NHL.com: Sullivan still contributing despite limited role

Wednesday, 04.20.2011 / 5:28 PM CT / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
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NHL.com: Sullivan still contributing despite limited role
NASHVILLE -- The oldest member of the Predators also is one of their most dangerous players offensively.

Nonetheless, Steve Sullivan has been reduced to a bit of a supporting role thus far in Nashville's Western Conference quarterfinal series with Anaheim, averaging only 7:36 of time on ice while playing on the fourth line with rookies Blake Geoffrion and Matt Halischuk.

Sullivan only played 44 games during the regular season and just once after Feb. 24 -- the second-to-last game of the season. Both Sullivan and Predators coach Barry Trotz say that the left wing is healthy now after undergoing a surgical procedure to fix an abdominal problem.

Nonetheless, Trotz is taking it slow with a player who entered this season ranking No. 5 all-time in franchise history in assists. The 5-foot-8, 161-pound Sullivan has had his share of injuries in the past, including a debilitating back injury.

"With Stevie in the past, he's come back too early, I would say, in some of the series and he had really, really limited his effect on the series, if any," Trotz said. "Going into the series, he came back right at the last minute. … The longer he skates and has no ill effects from his injuries and all that, the more confident I get in what he's doing and I think he feels more comfortable, so, yeah, he hasn't played what in terms of minutes what you expect to see Steve Sullivan play, but I think when he's been out there he's been pretty dangerous and that line's been giving us some good shifts.

"I think as you go along there, he's 100 percent healthy and there's no problems there, you'll see me have a little more confidence in going forward."

Despite the limited ice time Sullivan scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in a 4-1 victory for Nashville in the series opener. Sullivan has averaged only 31 seconds in the three games on the power play -- not much at all when compared to Shea Weber, who has averaged 6:42 for Nashville with the man advantage.

"We've got a good team right now that's going well and you don't want to mess with that kind of chemistry like that, so I'm just putting my time in and just trying to get back to game speed and trying to get into back into shape," Sullivan said. "It's tough when you play half a season and try to catch up and be ready to go after being out that long, so just take it a game at a time."

Sullivan said he doesn't mind a reduced role and is OK with it.

"Yeah, absolutely, you have to be," he said. "It might take 20 guys, it might take 23 guys because you never know what it takes to go as far as you can. Everyone's got to pull on the rope the same way and make sure we're all on the same page, and everyone has a role to fill and doing your job when you're in that role."

Sullivan is three months away from turning 37 and yet with all he has gone through he remains effective, finishing the regular season with 10 goals and 22 points.

Trotz said Sullivan's is a unique story. He played only 57 games in 2006-07, missed all of 2007-08 and then played just 41 games in 2008-09 -- 98 regular-season games in three seasons.

"With especially missing 18 months there and coming back and playing and he's not the biggest guy," Trotz said. "He relies on an ability to get around and be pretty mobile. And when you've had a back injury, anybody who's had one, you know you're not very mobile and it not only affects your legs, it affects your midsection, your balance, your speed, everything -- and he's fought through that the last couple of years and he's a real good story.

"He came back in every game and in every practice he looks like he's got more and more of that speed that he's known for."

Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
F. Forsberg 82 33 31 1 64
R. Josi 81 14 47 -3 61
J. Neal 82 31 27 27 58
S. Weber 78 20 31 -7 51
M. Ribeiro 81 7 43 11 50
C. Smith 82 21 16 4 37
M. Ekholm 82 8 27 14 35
R. Johansen 42 8 26 10 34
R. Ellis 79 10 22 13 32
C. Jarnkrok 81 16 14 1 30
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 34 21 10 .908 2.48
C. Hutton 7 5 4 .918 2.33