After an arrival into Arizona in the early morning hours on Wednesday, the Nashville Predators took to the ice for a fast-paced practice in the afternoon.
The stop in Glendale represents the second act in a three-game road excursion that the Predators began with a 3-0 win over the Avalanche on Tuesday. Forward Filip Forsberg and goaltender Pekka Rinne starred in the victory, and Head Coach Peter Laviolette complimented the play of his goaltender and the team as a defensive unit on Wednesday.
“The games have been tight and the guys have done a good job of understanding what we’re trying to do. Because of that, we’ve played well in front of [Rinne]. I think our defensemen have done a good job of outletting pucks and getting it out of our zone, and as always, I think our goaltender is a big part of the [results].”
Nashville concluded the hour-long, up-tempo session with breakout drills and odd-man rushes against both goaltenders. The team will not hold a morning skate on Thursday in advance of their contest with the Coyotes that night.
Part of the reason the Preds were able to sign Mike Ribeiro during the offseason was due to the 34-year-old being bought out by Arizona this summer. The remaining three years on the forward’s contract were cut short by the Coyotes in June, and Ribeiro was released into free agency amidst negative comments by the club’s management.
Nashville’s first line center returned to the rink he spent the majority of his time in during the 2013-14 season on Wednesday. The center said it was a harder experience than he was expecting.
“I think I mainly [feel] regret, that I couldn’t help them in the way that I wanted,” Ribeiro said. “I know there’s some resentment toward me because I let some people down that believed in me, and I kind of hurt them by doing that. But it’s in the past now; I moved forward from that. But to come back, it’s pretty weird.”
The Predators second-leading point-getter this campaign (with 24 points), Ribeiro has more than just fit in with his new team in Music City.
“Once I signed with [Nashville], I worked to put those feelings in the past and help this team here; I really want to do the right thing this time around,” Ribeiro said. “When you get bought out, it’s a very different thing than getting traded. It’s kind of a low blow, and it says that they didn’t really want something for you, they just wanted to get rid of you.”
Two Predators veteran forwards agreed that it can be an surreal experience to skate against a team you spent so much time with the season prior.
“It’s tough,” Derek Roy said. “Early on it’s different sitting on the opposing bench and seeing your old teammates that you played with the year before. It’s tough, but you have to put that in the back of your mind and go out there and win a hockey game. That’s what we’re expecting from Ribeiro tomorrow.”
“Going to the rink and seeing your old team’s training staff that you used to deal with on a daily basis can be strange,” said Olli Jokinen. “But once the game starts, I personally don’t think about it too much and I’ve been through it [several] times. [Ribeiro] will be fine once the game starts I’m sure.”
Roy in the Four-Spot:
A few minutes into the Tuesday’s win over the Avs, Nashville center Paul Gaustad left the game after re-aggravating a lower body injury that had kept him out of the lineup during the team’s previous pair of contests. With the forward once again listed as day-to-day with the ailment, Roy took shifts between Eric Nystrom and Gabriel Bourque on the fourth line during practice.
Roy has been out of action since Nov. 27, a 1-0 overtime win over the Oilers for the Predators. The Ottawa, Ontario, native said entering the lineup on any line is important because of Laviolette’s preference to roll four lines when possible.
“It shows that he has faith in the players and that at the end of the day they’re going to get the job done,” Roy said. “It doesn’t matter who’s on the ice in the dying moments of a game, everybody has to play the same way, [doing things like] blocking shots and sacrificing the body to win. Like [Tuesday against Colorado], even when we were up 2-0 and trying to get Rinne the shutout, our guys kept going out there and laying it all out.”
Combos & Pairings:
Forsberg - Ribeiro - Neal
Cullen - Fisher - Smith
Wilson - Jarnkrok - Jokinen
Nystrom - Roy - Bourque
Josi - Weber
Ekholm - Ellis
Volchenkov - Jones
Laviolette on recent penalty kill success:
“I think we’ve been a little bit more aggressive in our approach with what we’re trying to do. It seems like we’re trying to jump and get up ice a little more and instill tighter gaps in the neutral zone. I think trying to read the plays in the offensive zone has helped too. Guys are blocking shots and working hard. The shifts have been short, and I think all that lends to more success on the [penalty kill].”
Roy on the game plan versus the Coyotes:
“We know they have dangerous forwards, we just need to make sure we come out strong right off the bat and try to get the first goal. Then that’ll make them open up and hopefully it’ll create some more chances for us. That’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to go out and play hard in the first period.”
Colin Wilson on the importance of team depth:
“That’s the key to teams now. It’s not having one or two All-Stars, it’s more about having depth throughout your lineup and that’s what wins championships. It’s a very encouraging sign to see that we have that here.”