The Nashville Predators coaching staff kept the team’s practice session short on Thursday—a sign that the team was eager to pack up and head to Phoenix for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Friday. Before departing via a 2 p.m. charter for Arizona, the Predators spent 20 minutes on each sheet of ice at Centennial Sportsplex and many players were off the ice in under an hour.
For the second day in a row, head coach Barry Trotz stated he’s pleased that his team is traveling to begin Round 2.
“I’m really happy that we’re starting on the road,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “I think it’s needed for our team. We’ve been at home for probably 10 days now in total and it’s time to get on the road. I think it will be a good way to get back in the swing of things by going into the other team’s den right off the bat.”
Forward lines during practice were the same as they’d been in the previous two practices, leading one to believe Trotz has settled on his lineup. The power play units remained the same from Wednesday as well. Defenseman Hal Gill has been paired with Francis Bouillon for two practices, possibly indicating that the 6-foot-7 penalty-killing specialist who missed the first round with a lower-body injury could return to the lineup for Game 1 Friday. For his part, Trotz was a bit cryptic with his response when asked if fans can expect to see Gill back in the lineup against the Coyotes: “You can expect to see Hal in this series and probably Game 1, yeah.”
Gill, a playoff veteran with a Stanley Cup on his résumé, is eager to make his 2012 playoff debut. “I’d like to,” he said Thursday. “I haven’t talked to the coaches to make a final decision but hopefully they want me back in.”
For the third day in a row, a member of the Predators organization was announced as a finalist for a league honor. Tuesday it was David Poile for GM of the Year. Wednesday it was Pekka Rinne for the league’s top goaltender. And on Thursday Shea Weber was the man of the hour as he was tapped as one of the three finalists for the league’s Norris Trophy for the top defenseman.
“To me it was obvious,” Trotz said. “I know there’s lot of talk of different types of defenseman but with Shea, Shea had a strong season from start to finish. The only thing I was worried about Shea maybe not getting nominated was that [defense partner Ryan Suter] would take a lot of votes from him, because they’ve both been really exceptional. It’s great to have three guys nominated.”
Practice lines on Thursday:
White jerseys: Mike Fisher centering Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat
White jerseys: David Legwand centering Alexander Radulov and Gabriel Bourque
Silver jerseys: Nick Spaling centering Andrei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist
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
Power play unit: Fisher, Radulov, Erat, Suter and Weber
Power play unit: Legwand, A. Kostitsyn, Hornqvist, S. Kostitsyn and Josi