It seems more like weeks – not days – since the Nashville Predators played a regular season game.
In reality, when the puck drops Thursday for the Predators’ home opener against Phoenix at Bridgestone Arena, only five days will have passed since Nashville’s win at St. Louis. But in hockey time, that’s forever.
There are positives and negatives when a layoff that long takes places in the NHL. It can hurt momentum when a team is playing well (Nashville is 2-0-0 after coming off back-to-back road victories against division foes Columbus and St. Louis). On the positive side, the break can allow for some rest and healing after such a grueling start.
The Predators are going with the latter.
“We feel good about ourselves after those first two games,” Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne
said. “We want it to carry over to the next game. There has been a little bit of a flu bug going around and it has allowed us to get healthy. That’s been a good thing. We’re also getting extra work. We’re improving on things that we didn’t do very well in the first two games. I think those are the positives.”
For most of the Predators players, the layoff has them amped up even more to get back to playing games.
“Everybody is ready to rock now,” Predators forward Patric Hornqvist
said. “We’re all looking forward to the game. When there are a couple of days between games, you have to make sure you stay in game shape. But I feel like everybody is going to be jumping around. The coaches are going to come up with a good game plan.”
As the schedule progresses, so will the frequency of games. Consider, in the first 15 days of October, the Predators will have played four games. In the final 16 days of October, Nashville will play eight games.
“We’re rested up for that and that’s exactly what we want,” Hornqvist said. “We’re ready to play every other night. Everyone is healthy and ready to have a good stretch here.”
After playing the next two games at home, the Predators will head out on a three-day, Canadian road trip. Then they return to Nashville to play three home games in five days.
As with most NHL clubs, the schedules offers some daunting stretches, and the Predators will experience at least three of them in the first month. But the players and coaching staff are relying on the confines of Bridgestone Arena to help make it work to their advantage.
“Our fans are so boisterous,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s good energy in the building and it’s going to be fun (on Thursday). It will bring back some good memories, but we’re starting new memories. That’s the key. We have to get our home-ice dominance again. We’ve been pretty good at home in the last seven years.”