The ultra-competitive nature of the Central Division is no secret - five out of seven clubs in the division qualified for last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the maximum amount possible.
The Nashville Predators were one of those teams, and they figure to be once more, but of course no one has a crystal ball. The challenge is daunting as it is enticing, and it's one the Preds, as well as six other clubs, will begin next week.
“It was competitive last year and so many teams finished in the 100-point ballpark and crossed over to get into the playoffs because they had so many points,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the Central. “We had a lot of teams that made the playoffs and I don’t expect anything different, but you never know what’s going to happen in a season until you start playing games.”
It’s not just about the obstacles within the Central Division, but across the entire League as well. The Preds know that to have a shot at the division crown at season’s end, they’ve got to perform in those rivalry games. But those other contests, such as Opening Night against the Carolina Hurricanes, still offer two points for the taking.
“There’s no question [the Central Division] poses a challenge, but we’ve got to take care of everybody too,” Laviolette said. “We open up with an Eastern Conference team and we’ve got to be ready to play and focus on that. When we get to the St. Louis’s and Chicago’s of the world, we’ll be ready.”
The Predators assigned Cody Bass to Milwaukee of the AHL on Thursday after the forward cleared waivers. Though Nashville's roster currently sits at 24, forward Jamie Devane will either be put on injured reserve or assigned to Milwaukee upon medical clearance, for all intents and purposes, putting the team under the mandated roster limit of 23 before Tuesday's 4 p.m. CT deadline.
Equipment Manager Afforded Rare Opportunity Again:
The equipment staffs of NHL clubs are perhaps the hardest-working members of the team that people hardly ever notice, and once more, the Preds received some reinforcements from across the pond.
Riku Koivunen, (pictured above, second from left) equipment manager for the Finnish National Team, spent training camp in Nashville with the Predators for the second consecutive season, another priceless opportunity to observe and learn firsthand from one of the top staffs in the business.
“It’s been great to have him and he’s such a good guy,” fellow Finn and Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said of Koivunen. “He’s just a hardworking guy and a guy that’s fun to be around. I think it’s been really cool for him to be able to come here and learn from [Preds Equipment Manager Pete Rogers] and just to see a different culture, not only inside the rink but also out of the rink. I’m happy that Pete and [Assistant Equipment Manager Jeff Camelio] are just good guys that they invited Riku, so that’s a really cool thing to see.”
TSN Takes Notice:
Canadian sports network TSN released their ranking of the Top 50 NHL players, and the Predators are well represented. In a poll which combined TSN hockey analysts and NHL general managers, Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne, Captain Shea Weber and defenseman Roman Josi landed in not only the Top 50, but the Top 40 of the list.
Weber slotted into the 16th spot on the list, while Rinne, who was unranked on the list last season, is number 29 among all League players, according to the poll. Josi, who has never been ranked, finds himself at No. 40. Only six teams have three players in the Top 40 of the list.
To see the complete list, click here.
Shot of the Day: