Jackman settling in with Predators

Fruitvale’s Barrett Jackman has found a new home playing hockey in Music City.

Fruitvale’s Barrett Jackman has found a new home playing hockey in Music City.

Alongside defensive partner Seth Jones, the former Beaver Valley Nitehawk has helped anchor the Nashville Predators blue line to a 7-1-1 start this season.

Adam Vingan from the Nashville newspaper, “The Tennessean,” ran an article last week entitled “Jackman, Jones forming reliable pair for Predators,” in which he describes the growing friendship between the two players and its positive result on the ice.

“It’s really not as difficult as people may think,” Jones told the Tennessean. “He (Jackman) is a smart player. We just try to keep it simple out there and we try to use each other and I think communication is probably the most important thing.”

Jackman, who played all of his 13-year NHL career with St. Louis, signed a two-year, $4 million deal with Nashville on the first day of NHL free agency last summer. Predators coach Peter Laviolette had planned to put Jackman’s stay-at-home defensive style alongside the more offensive-minded Jones since before the ink was dry.

“You don’t know for sure that things are going to work or how they’re going to play together,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said, “but they seem to be getting better every game for me.”

Through their first nine games, the Predators have had one of the best defensive records in the game allowing just 17 goals. Jones and Jackman didn’t have an even-strength goal scored against them through six games. Jackman also owns the best plus-minus rating, 5, and has yet to be a minus in any of his eight games played this season. He’s also seen ample ice time averaging 20 shifts and close to 16-minutes per game.

Jones, meanwhile, has benefitted and is fifth in scoring on the team with five points, and a plus-four rating.

As the stay-at-home half of the pair, Jackman serves as a safety valve for Jones, who now has more freedom to freewheel on the ice.

“I don’t have to touch the puck when he’s on the ice,” Jackman said. “I just give it to him. I’m there as a support system for him. When he’s in trouble, he gives me the puck and then he jumps by a couple of defenders and I give it back to him and let him skate. I’ve still got to get up in the rush and do that, but I’m the more defensive-minded guy on the line, which will allow him to be on the offensive side a little more than he’s been in the past.”

From Jackman, Jones has learned to simplify his game, resisting the urge to make every play highlight-reel worthy.

“It’s been easy,” Jones said. “He’s a great guy. He gets along with everybody and I’ve gotten along with him a great deal so far this season. I’ve got to know him a bit and I enjoy being around him. He’s been fantastic for our team so far, including me.”

Nashville is coming off a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, another defensively-inspired win. With Jackman and Jones complimenting an already formidable defence with Shea Weber and Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis rounding out the top-six, the Predators look to be a force in the Western Conference

The Predators currently hold down first place overall in the Conference and play the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. The Preds have two dates in Vancouver against the Canucks this year, Jan. 26 and Mar. 12.

With files from The Tennessean.