Following their practice on Friday at Centennial Sportsplex, the Nashville Predators looked forward to the next time they’ll take to the ice - for their final regular season game on Saturday against the Dallas Stars.
The lead up to game No. 82, even with the Preds set to begin their postseason run next week, hasn’t recently gone the way the team would have picked. Dropping five-straight contests preceding their final game of the 2014-15 campaign has the club, according to forward Mike Ribeiro, eager to register a final two points before the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
“We know we can play better; this upcoming game gives us a chance to play a solid game on the road and get some confidence back,” Ribeiro said. “To be able to finish the season with a win, I think it’s always nice to finish your season with a victory. We’ve been scoring a decent amount, so if we stay focused and play well defensively, that’ll help us get ready [for the playoffs].”
The Predators were left a bit stunned after the Minnesota Wild took their first lead of the contest with just over two minutes remaining in regulation and hung on to win 4-2 on Thursday night. A lengthy chat between Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette and his players near the start of practice on Friday helped put the regulation loss in perspective, however.
Even without a win on Thursday, Nashville was still able to clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs and now just one game lies between them and hockey’s most exciting time of year.
“We know we have a good team and we have to be confident,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “The last couple games haven’t gone our way, but we still had a great regular season. We know what we’re capable of doing and now we just have to [execute] it on the ice.
“It’s the last game before the playoffs and you want to get that confidence as players and have a good showing. The way you play [Saturday], that’s how you’ll start in the playoffs too. It’s a big game, it’s not going to change anything in the standings, but it’s still important for our team.”
Nashville will be looking for their fourth win of the season over the Stars on Saturday, but their first since Dallas handed the Predators a 4-3 overtime loss on home ice a week ago. Following the conclusion of the club’s 82-game regular season set, the Predators will start a new chapter, where each contest means much more than any of the others the team has played in recent memory.
“I think we’ve been anxious for awhile that’s why we’ve played like this,” Ribeiro said. “It’s going to be great, especially starting here and with home ice. We’re ready to start the playoffs and getting that [final] win will give us some confidence. It’s going to be great, the town and the atmosphere...it’s a great time of year.”
Injury Updates and Lineup:
Four Preds skaters were absent from the team’s final practice of the regular season, and possibly the club’s final skate at Centennial Sportsplex until the fall.
Mike Fisher, Cody Franson, Calle Jarnkrok and Eric Nystrom did not take to the ice on Friday, after Franson and Jarnkrok skated in the Preds 4-2 loss to the Wild the night before. After the session, Fisher (lower-body), Franson (upper-body) and Jarnkrok (illness) were all described as day-to-day by Laviolette. Nystrom remains out with a lower-body injury originally suffered on March 3 in a game versus the New Jersey Devils.
Due to only 11 forwards taking the ice for practice, the team’s lines were left incomplete.
Friday’s lineup looked like this:
Forsberg – Ribeiro – Smith
Wilson – Cullen – Neal
Stalberg – Santorelli
Bourque – Gaustad – Beck
Josi – Weber
Ekholm – Jones
Ellis – Volchenkov – Bartley
Ryan Ellis on what the Predators are trying to accomplish prior to the playoffs:
“Sometimes you’re going to play really good games and lose. I think right now we’re just after playing a solid 60 minutes. We want to go out on a good note heading into the playoffs, and most of all, it’s just about getting back to the way things were.”
Mike Ribeiro on the Predators perspective after Thursday’s loss:
“Last night was last night. There’s not much you can change now. It’s really about tomorrow and the day after; that’s what we’re focusing on. You could have done a lot of things different yesterday, but those days are done. You don’t want to look back and get stuck with that, we’re in the playoffs now and starting home ice too. It doesn’t really matter what happened yesterday, it’s about tomorrow.”
Peter Laviolette on if a win versus the Stars could help the Preds in the playoffs:
“It could. But I’ve seen teams be rock stars on the final day of the season and bomb in the first round of the playoffs. There’s no secret to success in the playoffs. Certainly, you want to end the season on the right note, play the right way and win a hockey game. Then you approach the next few days at home.”