NASHVILLE -- The reality of the moment struck Ryan Johansen on Friday as he took his first steps onto the outdoor hockey rink in the middle of Nissan Stadium.
What had been talked about for weeks -- the Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series game between the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning -- was just a day away.
"That was kind of the moment where it's like, `Alright, this is happening,' walking out for the first time and seeing it all outside,'" the Predators forward said. "We're not used to playing in front of 60-plus-thousand fans. It's going to be super cool, pretty special, and one of those moments in your career that you don't forget, you remember forever."
Johansen and many of his teammates played against the Dallas Stars in the NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2020. The Stars won 4-2 in front of 85,630 fans at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. Still, Predators coach John Hynes knows players will have to be ready to make the kind of adjustments they're not used to during the season.
"Indoors, you can control the climate, the wind," Hynes said. "So some of the conditions [like] snow, light rain, is it going to be really cold? Is it going to be a little warm? Which way does the wind blow? Sometimes you might be going one way and the wind is coming at you. But I think it's recognizing that there are certain things that are going to come up in those situations."
The faster the Predators can settle into the game, Hynes said, the better their chances of success.
"Both teams are probably going to be excited with 50 or 60,000 fans," Hynes said. "That's different in itself. But there are keys that we'll talk with our guys about, to be able to get to our game right away and see if we can get off to a good start. Collectively as a team, when you get [through] the first three or four or five shifts the way you want to play … that will be our goal."
The game will be another emotional moment in a week that's been full of them for the Predators.
On Tuesday, Nashville rallied from 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 down on the road to defeat the Florida Panthers 6-4. Two nights later, they defeated the Stars 2-1 in a shootout at Bridgestone Arena following a ceremony to retire the No. 35 of former goalie Pekka Rinne, who played 15 seasons and holds their record for games played (683), wins (369) and shutouts (60).
What would a win against the Lightning, who have won consecutive Stanley Cups, mean for the Predators?
"That would make this week really that much more special," Nashville forward Mikael Granlund said. "We knew it was going to be an emotional week, and there's a lot of things that are happening outside of the actual game.
"I think for everybody, it's good to enjoy it, try to take as much in as you can because these type of weeks don't happen often. But at the same time, when it's time to play, you've got to go out there and play and try to get those two points. If we can do that tomorrow, then it's been a really, really good week."