For the first time since learning their Round One opponent, the Nashville Predators were back to work on Monday to begin preparations for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette utilized an hour-long practice session at Centennial Sportsplex to set the groundwork necessary to face the Chicago Blackhawks in a series that begins on Thursday night at the United Center. After an 82-game season, the Predators were eager to get back on the ice for what is the best time of the year for anyone involved in the sport.
"That's why you play the 82 games is to get to this point," Laviolette said. "Our guys battle hard to get here and everybody gets excited to play for the playoffs. [Almost] 50 percent of the teams are going home today… and a little more than 50 percent get to stay and play for the Stanley Cup."
Laviolette and his staff began the three full days of prep work by getting back to basics in some aspects, wanting to take full advantage of a commodity that is hard to come by at this juncture.
"We didn't want to push the pace today just coming off the end of the season and the day off yesterday," Laviolette said. "We wanted to work on situational stuff and faceoffs, breakouts, power play, penalty kill, that sort of thing. Tomorrow, we'll ramp it up and have a lot more energy in the practice itself. But it was good just to get out here and work on some things. That's something we haven't had the luxury of doing lately."
There was also another face on the ice for practice as forward Pontus Aberg was recalled from AHL Milwaukee on Monday morning. Aberg, who leads the Admirals in goals (31) and points (52), also saw time with Nashville this season, scoring once in 15 games.
The speedy winger gives Laviolette the potential for another offensive punch to turn to at some point in the series, if necessary, a possibility Aberg would be happy to accept.
"It's exciting to go up here, and this is where you want to be, especially playoff time," Aberg said. "I had a really good year this year in Milwaukee, and I'll try to play the same way here."
"He's had a really good year," Laviolette said of Aberg. "He's a fast player, scored 30 goals in the minors and he's developed for three years now inside of our organization. He's ready for an opportunity like this, so it's nice to have him if we need him."
It remains to be seen whether or not Aberg will be a part of that Game One lineup, but that's what the next couple of days are for - finding what Laviolette hopes will be that perfect complement of players to begin what the club hopes will be a long run.
And Laviolette knows not everyone gets that chance. But the Preds have done what needed to be done over the last six months. The "easy" part is done. Now the real work is just beginning.
"We're happy we're here today; we're happy we're playing," Laviolette said. "That's the whole purpose of the 82 games - now we get to have some fun in the playoffs."
Poile Named to USA Hockey Men's National Team Advisory Group:
Predators General Manager David Poile is set to join USA Hockey once more, this time as a member of the advisory group that will head up the Men's National Team for the 2017 IIHF Men's World Championship, which begins on May 5.
Poile will join fellow NHL general managers Stan Bowman, Dean Lombardi, Dale Tallon and Ray Shero, along with Penguins Assistant General Manager Bill Guerin and Rangers Assistant General Manager Chris Drury, in selecting players for the team.
The U.S. will begin play in the 2017 IIHF Men's World Championship on May 5 against host Germany in Cologne, Germany.
Preds Ink Tyler Moy:
The Predators signed forward Tyler Moy to a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, GM David Poile announced.
Selected in the sixth round (175th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, Moy finished his four-year collegiate career at Harvard (2013-17) with 101 points (45g-56a) in 131 games. He led the Crimson this season with 22 goals while tying for the team lead in points (45). The native of La Jolla, California, also helped Harvard reach the 2017 Frozen Four, scoring three goals in two games during the East Regional en route to being named to the all-tournament team.