The Predators were back at work this morning after a day away from the rink Wednesday. The busy schedule -- combined with a bout of the flu bug running through the locker room -- merited the break, according to head coach Barry Trotz.
“There are guys in the [locker] room that have played 60-odd games plus preseason and all that,” Trotz said after Thursday’s morning skate. “You don’t need to be on the ice every day. It’s about being productive when you’re on the ice and recovering and healing when you’re not on. ... Right now the games are the most important things.”
And the players appreciate the coaching staff’s effort to manage the schedule.
“There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’ve been going pretty hard lately,” said Preds forward Jerred Smithson. “Our schedule, it just seems like it’s every night or every other night. So rest is just as important as going out there and doing work. You know you’ve got to keep the batteries as charged as much as possible, especially this time of year. There are some bumps and bruises and the flu and whatnot going around. And every team goes through it. It’s huge just to get that one day where you can kind of get away from the rink, clear your head a little bit and get ready for a good stretch.”
Tonight the schedule brings the St. Louis Blues to Bridgestone Arena for a 7:00 p.m. game. Nashville holds a commanding 4-0 lead in the season series thus far, but the Blues hold a three-point lead over fifth-place Nashville in the Western Conference standings. Blues/Preds games are routinely close: Sixteen of the teams’ last 25 meetings have been decided by one goal.
“When we play them it’s always a battle,” Predators forward Colin Wilson
said. “We’re two teams who rely on our aggressiveness and our style of play. It’s [about] going hard and nobody takes shifts off. It always turns into a battle against them. We both realize we’re close in the playoff spots, so this game’s huge. It turns into a playoff game.”
“We’re going to have to go out there and play a physical style of game and establish our forecheck,” Smithson said. “[We] can’t go out there thinking its just going to be run-and-gun. We’re going to have to check hard, we’re going to have to stay disciplined—they’ve got a dangerous power play.”
Forward Patric Hornqvist
, who has missed four games with an upper-body injury, remains out for tonight. “Saturday would be the earliest,” Trotz said. The same goes for Brian McGrattan
, who has also missed seven games with an upper-body injury.