NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former Predators fan-favorite Jordin Tootoo returned to Bridgestone Arena on Monday for the first time since signing a three-year contract with the Red Wings in July.
It was a quiet return for the forward, who spent his first eight seasons in this little big town, where he pleased crowds with his commitment to hard work and a gritty style. Predators’ fans returned the favor, blowing train whistles in tribute every time he skated onto the ice.
“It’s a little different being on this side,” Tootoo said, following the Wings’ practice. “But this is part of being a professional hockey player. … Fortunately, I was in Nashville for nine years (2003-12) and I couldn’t thank the fans enough and the organization for giving me every opportunity to play here.”
During his time in Nashville, Tootoo, who was a fourth round pick in 2001 – which the Predators traded up to land – produced 46 goals and 79 assists while amassing 725 penalty minutes. He seemed to be a lifer in middle Tennessee.
But, as Tootoo said, “That’s hockey.”
Now the player who was once beloved by legions of Predators’ fans, is wearing enemy colors. But not just any colors, oh no, he’s wearing the hated red and white of Nashville’s archrivals from up north.
Tootoo knows what to expect from his former teammates when the puck drops on Tuesday’s game, and vice versa, he said. But as for the fans’ reaction, will there be whistles or boos? Tootoo isn’t sure.
“I don’t know, to be honest,” he said. “I think there are going to be a lot of mixed emotions out there. It should be interesting and I’m excited.
“I really embraced the city of Nashville throughout my career and I really called it my home. The fans have truly been fantastic with me, personally, both on and off the ice. I would just like to thank them for supporting me and cheering me on.”
GUS RETURNS, TOO: Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson, hot off his sparkling 2-1 win during a rehab stint in Grand Rapids over the weekend, rejoined the Red Wings and practiced with the team at Bridgestone Arena.
Gustavsson, who had been hampered by a sore groin since the first game of the season, stopped 26 of 27 shots as the Griffins out-lasted the Charlotte Checkers on Sunday.
The Checkers ruined Gustavsson’s shut out when they scored with little more than two-minutes left in regulation.
“In the end, it doesn’t really matter,” said Gustavsson, of the blown shut out. “For me, it was all about getting a game and trying to help the team get a win, and we did both. In a game like this you look back at situations, and if you could do something else. That goal was a deflection underneath me, so you can’t really play that differently.”
Gustavsson said he tracked the puck well all night, and that he experienced no pain during the game. He’s not sure when he’ll get his first start as a Red Wing, but he’ll be ready when he gets the chance.
“You have to be ready to play every game whether you start a game or not,” he said. “You have to prepare yourself the same way. I don’t look forward than the next day, no matter if I’m playing or not. That’s just how I approach it.”
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