When asked about his expectations for his team's first preseason game Wednesday night, Predators head coach Barry Trotz didn't hesitate with an answer.
"I look for a lot of penalties to be called," he said, referring to the frequency of referee whistles heard in recent preseason games league-wide. That would explain why, after 35 minutes of intra-squad scrimmaging on Monday morning, the Predators turned their attention to special teams. Structured into 16 two-minute segments, the second half of the Group I vs. Group II scrimmage saw the sides take turns with the man advantage.
"I think with the new rules you have to practice your power play a lot because we've seen it in some of the preseason games ”some teams get 12 power plays," Yanic Perreault said. "In some games I remember from last season, there were one or two power plays. It's going to make a huge difference."
In the five-on-five scrimmage that preceded the special teams work, the goaltenders stood strong until Greg Zanon's pass from deep within his own zone found its way onto the stick of Alexander Radulov at the opposing blue line. The dynamic scorer broke into the zone alone and deked his way past goaltender Brian Finley to establish a 1-0 lead for Group I with just over three minutes remaining.
The goals came quicker once the format changed. Between the two camp teams, a total of eight goals were scored on the man advantage.
"The first couple of power plays were very, very cute and non-productive," Trotz said. "Once we started to move the puck and shoot it and get traffic, then we had some success."
Group I's unit including David Legwand and Jeremy Stevenson were particularly fruitful. Stevenson worked hard all scrimmage to secure a position in front of the opposing net, and as a result he tipped in passes from teammates Dan Hamhuis and Legwand for a pair of goals. "That's where I make a living, in front of the net," Stevenson said.
In addition to their assists, Hamhuis and Legwand each collected power-play tallies. Darren Haydar also scored for Group I, while Scott Hartnell scored twice and Simon Gamache lit the lamp for Group II. The final score was 6-3 in favor of Group I.
"You look at the games now, there are so many penalties," Stevenson said. "Power plays will win you games. You've got to make sure that your power play is doing well. Last season when we were playing we had a pretty good power play, and it was winning us games. That was a key for us getting to the playoffs that year. We want to make sure it happens again."