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Predators ready to turn page, find way back to Cup Final

Believe 2017 playoff run gave them valuable experience, focused on strong start to season

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators still remember the pain of being two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup last season, but they are ready to turn the page and try to find a way to win it this season.

The Predators believe their run through the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs gave them valuable experience that they'll be able to use, particularly with some of their younger players.

"It's not a great feeling, obviously, when you get that close to winning and you don't get the result that you wanted," Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said at training camp Thursday. "But I think even after the game was over, just the optimism of we have a lot of guys in this room that gained a lot of experience from this run that maybe didn't have any playoff experience before the run started. I think a lot of those guys are coming in this year and understand what it takes to get to that point, and now we know we have to be even better to surpass it and get to our ultimate goal."

Players who fall just short of winning the Stanley Cup often speak of how that does nothing but increase their desire to get back to that point and finish the job. That is also the case for the Predators, but they know that having the hunger to get there does not mean they don't have to put in the work.

"Our hunger is great, but we also have to give respect to the other 30 teams in the League that are going to be just as hungry," Subban said. "Every team has had their situation in terms of last season. Teams that didn't make the playoffs are hungry to make the playoffs, teams that were in the playoffs maybe weren't happy with the run that they had and they want to build on that and then there's teams like us that were able to push a little bit further than everybody else but didn't get the result that they wanted.

"For us, it's not about looking that far ahead. Last season, we didn't do that. We just focused on getting better every day and being better players every day, being better teammates and being a better team. I think the same thing is going to happen. Whether you start the season 10-0 or 0-10, your focus just has to be to get better."

Video: P.K. Subban takes the No. 6 spot, Roman Josi No. 7

The Predators didn't get off to the start they wanted to last season, going 2-5-1 in October, and were an inconsistent team in the regular season. They were the final team to qualify for the playoffs from the Western Conference as a result. They want to be more consistent in the regular season, and that begins with a strong opening month.

"I feel like the beginning of the season is very important for us," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "The last couple years, our regular season was full of ups and downs. Obviously we're going to try to carry that momentum at the start of the season, but we can't think that we played in the Final, so automatically now we are more ready to play or something like that. We've got to prove that again."

The Predators saw how important home-ice advantage could be for them in the playoffs during their run. They went 9-2 at Bridgestone Arena, one of those losses coming in Game 6 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, ending Nashville's hopes of a championship. The Predators want to make sure they position themselves to use that advantage should they make the playoffs this season.

"I think that's a main goal for us too, is to get that home-ice advantage," Rinne said." You don't want to go too far ahead of yourself but still really important to get off to a good start. We haven't earned anything being in the Final last year. When the season starts, its business as usual. You've got to be ready. Our goal, for sure, is to play a more solid regular season with more consistent hockey."

Defenseman Ryan Ellis is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to be out of the lineup until posibly January. There will be a shakeup to the defense pairs as a result to begin the season.

Subban played the majority of last season with Mattias Ekholm, while Ellis largely played with Roman Josi. The Predators will have to determine what those pairs will be in Ellis' absence, which is something Subban said he isn't worried about.

"Well last year I didn't come in with any expectations as to what was going to happen," Subban said. "I just came in with the expectation to be the best player that I could be and to be as good as I could be with the position I'm put in, whether it was playing with [Ekholm and Josi] or whoever. I just have to be prepared to make whatever partner, whatever situation I'm in, work. My job as far as I'm concerned over my career has always been to try to make players around me better and make their job easier. There's no doubt in my mind that whoever I'm playing with, my job is to do that."

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