Calle Jarnkrok summoned two words to describe his lack of offense: “It sucks.”
The Predators center hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 5 against the Coyotes, a span of 71 days going into Game 4 of his team’s first-round playoff series Wednesday against the Stars.
Jarnkrok had zero goals and six assists in his last 30 games going into Wednesday, when the center was set to play with Rocco Grimaldi and Miikka Salomaki for the second full game in a row after Brian Boyle (appendix) and Wayne Simmonds (knee) were deemed week-to-week.
Change, staying same
The more linemates changed around him, the more Jarnkrok stayed the same. But movement all over the lineup at times this season hasn’t helped when it comes to consistency for Jarnkrok.
When asked for possible reasons for his offensive struggles, Jarnkrok pointed to a shift in responsibilities in his shifts. Being on the fourth line means defense becomes the priority.
It also means fewer minutes on the ice.
“Everybody wants to score,” Jarnkrok said. “Been playing a different role, too. To play on the fourth line you get those low minutes. It’s more about not getting scored on. A lot of (defensive) zone starts. I’m trying to help the team that way.”
Then the 27-year-old paused and quietly pointed the finger back at himself.
“We’re allowed to score, too,” he continued. “It would be nice if our line can contribute that way, too.”
That was then
That November night when Ryan Johansen serenaded Jarnkrok with a Shania Twain song in the Predators locker room seems so long ago.
Jarnkrok scored a hat trick during a victory against the Kings, scoring four-on-four, four-on-five and five-on-four to become the seventh player in the NHL to score at even-strength, shorthanded and on a power play in the same game. He also joined Scott Walker as the only Predators to accomplish the feat.
The game also ended a three-game losing streak for the Predators.
He has four goals and 16 assist in 65 games since then going into Wednesday.
He finished the regular season with 10 goals and 16 assists.
He began the playoffs feeling like “the most protected guy in the league” with the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Boyle on one side and the 6-2, 185-pound Simmonds on the other.
Although his linemates have changed to the 5-6, 180-pound Grimaldi and the 5-11, 203-pound Salomaki, Jarnkrok’s job hasn’t. Grimaldi had a team-best two goals in the series going into Wednesday.
This is now
Jarnkrok continues to provide the Predators with versatility.
“I always like to play with him,” Salomaki said. “He’s smart, a good two-way player, makes good decisions always. He can do a little bit of everything.”
Jarnkrok had two assists during the Predators’ win in Game 2 against the Stars on Saturday, including one on Craig Smith’s game-winner in overtime.
“Calle can play anywhere,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “To number the lines … in a playoff series you roll four lines and do it the best you can and make sure you’re good for whatever the end of the game has in store.
“That line has been terrific. Rocco’s really brought some spark and speed to the game. Salomaki did a really good job. It’s been a while since he’s played. He played big minutes for us. He’s been physical. That line hasn’t been a problem.”