W hen Ryan Suter left last summer to join the Minnesota Wild, he left huge shoes to fill.
On Monday night at Bridgestone Arena, Roman Josi tried them on.
One year to the day of Josi’s only career multi-point game, the second-year Swiss defenseman exploded for a career-best four points.
Josi racked up two goals and two assists, scoring the overtime winner in Nashville’s 5-4 win over the Dallas Stars.
He couldn’t remember having another night like it.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That must have been in juniors. I haven’t had one in my professional career yet.”
For a team that came into the game in the midst of a 120-minute scoreless streak – they had been shut out twice in a row after scoring an overtime winner – Josi’s offensive explosion couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We needed some offense and some good defense,” Josi said. “It was great for Pekka to get the win. He wins tight games for us and he always does a great job, so we want to get him some goals and we did tonight.”
As for Josi, he’s shown flashes of brilliance early in his young career. Lately he’s been firing off shots and finding himself in better position defensively. A large portion of this may be due to the fact that after shifting back to last season’s defensive partner – Kevin Klein – for a few games, he’s paired with Shea Weber.
“I think in the last couple of games, he’s played with a lot of jump,” Trotz said. “I think he’s finding himself as a player in this league. He’s very comfortable. He’s playing in all situations, and he’s becoming a very valuable on this team.”
“I think I have some more confidence and I am feeling good right now and am just trying to make plays and use my legs,” Josi added.
As for his sudden offensive explosion, Josi credits his defensive partner with a lot of it.
“(Shea) makes so many great plays,” Josi said. “He’s great defensively and he always makes the right play. It gives you some space to jump in the play and do something offensively.”
“I think there’s a learning period between Roman and Shea,” Trotz said. “A guy like Roman, who hasn’t even played an entire year in the league, is already paired with Shea Weber and playing important minutes. It can be a little intimidating, so we took them away from each other. Roman’s really comfortable in his own skin, on our team, and playing with Shea. He’s been really good, and they’ve been a great pair, lately.”
Twenty games into the season, Josi has 7 points, obviously 4 came in Tuesday’s game. Last season, Josi had 16 points in 52 games. His output this year puts him on a slightly higher scoring pace. While he hasn’t quite reached the level of the 35-40 point defenseman that Ryan Suter was for the Predators, Josi’s two goals on Monday were two more than Suter has scored this season.
“He’s playing real well,” Predators forward Mike Fisher said. “I know he hasn’t got points early, but he moves and skates the puck real well. He’s getting better and better. He’s done a really good job.”
Photo: Sarah Fuqua