Now the real work begins.
After a summer of staying in shape and informal skates, the Nashville Predators hit the ice today at Centennial Sportsplex and began their first official workout of 2011-12 training camp. The players will spend the next three weeks working on a wide range of areas before opening the regular season on Oct. 7 at Columbus. (click here for training camp roster and practice groups)
For most veterans, training camp is a study in quick progressions, starting with retraining in fundamentals before phasing into the more complex and nuanced areas of the game.
“I think it has to start with the little things, positional play and getting back to the good habits and out of that summer hockey phase when you’re just swinging and always going for goals,” Predators forward Jerred Smithson said. “It doesn’t take too long. You get right into systems and team play and the bigger picture, which is working as a whole and winning hockey games.”
Focusing on the big picture and the team mentality is a common approach by the returning players, but they will also be attempting to improve individually.
“For me personally, I just want to bring my maturity to the game,” Predators forward Jordin Tootoo
said. “When you come into camp with the right mindset, good things happen. It’s been an exciting year for me and I’m happy to be back around the boys. I’m looking forward to big year from the team and for me personally.”
It wouldn’t appear that star goaltender Pekka Rinne
– a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2010-11 – has much to improve on, but don’t tell him that.
“I’m really focused and I want to continue from last season,” Rinne said. “In the past, I’ve had a couple of slow starts. I try to learn every year what to do better and what to be ready for. I want to work on my game, little by little. Training camp is obviously intense. It will be fast paced and there will be a lot of action. You get your body ready during the summer, but this is different on the ice and with the guys.”
There will be plenty of new faces, but also young ones. The training camp roster features 55 players and 50 are younger than 30. That doesn’t mean all of them are wide-eyed entering camp, however.
“We’re one of the youngest teams in the league, but we’re not necessarily inexperienced,” Predators Coach Barry Trotz said. “A lot of the guys who should be in our lineup this season played in the playoffs last year and they played the last 20 games. I’ll tell you what, from a development process, 35 to 40 games on the back end of a season and a deep playoff run, those are really, really more beneficial than the front 40.”
The Predators start training camp with two practices before playing three games in a row. The first two are on Monday at Florida (2 p.m. CT; 6:30 CT) and the third game is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT at Washington.