Arriving just an hour before game time, Ellis makes Predators debut in Nashville’s 4-1 loss to Detroit
For the last three years, Ryan Ellis started the World Juniors tournament on Boxing Day, winning one gold and two silver medals for Team Canada. This year, his first as a professional hockey player too old for the tournament, Ellis made his NHL debut for the Nashville Predators on December 26th.
“I was overjoyed. I was pretty happy. I think anyone coming up to play their first game is pretty excited. I was obviously a bit nervous, knowing they were playing the Red Wings. I was just excited,” Ellis said about what he was feeling when he found out he was called up to Nashville.
The rookie defenseman barely made it to the rink with only an hour to spare before game time.
“I found out this morning around 11 o’clock. We just finished our morning skate for Milwaukee. They called me into the office and told me I was going up. Instead of taking a nap it was jump on a plane and hurry off to Nashville,” Ellis said after Nashville’s 4-1 loss to Detroit.
Without much preparation, Ellis played a solid 18:13 in the NHL debut, called up to Nashville due to an injury sustained by Captain Shea Weber. Weber is out with an upper-body injury. While there has been no indication that the injury is a concussion, Weber took a hit to the head from Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric.
A typical game day would include a morning skate, nap and pre-game meal. Ellis needed to change things around.
“Usually I’m taking a nap and I’m here at the rink for a 7 p.m. game at 4:15 p.m. It was a lot different, but there are things you have to adjust to and adversity you need to overcome. I got on the plane and tried to nap the best I could. Once I got here I just got as many coffees in me as I could,” he said.
Ellis did have a chance to meet with the coaches to talk about their game plan.
“I had a little meeting to go over what Detroit does, how they play and what their systems are. It was just to get caught up quick and then once you are out there just to read and react.”
Ellis was paired with Jack Hillen for most of the game, but played with Ryan Suter on the power play. The two-time Memorial Cup champion played 5:31 on the man advantage for Nashville.
“I was nervous. They are a pretty good team with a lot of superstars. When you see them in the lineup you are sort of shell shocked, but it was a lot of fun,” Ellis said about his first game, adding, “The guys made it really easy on me they talked me through a lot of plays and different situations. It made my game a lot easier.”
Considered an offensive defenseman at the junior level of the Canadian Hockey League in junior, Ellis is known for being able to distribute the puck as a power play quarterback. Against Detroit, Ellis managed 3 shots on goal, had another two attempts blocked and missed another shot on goal.
Listed at 5’10, 179 pounds, Ellis knows he needs to be tough to make it in the NHL. On Monday night, Ellis was credited with 2 hits as well as 2 blocked shots.
When asked what he learnt in his debut, Ellis said it is all about keeping things simple. ”Just the pace of the game and how simple you have to make the game. We have a good team here. If we can just move the puck, you can rely on other guys to make the plays. Hopefully, you can get the puck back and jump into holes and stuff like that. The main thing is to simplify the game,” Ellis said.
While the Ellis debut was much anticipated in Smashville, the Predators fell behind and were not able to capitalize on their chances.
The Red Wings opened scoring when Valtteri Filppula scored at 10:57 into the first period. It was the only goal of the opening frame.
During the second period, Detroit scored twice in a 13-seconds span. Pavel Datsyuk scored on a wraparound. Dan Cleary made it 3-0 just 13 seconds later when his wrist shot beat Rinne to his glove side.
Filppula added his second tally of the game at 5:22 into the third period.
Jon Blum got on the board for Nashville with only 2:12 remaining to end Jimmy Howard’s shutout.
Howard leads the NHL in wins with 21 on the season. Pekka Rinne drops to 16-10-4.
The Predators host Minnesota on Wednesday night. Monday, the Wild lost to the Colorado Avalanche and are losers of four straight contests.