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Back-to-Back Set To Test Preds Mental Strength

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
WINNIPEG - It will be a good preseason test in many ways for the Nashville Predators when they face the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

They will be playing in front of an energized and sold-out crowd, and with the preseason schedule nearing an end, fewer prospects and more veterans will be competing.

But there’s another challenge facing the Predators, and Nashville Coach Barry Trotz can’t wait to see how his players respond.

Following Friday night’s game (7:30 p.m. CT), the team will immediately travel back to Nashville in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Then, on Saturday night, the Predators will host Carolina.

“The players train all summer to be fast, strong, durable, explosive, all that,” Trotz said. “One thing you don’t do a whole lot of work on is with the mind. Playing those back to backs, especially at the end of training camp, really helps in terms of that mental conditioning.”

It also may help the club when wins and losses really count. The Predators open the regular season at Columbus on Oct. 7, then turn around and play at St. Louis the next day. Thankfully for the Predators, that back-to-back set will seem much more manageable than the one they are currently on.

“This is a tough trip,” Trotz said. “This was supposed to be Atlanta. And now we’re in Winnipeg. After the game you have to go through immigration, a two-and-a-half hour flight, then most of the guys have a half hour drive back to their homes. Guys are going to get to bed at 3 or 3:30, and then we’re playing the next day.”

More minutes: Expect to see the minutes increase for many of Nashville’s veterans during the next two preseason games. For example, Trotz said he wants to see his top defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter enter the regular season ready to play their typical 28 minutes (or so) a night. The veteran forwards will also see increased ice time as the regular season nears.

“It’s a misnomer, I think, when people say you should rest your top guys until the start of the season,” Trotz said. “If you do that, they haven’t trained to play 28 minutes. They will be trying to catch up.”

Blum honored: Jonathon Blum was told by the coaching staff three days ago he would be a top-four defenseman for Nashville this season. While many assumed that would be the case, it still was a relief for the 22-year-old California native.

“It’s nice to be counted on like that and I’m looking forward to the challenge, being my first full year and one of the top four,” said Blum, who excelled against premier talent in 23 regular season and 12 postseason games last season in Nashville. “It’s an honor. These three guys (Weber, Suter, Kevin Klein), they’re all studs. They’re guys I look up to and are guys I can talk to.”

There is still a battle between other defensemen to earn a roster spot and Blum has offered tips to the younger prospects.

“With guys like (Ryan) Ellis and (Mattias) Ekholm and (Roman) Josi, I’ve hung out with them for the past three weeks,” Blum said. “I’ve given them rides and everything. I give them little hints.”

Then, Blum said with a laugh, “Not too much stuff though, because I don’t want them to take my job.”

Good reviews: Nick Spaling knows all about the MTS Centre. The forward has played here before when he was with Milwaukee.

“They had good fans,” Spaling said. “They seem to be excited around the city for the team to be here, so I’m sure it will be packed all season.”

As for the ice, Spaling gave high marks.

“I played here when it was in the dead winter and it was minus-40 or something,” he said. “The ice was great. And it felt good this morning, too.”

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