. Alexander is leaving for Nashville."