NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With Roman Josi on the shelf for an unknown amount of time, Predators head coach Barry Trotz had 19-year-old rookie Seth Jones skate alongside Shea Weber at Monday’s practice, and indicated they’ll likely be the team’s top pairing for Tuesday’s home opener versus Minnesota.
“Seth has stepped up and is going to fill that void,” said Trotz. “I’m probably, at this point, more impressed with Seth [than I thought I'd be]. He’s just played well and with a lot of poise. He has a very mature game, he’s a bright young man who’s humble in his game and trying to improve his game.
“The other night when [Josi] went down he played big minutes, and it didn’t seem to faze him a bit.”
As expected, Trotz acknowledged that there will likely be some mixing and matching on Tuesday, so there’s no guarantee the Jones/Weber duo will stick. Nashville’s bench boss said Jones and Ryan Ellis — who was a healthy scratch for the first two games of 2013-14 — will be the “primary” guys who could step up and join Weber.
Both Jones and Ellis are used to skating on the right side of the defense, but Trotz knew long before the season started he may need them to slide over to the left in the event of an injury.
“I asked [Ellis] and Seth to play left [defense] all summer, so that they had that ability to move over,” said Trotz. “I thought it was a lot easier for the younger guys to do it. Also they have such good skill sets, they’d be able to adjust.”
Jones, who skated with Weber a bit in preseason, is ready for the challenge of taking on top pairing assignments, and believes playing with an elite partner can help teach him what it takes to reach that level.
“Josi is injured, so this is how it’s working out,” said Jones. “Shea does a lot of great things out there, and practicing with him helps a lot. I can learn a lot. It’s good that I’m able to play with our best defenseman, and I have to keep a close eye on him so I can keep learning.”
Throughout the exhibition schedule and the first two games of the regular season, Jones was given a tremendous amount of ice time — often more than 20 TOI/g — and that will certainly continue with Josi out.
“I felt great in the first two games, especially against the Avs,” Jones said. ”I was confident I could stick at this level and play a lot of minutes. There’s an adjustment here and there, but there haven’t been any problems.”