It's something like a dress rehearsal, but not quite.
The Nashville Predators wrap up their preseason slate tonight in Tampa Bay against the Lightning, and while Head Coach Peter Laviolette admittedly has a decent idea of the way his lineup may look in a week's time, nothing is set in stone just yet.
"We're still evaluating; it'll probably be a bit of a mixed lineup," Laviolette said. "I think in training camp, you're dealing with some bumps and bruises going on; nothing serious, all of our guys are out here but we want to make sure, more than anything, that we're ready for the home opener against Chicago. We're still evaluating, still implementing, still working on things in practice, but it'll probably still be a little bit of a mixed lineup down there."
As Laviolette continues to adjust and evaluate, the players look forward to doing the same.
"It's another test to put our systems in place and work on our special teams," forward Craig Smith said. "All of those are good looks, too. Some of the games, you haven't seen too many different looks and only get so many chances to prepare yourself. You have to be sharp, take each look as it is, try to make the best of it and learn."
Throughout the exhibition schedule, the Preds have emphasized these games still mean something, and with another six days after tonight's game until Opening Night, they'd prefer to go through the next week with a good feeling about what's to come.
"You can get a lot out of the last preseason game because it's all about confidence in professional sports," center Ryan Johansen said. "As a team, if we can go into Tampa and execute a good game plan, play a hard, 60-minute game and be able to go the six days between the first game against the Blackhawks and feel good about ourselves, I think that's huge. We're going to go down there with the mindset to win a hockey game, and hopefully we can do that."
Tonight's contest at Amalie Arena begins at 6 p.m. CT and can be heard on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.
The Preds have recalled forwards Pontus Aberg, Felix Girard and Mike Liambas and assigned forwards Austin Watson and Vladislav Kamenev to Milwaukee.