Photo: Doug Brumley
Predators prospect Alexander Radulov signs autographs for fans gathered at Centennial Sportsplex for training camp Friday.
The Nashville Predators hit the ice for the first time Friday, participating in a practice and a scrimmage before moving onto off-ice workouts and team meetings. A gathering of a few hundred fans attended the training camp proceedings at Centennial Sportsplex, unleashing a round of applause when newcomer Jason Arnott stepped onto the ice and again when Team Blue and Team White filed onto the rink for the scrimmage.
"It was great to see the fans out for the first day," said Arnott, who along with 49 other camp invitees, underwent off-ice testing on Thursday. "It was pretty packed out there. It just gives you motivation to go out and perform and get ready for the year."
Team White won Friday's contest by a 3-0 margin, getting goals from defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, winger Scottie Upshall and center Cal O'Reilly. A significant boost in overall player size versus last season was noticeable, and quite a few hits were dished out in the ragged game, which consisted of three 20-minute running-time periods.
"First days are always a little shaky on the hands and the legs, but those kinks will go out as camp goes on," Arnott said.
"As much as you want to skate in the summertime, back home or wherever you're skating, it's a next step up," forward Steve Sullivan said of the transition back into camp. "Guys are a little bit more intense. You usually don't play body contact in the summertime so it's the first time you're really getting hit. That takes a little bit more energy out of you, when you're trying to hit people or are taking hits. It was just a feel-out session [Friday to] get used to the guys. A lot of guys are trying to make first impressions. You just don't want to bury yourself out there."
Sullivan, who said Thursday that his recovering sports hernia injury might be "battle-tested" on Friday, seemed generally pleased with his fitness following the scrimmage. "[Defenseman Ryan Suter] kind of hit me pretty hard in the corner on one shift and I felt it a little bit, but not too bad," he said. "As we go along, I think we're going to be OK."
Photo: Doug Brumley
Center Cal O'Reilly scored one of Team White's three goals in Friday's 3-0 scrimmage win over Team Blue.
The Predators had officials on hand to call the game, and Arnott said that he noticed players being vigilant about avoiding penalties. Still, there were a number of whistles and one altercation involving Ramzi Abid and T.J. Reynolds. For these camp scrimmages, penalized players are not sent to the penalty box. Instead, penalties for each team accumulate and when a side commits three infractions, a penalty shot is awarded to the opposing squad. In a new wrinkle since last year's camp, the shooter is now pressured from behind by a pursuing player during the one-on-one showdown. The goaltenders--Tomas Vokoun and Karl Goehring for Team Blue; Chris Mason, Scott Reid and Jesse Deckert for Team White--split time in the game and were collectively unbeaten in Friday's penalty shots.
One sniper who was noticeably absent was Paul Kariya, who didn't participate in the practice or scrimmage because of an aggravated hamstring. "It was two or three weeks ago," Kariya said. "I was just lifting weights and I pulled a 'hammy' a little bit. It's fine. A couple more days and I'll be back with the team." As a result, Abid played on Team White's top line with Arnott and J.P. Dumont. Meanwhile, Kariya skated at the facility's second rink along with forward David Legwand, who reported being four to five weeks ahead of schedule in his rehab from knee surgery. Both regulars could join the group as early as Tuesday, according to Predators head coach Barry Trotz.
"We're just being cautious and doing the right thing with those players," Trotz said. Camp attendees Kim Staal and Viktor Sjodin were sidelined Friday as well, awaiting the results of medical evaluations. Goaltender Pekka Rinne, who had shoulder surgery a week ago, watched the session and is expected to miss four months.
Trotz said he was impressed by the defensemen Friday, a positive sign since the young blueline corps is the biggest question mark surrounding the 2006-07 Predators. "The guys that played with us last year looked very poised," he said. "Then a group that we're really looking at--guys that are trying to make a jump--I was impressed with a number of guys."
Trotz also singled out the line of Scottie Upshall, Scott Nichol, and Scott Hartnell, but said the overall intensity of the scrimmages needs to improve. "I want to see it kick it up a little bit here," he said. "After the first day of testing...you're going to be a little bit sore today. So I think you're going to start seeing some more of that [intensity] heating up as we start going along here."
Training camp continues Saturday at 9:00 a.m. inside Centennial Sportsplex. Team Blue and Team White will be split between two rinks for practice before meeting up for another scrimmage at 10:00 a.m. The sessions are free and open to the public.