Nashville Predators right wing Kiefer Sherwood is on his third team in his fifth NHL season, and he’s yet to play more than 50 games in any of his first four years.
But he earned enough trust from Nashville coach John Hynes to be slotted onto the second line in the season opener against the San Jose Sharks on Friday in Prague. He responded by contributing a goal and an assist in the 4-1 victory.
Sherwood likely will get another shot at playing in the top six when the Predators face the Sharks again on Saturday in the second game of the 2022 NHL Global Series.
“Just try to put my head down and work,” Sherwood said. “Play the game the right way, get in on the forecheck and create possessions for my linemates.”
That’s exactly what he did on his goal 1:01 into the game on Friday.
Sherwood helped win the puck in the corner of the San Jose zone and passed it out to defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who then slid it over to defense partner Mattias Ekholm.
Ekholm’s point shot was saved by San Jose goalie James Reimer, but it rebounded off the skate of Sharks forward Logan Couture. Sherwood poked the loose puck into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“Just a simple play, get it to the point and try to get to the net,” Sherwood said. “Beat my guy off the wall and, luckily, it found its way in.”
The goal that brought out the biggest cheers from the crowd of 16,648 at O2 Arena was the lone goal scored by the Sharks.
Tomas Hertl, who was born in Prague, tied the score 1-1 later in the first period.
“When they were chanting his name, I got goosebumps,” Couture said. “I can only imagine what he felt.”
Hertl said it was an emotional game, starting with the Czech national anthem.
“I was kind of seeing my family there, and it’s a special moment to represent my country in the NHL at home in Prague,” Hertl said. “So, a lot of emotion, and it was just a special moment. I’m so proud I can be even here.”
San Jose coach David Quinn said he didn’t like the way the Sharks played over the final 25 minutes of the season opener.
“They really took it to us,” Quinn said. “I thought we got a little bit demoralized. We’ve got to toughen up a little bit mentally in that department.”
Nashville forward Nino Niederreiter, who scored on Friday in his first game with his new team, said the Predators need to come out fast like they did on Friday.
“They’re a proud team over there,” Niederreiter said of the Sharks. “We’ve got to make sure we finish strong, come out the same way we did (Friday night), even better, and go from there. “
Kevin Lankinen is expected to start in goal for the Predators after Juuse Saros made 30 saves in the win for Nashville on Friday.
Lankinen is 1-1-0 in his career against the Sharks with a 3.84 goals-against average and an .857 save percentage, which are below his career marks of 3.23 and .901.
Kaapo Kahkonen is expected to start in goal for San Jose after James Reimer made 28 saves on Friday.
Kahkonen is 0-2-1 in three career appearances against the Predators with a 3.39 GAA and an .892 save percentage.
–Field Level Media