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One Eve of Playoffs, Preds Ready for Another Postseason Journey

Nashville Excited to Test Roster in Playoffs, Embrace Challenges of the Season

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

There's only one more sleep left.

When the alarm goes off Wednesday morning, there will be no need to roll over and check the standings, no more calculating wins and losses and ROW.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs bring a fresh start, and that's exactly what the Nashville Predators will have the next time the sun rises.

It wasn't an easy go of things by any means for the club that won the Presidents' Trophy one year ago as the League's top team in the regular season. And yet, they still managed to win the Central Division for the second-straight year, even with all the injuries and inconsistencies.

There was still much to celebrate, too, and now, the postseason has arrived with chance for plenty more of that.

"It's absolutely the best time of the year," Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "You work so hard and you prepare yourself all summer, then the whole long season, and now this time of year, it's really so much fun… The weather is getting nice out, and starting in our home building, can't wait to play there in a playoff game again, and it's all good things."

Video: Josi, Ekholm ready for Game 1

Just as much as Rinne and his teammates may enjoy driving around town with the sunroof open, they're also relishing the opportunity they have once more. Almost half of the NHL's players have already packed up and headed home for the summer, and while the Predators are consistently expected to qualify for the postseason with the roster they possess, nothing is ever given.

Here they are again with another chance at Lord Stanley, an opportunity they intend on taking advantage of this time around.

"I'm just excited to try out our team in the playoffs," Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "We've been in this position before, and I think that the experience that we have in the room with the playoff games should be in our favor. We've never faced Dallas in the playoffs, so it's a new test, it's a new opponent, but I believe in this group. I believe in this group of guys, and I think we're very well prepared for it."

If there's one constant the Predators have displayed over the past number of seasons, it's their ability to take their triumphs in stride and bounce back when things don't go their way. It's an imperative quality to possess over the course of an 82-game season, and it matters even more in the playoffs when there's so much more on the line.

"We're going to see tomorrow how we've done this year and how the team is built for a tough playoff run," Ekholm said. "The key with the playoffs is you can't get too high or too low. If we win or we lose tomorrow we still need to wake up on Thursday and realize we have potentially six more games to play here in this series. It's going to be a fun ride, and hopefully we're prepared and ready to go."

After last season's Game 7 loss to Winnipeg in the second round, all the Preds wanted was to get back to this point and try again. They've got some new pieces in tow, but the core group is still there, ready for another run.

Video: Coach Laviolette on eve of the playoffs

"It's a tough loss last year, it's stung all of us, and I think everyone's just been waiting to get back in the playoffs and here we are," Ekholm said. "I think we have the strongest team we've had in forever, and the way that we've been playing lately, I feel like there's a lot of positivity. Everyone knows that if we bring everything that we can to the table, it's going to demand a lot of Dallas to get us."

It's serious business, this playoff hockey, but there should still be some enjoyment in all of it, too. The wait is almost over, and for the first time in a while, the Preds can't wait to hear the alarm bells from the bedside table.

"It's the best time of the year, and we've all been waiting for it," Rinne said. "It's a long season, and now it's time to have fun and go out there and just enjoy the playoffs."

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