Nick Spaling recalled thanks (in part) to the 303:30…

There are several rules hockey fans traditionally embrace. ”Don’t say or use the word ‘shutout’ while a goalie hasn’t allowed a goal.” “Don’t sing the Ole song before the final minute of a game.” And now you can add “don’t interview a prospect on a podcast after figuring out how many steps away from the NHL he is.”

During the most recent 303:30 we said Milwaukee Admirals center Nick Spaling was “two injuries away” from wearing a Preds sweater again this season.

Oops.

The Nashville Predators announced today that Spaling has been recalled due to injuries to Jason Arnott and Joel Ward. As a result, we offer up our sincere apologies to those two guys and a bitter-sweet congratulations to Spaling on his recall.

John Glennon of the Tennessean is reporting the 17-year veteran is being held out as a precaution due to his history with concussions. Arnott hit his head against the boards after being slew-footed by Columbus Blue Jackets forward Samuel Pahlsson on Saturday. Ward, on the other hand, appears to be out for a little longer. The exact injury is unknown and is being called an “upper body injury” after he was burried by the Blues’ Keith Tkachuk behind the St. Louis net on Sunday.

Arnott is in the middle of his worst season statistically as a Predator. His 44 points is his worst since 2001-02 when he played for both the New Jersey Devils and the Dallas Stars, amassing just 45 points. But, as he often does down the stretch, he was starting to turn it on. The Nashville Captain had a four game point streak before he got hurt against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. That four game streak led to four wins. Furthermore, he has nine points in the month of March, a critical time for the Preds and their playoff hopes.

As for Ward, he hasn’t exactly been lighting it up lately, but he’s been more of a constant for Nashville this season. He’s just three points shy of his surprising 35-point campaign last year and has already set a new career high in assists (19). He’s also one of nine Predators players with at least 30 points this season. Only the Philadelphia Flyers have more (10).

Spaling will fill in admirably as he’s a “jack-of-all-trades” type player. He provides depth on the bottom two lines, he works hard every shift and can put the puck in the net on occasion. He’s also considered a penalty killing specialist which will help fill some of Ward’s role while a man down.

While in Nashville earlier this season, Spaling had three points, 18 shots on goal and stayed out of the penalty box. But perhaps the most impressive stat is that he only finished with a minus rating once in his 21 games (minus-1 on January 2 against the Anaheim Ducks).

So while he can adequately replace Ward in the short term, he’s obviously no Jason Arnott and that’s the big loss here.

So despite being tied for 5th place in the Western Conference, Nashville can’t afford to falter in these final nine games. They’ve got two against the Detroit Red Wings who currently sit in 8th place, two against the St. Louis Blues who, with an amazing run, still have a prayer of making the postseason and two against the dangerous Phoenix Coyotes who, by the way, are all-of-a-sudden the top team in the West. They can’t afford to squander any opportunity in this final 1/8 of the season and being forced to go without Arnott and Ward doesn’t help.

But, then again, this team is finding ways to win games lately. Pekka Rinne has provided stability between the pipes and Music City is managing victories no matter the adversity. That trend will need to continue if they want home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

After all, that is the goal now isn’t it?

PHOTO CREDIT: Wes Cunningham/Inside Hockey