NHL

Preds demote underperforming rookies

Hockey Primetime Jim Diamond
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NASHVILLE, Tenn.

For two players who were mentioned in consideration for the 2011-12 Calder Trophy, defenseman Jonathon Blum and center Blake Geoffrion of the Nashville Predators had a very disappointing beginning to this week.

After being a healthy scratch for Nashville's last two games, Blum was sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League Monday afternoon.

Just a day later, Geoffrion was activated off of injured reserve then immediately sent to Milwaukee. Geoffrion had missed Nashville's last six games due to an upper-body injury and was a healthy scratch the four games prior.

Both players started last season in Milwaukee and were mid-season call-ups to the big club. After joining the Predators, both Blum and Geoffrion made significant contributions for a Nashville squad that finished fifth in the Western Conference and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Blum and Geoffrion played 23 and 20 regular season games, respectively, keeping them under the 25-game limit the league sets for players to maintain rookie status entering the next season.

After being recalled Feb. 22 to replace an injured Ryan Suter, Blum quickly made his case to stay. Even after Suter returned to the lineup, Blum's impressive play had earned him a spot on the team's second pairing behind Suter and Shea Weber.

Punch 'em back

NHL's toughest guys dropped the mitts in the best fights of 2011-2012.

Geoffrion, who grew up in suburban Nashville, joined the Predators three days after Blum. In 20 regular season games, the Hobey Baker Award winner from the University of Wisconsin had six goals and two assists. In playing all 12 of Nashville's playoff games last spring, he had two assists.

As the hockey calendar turned to 2011-12, both Blum and Geoffrion struggled right out of the gate.

Blum started on the team's second pairing with Kevin Klein, but was quickly relegated to the third duo and never regained the confidence he displayed last season. In 27 games this season, he had two goals and three assists in addition to a minus-11 rating.

In 19 games this season, Geoffrion had just two assists.

"One of the things you tend to overlook is guys come up during the playoffs and they only played towards the end of the year," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Jon Blum played only 30-something games with playoffs and regular season, and Boomer didn't play as many. You think of them as second-year players, but they are really first-year players."

Trotz thinks the trip back to the minors will help them find their games.

"They haven't had as much traction as they had last year," he said. "The whole idea is getting them playing so they can come back and get some traction in our lineup so they are not just struggling all year because your confidence goes and you are not playing. They are still pretty young players. They just have to play. When they come back, they will be better off for it."

Central Division notes:

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Patrick Sharp is the first player in Blackhawks history to record an overtime goal in back-to-back games. Thursday night, he scored the game-winner in Chicago's 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Three days later, he did the same thing in the Blackhawks' win over the San Jose Sharks. If the overtime heroics were not enough excitement, Sharp and his wife welcomed their first child Friday. ... Late last week, the Columbus Blue Jackets named Craig Patrick senior advisor of hockey operations. Patrick is a former Pittsburgh Penguins GM as well as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame... Detroit coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland as well as three teams of two players each spent two hours as Salvation Army bell ringers last week and raised $17,150.10 for the annual Red Kettle Campaign, according to the team's website. The amount included a $2,500 donation from Holland. ... Traditionally not known as a team with a strong power play, the Predators entered Tuesday night's action tied for the third best power play in the league at 20.4 percent. In their 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Tuesday, the Preds notched one power-play marker in three opportunities. They have at least one power-play goal in their last six games, a season high. ... The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Blues will be without C Vladimir Sobotka for at least two weeks after he was hit in the left ankle by a shot in Monday's practice. He was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. In 27 games this season, Sobotka has two goals and eight assists and is averaging 16:03 of ice time.

Tagged: Blackhawks, Blues, Predators, Patrick Sharp, Ryan Suter, Jonathon Blum

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