After a day off on Thursday, the Nashville Predators were back to the ice on Friday at Centennial Sportsplex, getting in one final practice at home before heading on a three-game road trip before the Christmas break.
The Predators will face Central Division foe Minnesota on Saturday for the first time this season, before games in Columbus and Boston early next week.
Saturday night’s matchup will feature a Wild club that currently sits fifth in the division, with a bit of extra importance placed on showing well against an opponent that the Preds will see five times before the season is out.
“We’re exited to get on the road,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We know these games are going to be tough, and the first one presents quite a challenge. [Minnesota is] a frustrated team, and they want to be in a better place than they are right now. That usually means you’re going to get somebody’s best game, and we’ve got to be sharp.”
“We expect another tight game [against Minnesota],” Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “They’re a good team. They’ve had some good stretches, some not so good stretches and they’re fighting for a playoff spot. It’s a big game for us and an important game for them, so it should be a good matchup. We haven’t seen them this year so it’s going to be fun to play against them.”
After Saturday’s contest, the Preds will have an off-day before facing the Blue Jackets on Monday and then the Bruins on Tuesday, prior to flying back to Nashville for a three-day Christmas holiday.
Roster Moves & Line Rushes:
Preds forward Paul Gaustad participated in today’s practice sporting a grey, non-contact jersey. He left the session early with his lower-body injury and was placed on injured reserve.
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov was absent from practice and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Forward James Neal was also absent from practice with an illness.
Forward Viktor Stalberg cleared waivers this morning and remained with the club.
More on today’s roster moves can be found here.
Today’s forward lines looked like this:
Forsberg – Ribeiro – Smith
Cullen – Fisher – Wilson
Roy – Jarnkrok – Beck
Nystrom – Jokinen – Bourque
Peter Laviolette on preparing for three games in four nights:
“We worked on some things we think will be relative to the game in Minnesota and what we might need to do tomorrow night. Nothing really changes; the schedule, they are what they are for everybody. Sometimes they’re slow, sometimes there’s a lot of work involved in there, but all teams have to go through different paces in the schedule. This is just the pace of where we are right now.”
Pekka Rinne on the team’s confidence with their position in the standings:
“So far, so good. We’re 30 games in and it’s still a long haul, there’s still a lot of hockey to be played but so far, it’s been good. Hopefully we can stay on this course and just keep bringing it every single night.”
Carter Hutton on the importance of divisional games:
“You don’t want to give up points in your own division. Home ice in the playoffs is huge. Last year, we were trying to scrape to get in [the playoffs], this year we’re pretty set on trying to get home ice and being a dominant team. That’s important, that extra game at home. It’s almost more of a four-point game. We never really view a game as one less than the other, but everybody knows those divisional games are a lot more important.”
Shot of the Day: