The Predators will face the Vancouver Canucks tonight in the first of five games on Nashville’s schedule in the next eight days. While the coaching staff and players are taking it one game at a time the importance of keeping mentally and physically tough is also being talked about.
“It’s managing their rest and work ratio,” Preds head coach Barry Trotz explained. “When you have a lot of games the body can do amazing things; it’s when the mind starts to get tired that your body goes. Whatever your mind thinks your body will follow. So if you feel like you are tired mentally then you’re going to be tired physically.”
Not only is the upcoming schedule very condensed for the Preds but the next four games are with opponents in the Western Conference; the Canucks, the Columbus Blue Jackets (twice), and the Detroit Red Wings. Entering play tonight, all are within three points of Nashville in the standings.
|Game Inside the Game |
|Discipline will be a key to tonight’s outcome. The Preds, as a team, have 31 more hits than the Canucks this season, but Nashville has been able to balance the physical play while staying out of the penalty box. The Preds have been one of the league’s most disciplined teams this season; they are the second least penalized team in the NHL with 8.7 penalty minutes per game and have been shorthanded just 92 times in 29 games (3.17 times per game) – also the second fewest in the league. By contrast, Vancouver is the fourth most penalized team with 15.6 penalty minutes per game – and their 28 major or misconduct penalties rank among the most in the league. The Canucks play some of their best hockey when the games get “chippy” – they’re 7-3-0 in games when they collect 15-or-more penalty minutes. |
The Preds need to stay disciplined, stay focused on their game and take advantage of any power-plays the Canucks are willing to hand them; Vancouver’s struggling penalty kill unit has allowed 11 opponent power-play goals in the past 12 games.
--Jay Levin, NashvillePredators.com
“These three teams are right behind us. At the end of this week we could be in good position and have made some ground on these teams and separate ourselves or we could be saying we haven’t made any ground.” Trotz stated.
“I don’t think there is going to be a whole lot of separation after 82 games but any time you go head-to-head those are important games, almost playoff style.”
As a result, the playoff-style battle will begin tonight when the puck drops against Vancouver. This will be the first match up between the Predators and the Canucks this season.
“They are a good team so we need to get back going to the way we had been playing,” Defenseman Ryan Suter
stated. “We have watched a lot of tape on them; it’s going to be an exciting game, we just need to play hard.”
Coach Trotz gave much credit to the Canucks ability to forecheck and shorten the zone. “They are in your face and they play with some grit. And when all else fails they have (Roberto) Luongo in net.”
Also starting with tonight’s game Trotz is looking for his men to be focused on hockey while on home ice. Trotz spoke on how easy it is to get distracted when home for a period of time by those things out side of the rink, especially in the holiday season. He stressed that it much harder for the home teams than the away.
JP Dumont added, “When you are on the road you have the chance to relax a little bit between games. When you are at home, with a lot of games, there are a lot of things on the out side with your family and friends in town, you have to try to keep your energy and focused.”