The Predators got down to business on Wednesday, practicing for a full hour over the two rinks at Centennial Sportsplex. It was the first practice for the team since their Round 2 playoff opponent was determined Monday night. Nashville will open the Western Conference Semifinal series Friday in Phoenix against the Coyotes.
The tone of Wednesday’s practice was distinctly different from the tone of the practices on Sunday and Monday. After the team’s day off on Tuesday, the upbeat and playful vibe was replaced with a more serious, business-like attitude, with lots of breaks for instructions from the coaching staff.
Center Nick Spaling said he has liked the rhythm of the practice days and off days as the Preds have waited for other series to wrap up. “It’s been good,” he said. “We’ve still been working on some overall team things over the past couple of days that we needed to just tighten up. It’s helped having those days and being able to practice and stay sharp.”
Paul Gaustad added: “I think with us, [we’re] just trying to physically get healthy, mentally take a little bit of a break—but not too far of a step back—and now just trying to get right back at it.”
Pekka Rinne was a popular man in the locker room after practice, given the Wednesday morning announcement that he is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy for the league’s top goaltender. He was runner-up for the award last season.
“It’s great,” Rinne said. ”I was positively surprised. I can’t believe it. It’s the second time and I never would have believed it when I was growing up. I feel very fortunate and at the same time I realize that I play behind a really good team.”
“He was the only one surprised, if he said that,” head coach Barry Trotz said afterward, “because to me he’s an MVP candidate as well as a Vezina candidate. That just shows you how humble and unassuming that Peks is. Good for him. I’m thrilled for him, and well deserved.”
Practice lines on Wednesday:
White jerseys: Mike Fisher centering Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat
White jerseys: Nick Spaling centering Andrei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist
Silver jerseys: David Legwand centering Alexander Radulov and Gabriel Bourque
Silver jerseys: Paul Gaustad centering Brandon Yip and Craig Smith
Gold jerseys: Colin Wilson centering Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo
Ryan Suter and Shea Weber
Roman Josi and Kevin Klein
Hal Gill and Francis Bouillon
Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis
The Predators also spent a portion of the session practicing the power play. “Last series it seemed early on in the series we lost a lot of momentum on the power play and we can’t afford to do that,” Ryan Suter said.
Power play unit: Fisher, Radulov, Erat, Suter and Weber
Power play unit: Legwand, A. Kostitsyn, Hornqvist, S. Kostitsyn and Josi