Matt Luff hadn’t been called up from the taxi squad by the Nashville Predators long, but he made his second game with the team of 2022 count.
After signing a two-way contract with the organization in July, the 24-year-old right winger got his first taste of the net with the Preds in their road match against the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.
As fate would have it, that’s Luff’s former team of five years. The former King got one in at his old stomping grounds as the Preds tallied a 4-2 victory during a three-game road stand.
“I’ve had a tough couple years here; just to get one there is huge,” Luff said of his first goal of the year. “Just being able to contribute is always nice, but I mean, we got two points which is the big thing.”
Luff did well with the Kings in the 2018-19 season with eight goals, three assists and 11 points in 33 games. He hasn’t gotten quite as much time in the majors since that season, splitting time with LA’s AHL side in Ontario.
In Nashville, he’s been up with the Milwaukee Admirals but has seen game action in the Preds’ last two wins since being called up (he got a shot on goal in the team’s 3-2 win Tuesday in Las Vegas).
The John Hynes era of Predators hockey has thrived off players like Luff, younger guys who have stepped up in big moments and helped steady the Preds when some of the stars haven’t quite been at the wattage you’d hope. Still, the 2021-22 season has seen stalwarts like Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen and Mattias Ekholm all playing inspired hockey as of late, as well as young guns like Tanner Jeannot, Yakov Trenin and Eeli Tolvanen all making discernable impacts.
It makes players like Luff finding the net that much more potent for the Preds.
“He’s a real smart player; he’s got good size,” Hynes said of Luff, who also had three shots on goal during the win. “He’s got good speed. He’s got good offensive instincts. He does have a scoring touch, and he was a guy that we really liked … in training camp. He was a good addition to our organization. He played very well down in Milwaukee, and he’s also a guy that brings different elements. He can play both wings. He’s a good penalty killer. He does have some power play attributes.”
Duchene, Forsberg and Trenin joined Luff in scoring Thursday night in a road victory that has the Preds now atop the Central Division by three points with 46 in total, ahead of the St. Louis Blues (43 points). Nashville faces a last-place Central opponent in the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night to wrap up the road stretch before returning home to face the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday. The Avs are tied for third right now in the Central with 42 points alongside the Minnesota Wild.
With Nashville looking like a clear playoff contender as the second half of the season unfolds, the Preds will continue to need guys like Luff to step up and make plays. It’s not lost on Hynes the importance of depth, particularly when your best players are playing well.
“As we continue to go forward and grow our team … as the season continues to move forward, I think having depth and having guys that can come in and contribute such as Matt has been a real factor,” Hynes said. “He’s earned the ice time he’s gotten. He’s earned the opportunity from Milwaukee to here, and it’s nice to see him come in and have the impact that he had.”