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Spaling looks forward to NHL season

by Chris Daponte

DRAYTON - Nick Spaling says he has recovered from off-season shoulder surgery and is excited about the start of the 2011-12 NHL season, which opens on Oct. 6.

“I should be ready to go for camp [which opens on Sept. 16],” he said in a recent interview from his parents’ home in Drayton.

Now entering his third year with the Nashville Predators, Spaling said he will head south on Sept. 9 or 10 to join his teammates.

He spent much of this spring and summer recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum, which he suffered near the start of the playoffs last season. But on Aug. 24 he said he had been working out and following his usual summer regimen for several weeks.

Prior to his first two seasons in Nashville, during which he would eventually score eight goals and nine assists  combined, Spaling’s main focus was making the NHL squad.

But after playing 74 games last season with the Predators, plus a fine performance in two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs - he saw as much as 17 to 18 minutes of ice time per game down the stretch and registered six points and a plus three rating in 12 games - making the team seems like a formality.

This summer Spaling signed a two-year $2.1-million deal with the Predators and the goal has now become improving his all-around game.

“I want to try to become more of an impact player,” he told the Advertiser. “Every year’s about proving yourself ... and earning more ice time.”

That’s exactly what transpired last year, as Spaling, primarily a centre though he also plays wing, was trusted in many different situations and was heralded for his play by coach Barry Trotz and also his teammates.

“He will do whatever it takes to help the team,” linemate Jerred Smithson told The Tenessean, a Nashville newspaper, during the playoffs last season. “He just goes out there every shift, every night, and battles hard.”

Spaling, who turns 23 on Sept. 19, said he now feels much more comfortable with the team and has grown close to some of his teammates. That can happen after a season like the Predators had in 2010-11.

The team defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 in the first round and Spaling’s second of two goals in game six was the game (and series) winner, sending the Predators franchise to the second round for the first time in its 12-year history.

“It was something special to be a part of,” Spaling said of the team’s playoff run, which ended after a second round defeat at the hands of eventual Stanley Cup finalists, the Vancouver Canucks.

Spaling said making the playoffs this year is “a must,” and the ultimate goal, as always, is winning Lord Stanley’s mug.

He stressed he really appreciates the support he  has received - particularly during the Predators’ playoff run last year - from people in Drayton and Mapleton Township.

“It’s always cool to get support from people back home when you’re so far away,” he said. If last year is any indication, that support is sure to be there for him again during the 2011-12 season.

Spaling will be featured in an Inside Wellington cover story in the Nov. 11 issue of the Wellington Advertiser.

 

September 9, 2011

 
 

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