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Nashville Predators

Hard-Hitting Canucks Testing Tommy Novak’s Durability, Resilience



Photo of Tommy Novak, right, by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators forward Tommy Novak isn’t off to the best start in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.

Through five games, Novak doesn’t have a point after setting career highs in goals (18) and assists (27) during the regular season. He has managed just five total shots in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks while posting 10:56 of ice time per game, down more than three minutes from his season average.

“I’m just trying to take it one game at a time and find ways to be better,” Novak told Nashville Hockey Now. “For a couple games, I felt like I wasn’t at my best. But it’s hockey. You try and get ready for the next one.”

Predators coach Andrew Brunette told reporters last week he wanted to see more from the 27-year-old, who had his shifts cut from 20 to 12 between Games 3 and 4.

Brunette reiterated the same stance during Thursday morning’s post-practice press conference in Nashville.

“It’s been hard for Tommy to kind of get going,” he said. “I think I saw progress in Game 4. I didn’t really see as much in Game 5. In fairness to him, opportunity and ice time probably hasn’t been quite as high in those games, so sometimes it is hard to create or get moving.

“We’re still waiting for him. It’s a great opportunity for him to break out here for us because we need him. He’s such a talented kid.”

Novak, listed at 6-foot-1 and 179 pounds, admitted that finding open space against Vancouver’s burly defense – featuring 6-foot-8 Tyler Myers and 6-foot-6 Nikita Zadorov – hasn’t been easy. He’s taken 12 hits through five games, per Natural Stat Trick, tied for the fourth-most on the team and second-most among Predators forwards behind only Michael McCarron (16).

The Canucks have mostly stymied Novak’s finesse style in the offensive zone.

“They’ve got four or five really big defensemen that are tough,” Novak said. “[I’m] just trying to find ways to work around that and be better.”

The Predators rewarded Novak with a three-year, $10.5 million contract extension in March. That came on the heels of his continued development as a playmaker this year following his 17-goal, 26-assist breakout season across 51 NHL games in 2022-23.

Nashville assistant captain Ryan O’Reilly said he isn’t worried about Novak in what’s been a hard-hitting, defensive-minded series. The Canucks and Predators have combined for just 4.8 goals per game, and neither team has netted more than four goals in a single contest.

“There’s not a lot of goals on both ends,” said O’Reilly, who last scored in Game 1. “As a guy who creates, he just has to keep coming. Every day I think he gets a little better. He’s going to be just fine.”

Nashville trails Vancouver 3-2 entering Friday’s pivotal Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. CT on TNT.

If the Predators can get production from Novak or any of their depth scorers, it could go a long way in helping them extend the series to Game 7.

“You just have to stay in it,” Novak said. “Any goal is big. When you come out here and it’s a really tight series, there’s not a lot of chances either way. It can happen any time. Put pucks on net and just try to create more and hopefully one goes in for me.”

Follow Russell Vannozzi on X/Twitter @RussellV_MSP.

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