Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
Every team needs foot soldiers as well as stars, and Nick Spaling has endeared himself to Preds fans in recent years with his hard-working approach to penalty killing. Will the rise of other young forwards threaten his future in Nashville, however?
Avg Ice Time
In his second full NHL campaign, Spaling continued to carve out a role for himself as Barry Trotz's utility forward, capable of centering the third line, skating on the wing as needed, and playing a key role on the penalty kill. New highs were set in goals and assists, and his ice time took a significant jump as well, up almost two full minutes per game over 2010-2011.
While not a major offensive force, his hustle can help create key goals, as we saw in the playoffs against Detroit:
This will be an especially important season for Spals, as he will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer.
The prospects for further enlarging Spaling's role are somewhat threatened by Craig Smith, who spent more time on the wing last season but may be ready to step into the middle. That said, Spaling's reputation for defensive play and prominence on the penalty kill ensures that he'll continue to get important ice time whenever the Preds are trying to hold the lead.