NASHVILLE - Eric Nystrom clearly is pleased to be playing in Nashville, having signed a four-year contract as a free agent in July. "It's a great spot. It's only going to get better," the son of "Mr. Islander" Bob Nystrom said in the Predators' locker room Saturday before the morning skate.
The one thing not so clear is which family member is most happy that he is here. His mother, Michelle, who was here with Bob for Saturday night's game against the Islanders, is ecstatic about her son's new home.
"I don't know how a girl born and raised on Long Island -- and never left -- starts loving country music, but she's all about it. She's a fanatic," Eric said.
The opposite side of the coin is this: Even though the younger Nystrom played for Calgary, Minnesota and Dallas before Nashville, and despite the fact that he now does his offseason training in Santa Monica, Calif., he still is a Long Islander. He has seen all of it, from the ground. Several times, he rode the length of the Island, out to Montauk, in Pat LaFontaine's charity bike-a-thon.
"The last time I did it, there must have been something wrong with the bike," he said. "I had 10 flats. Every time I'd get going, pfft, a flat."
Nystrom wears No. 24, not the 23 that is retired for Bob in the Coliseum rafters, because that is what he was given the past few years and it worked out OK.
Keeping up with Jones
Seth Jones never got to visit Barclays Center when his father, Popeye, was a Nets assistant coach last year. He was too busy leading the United States to hockey gold at the World Junior Championships in Russia and becoming the top North American draft prospect. It was thought he would be the first African-American drafted No. 1 overall in the NHL, but he fell to fourth.
Still, the Predators thought enough of the defenseman to draft him even though they had a pressing need for offense. In the three games entering Saturday night, the 19-year-old led the team in ice time.
"The more ice you get, the more you learn," said Jones, whose dad now is an assistant with the Pacers. Mike Fisher, an alternate captain for Nashville, said of the teenager: "He's going to be a star in this league, that's for sure."