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Preds Learn from Hynes During First Practice as Head Coach

Nashville's New Bench Boss Begins to Implement Change as Predators Hear from Fresh Voice

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

One of the first things John Hynes did after he stepped on the ice Wednesday for his inaugural practice with his new club was to seek out Matt Duchene.

The two took a few laps around the rink at Bridgestone Arena engaged in conversation, no doubt discussing the X's and O's of hockey and coming up with solutions as to how the Nashville Predators will find their way back into postseason contention.

Or maybe not.

"At the start of practice, we were actually just talking about family life and just personal stuff, just very light conversation," Duchene said.

But that's the thing - if the Preds are to make some noise and play the way everyone in that locker room knows they're capable of playing, Hynes needs to get to know his personnel as people just as much as athletes - and he's off to a good start.

Hynes could be heard already using nicknames like Arvi and Joey to address the participants as he ran them through a myriad of drills over the course of approximately an hour of ice time. There is plenty to work on, but the new bench boss wasn't about to try and overhaul everything right from the start.

He doesn't feel like he has to either.

"We just gave little components that I think are easy to instill that will make a little bit of a difference, and we'll just continue to build on it," Hynes said following the session. "Some of the concepts were simple, and the good thing in the NHL is you're dealing with elite guys and elite minds. They've played so many different systems or have heard different terminology, so a lot of times it's easy [to implement new concepts].

"It's just important as a coach that you're direct and clear and the guys have a clear understanding of what it is [you're trying to accomplish]."

Hynes addressed a few of those points after watching his team from behind the bench during Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Bruins, a game that saw the head coach back in action after the Predators had announced the hiring earlier that morning.

Once those initial observations were made, Hynes and his staff held some meetings, showed the players some video on Wednesday morning and then took to the ice in preparation for Thursday's game at Chicago, an outing that will truly be the first time Hynes has his stamp on things.

Video: Hynes' first practice as Preds head coach

Just as Hynes has stated, Predators players also know they don't need to reinvent how hockey is played, and Wednesday's practice gave them confidence it won't be difficult to understand what's coming from a new voice.

"It was simple and easy to grasp," Watson said of Hynes's practice. "I'm sure we'll make adjustments as we go forward or add some different tweaks, but for today, I thought it was great. You back it up with some video and then go on the ice and just try to get better today."

"I felt like it was crystal clear what he wants," Duchene said of Hynes. "He's detailed, and people talk about the little details of the game, and sometimes that's kind of cliché. Sometimes I think that almost gets overrated in a way, but the details that he's showing are not little ones. They're big ones that make sense, and they can really add a lot to your game. All coaches have those type of details, so I'm not trying to compare and contrast, he's just very clear on what he wants in those big details. If those are there, I think we're going to be successful."

It's been a challenging two days for everyone involved. When the Predators returned home from California on Monday, everything was status quo. Just a couple of hours after the wheels had touched down, everything had changed. Then Tuesday came, a game day unlike anything just about everyone in the locker room had ever experienced before.

When the sun rose on Wednesday, it almost felt as if things had returned to normal - at least as much as possible in a situation such as this. But the schedule won't slow down for the Predators to catch their breath.

There are 40 games to go, and with the first true workday under Hynes now complete, there's nothing more to do than to keep getting better - and everyone's up for the challenge.

"I look at it as a great opportunity because we are not that far out [of a playoff spot]," Duchene said. "It starts with one game though. You can't look three or four down the road. It starts with one, and I think the first one is going to be the hardest one to get. But I feel like if we get that, if we have one of those streaks, we're going to be right back in this."

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