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Opening Night Always Special for Rinne, Preds

Predators Excited for Start of Fresh Season, Ready to Embrace What's to Come

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

Pekka Rinne still loves it.

Even after a decade of Opening Nights, the butterflies still come, accompanied by a steadfast belief that perhaps this will be the year.

When the veteran goaltender and his Predators teammates skate onto the Bridgestone Arena ice tomorrow night beneath a cast of more than 17,000 heaping praises on them, those chills will always take over, no matter how many times it's been done.

And no, Rinne will never tire of the fanfare that comes with the start of another season in the NHL.

"It feels like it gets better every time," Rinne said of the Opening Night festivities. "We have unbelievable fans, and what they've done, our ownership, our team president and everybody in the organization, what they've done around the rink, it's amazing. I can't wait to watch that opening ceremony and be able to skate on the ice again, so that's going to be awesome. It never gets old."

The high expectations for this club haven't gone away either.

The Predators will begin the season with another banner in the rafters to commemorate a second-straight Central Division Championship, a reminder of where the group has come, and where they still want to go.

That journey begins with a four-game homestand, just the second time in franchise history the Predators have started a season with a stretch of that fashion. The group in 2003-04 won three of those four, and this group intends on at least duplicating that start.

"It's a great way to start," Preds forward Filip Forsberg said. "We have the best fans in the League, and we get rewarded by playing four games in a row in front of them. It's definitely a good chance to make a statement right away."

If the Preds are going to find success in the early going, Forsberg and his linemates are likely to have plenty to do with it. The Swedish winger is expected to start the season skating alongside a Finn - Mikael Granlund - and a Canadian - Matt Duchene - the latter of whom is more than ready to play his first official game with his new club.

Rather than the Predators utilizing a true first and second line, Duchene aids in providing Nashville with two top trios; the other consisting of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Craig Smith to start. With Duchene and Johansen, it's a one-two center punch the likes of which the Predators have never seen, one of the top reasons for the palpable optimism around Nashville.

"That's exactly that, I think it's a 1-A, 1-B situation, a situation where we'll push each other and support each other at the same time," Duchene said of the lines. "You look at any top teams in history that have won Cups, and they always have depth, whether it be in their top six or bottom six. I know we have that, so it's exciting."

Even Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette, who has been hard at work over the past three weeks through training camp and the preseason preparing his team for this moment, admits he takes a moment to step back and appreciate another fresh beginning in the best League in the world.

"This is the exciting part," Laviolette said. "You get that first day of training camp, that's exciting, and then it's a lot of work for the guys and the people you're pushing through camp… When training camp starts to come to an end and you see that first game on the schedule, that's when it really gets exciting. Our guys, our coaches and players, and our fans, everybody is starting to feel that right now that that first game is right around the corner."

The morning skate, the power-play and penalty-kill meetings, the Gold Walk, the warmup, the introduction of 22 players, the puck drop and the final horn - it will all be over in a flash.

Before long, the Predators will wake up on Friday morning, and the number one will be somewhere in the win-loss column next to their name in the standings. A three-hour skirmish on Thursday night will determine where that digit slots, and from there, 81 more contests will lie ahead.

But for now, this night is the one with the attention, and for good reason.

There's something special about an Opening Night in Smashville - especially when the hockey team has this much promise right from the start.

"I'm very excited," Rinne said. "I have a sense of excitement and feeling of another opportunity to do something special. I really think we have a team to do it. There's going to be a lot of work ahead of us, but I'm really excited to tackle that task."

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