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Bitetto Looking to Capitalize on Fresh Opportunity

After an Injury-Filled Season, Anthony Bitetto Wants to Stay Healthy and Earn a Roster Spot

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

Anthony Bitetto would prefer not to discuss certain moments of the previous season.

For example, being in Nashville's lineup on Opening Night for the first time in his career, only to suffer an injury that took him right back out for more than a month, wasn't on the itinerary. Neither was the next setback, a broken hand suffered just three games after he had returned from the first ailment.

Things had never looked brighter for the defenseman - until he only appeared in four outings of the 2016 portion of the most recent campaign.

Sure, Bitetto came back to play in 25 more games before the regular season was out and then enjoyed the run through June - albeit as a healthy scratch during the postseason - but the 27-year-old wants nothing more than to forget about the previous 12 months.

Instead, he'd rather think about a second chance of sorts, another opportunity to prove he belongs on the Predators blue line when the puck drops on Oct. 5 in Boston. That thinking has been translating on the ice thus far, which is the only thing Bitetto really wants, or has ever wanted.

"You just try to take the moments because it happens so fast," Bitetto said from his stall at Centennial Sportsplex during Predators training camp. "You feel like the years kind of just go by, but I remember going down to the ECHL years ago, and now I'm here. I'm happy with the progression, and I have to continue to progress and hopefully be a guy that's relied upon this year."

A sixth-round pick of the Preds back in 2010, the Island Park, New York, native has gradually improved throughout his time within the organization. Two stellar seasons in Milwaukee landed him his first call-up to the big club in 2015, and Bitetto has spent minimal time in the minors ever since.

But the blueliner wants more than to just simply be in Nashville - the desire to become a mainstay on the roster is as strong as his New York accent, and Bitetto plans on utilizing past experiences to make that happen.

"You can't take any moment for granted because of the fact that tomorrow, you could be hurt and you never know what's going to happen," Bitetto said. "I learned that last year, and I think that was a big learning experience for me in that way. I think I want to build on that, but I also want to put last year behind me."

The opportunities have come for Bitetto in recent days, appearing in three of Nashville's four preseason games, while registering two assists during that time. Bitetto led the Preds in ice time on Friday night at Tampa Bay and logged more than 20 minutes on Sunday at Columbus.

He knows he may not be on the same level of a teammate like Roman Josi or P.K. Subban, but few are. Rather, Bitetto is aware he has what it takes to compete for a spot, something he'll continue to do until his number is called.

"You have to make the best of your moments," Bitetto said. "That healthy competition, it's a good thing for sure, but at the end of the day, you have to separate yourself from all of it somehow."

That also rings true for his hockey team, a group that wants nothing more than to replicate their success from last season, and then some.

"Teams are going to be hunting for us," Bitetto said. "We were the finalists, so I think we have to approach every game like we're the hunted now. The League is getting better and better. There's a lot of good teams out there, and we have to prove to the League and ourselves that we're deserving of going back there."

Just like Bitetto is proving to his team, and himself.

"I think this is the most you can ask for," Bitetto said. "I'm excited and happy to be healthy, to be 100 percent right now… I have to put the last year behind me. It's over with. I'm just excited about the opportunity this year."

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