Nashville fell to Anaheim on Thursday night, and the Preds were anxious to learn from their mistakes, but also move on to focus on a Saturday afternoon matinee with the New York Rangers. The Predators haven’t faced the Rangers yet this season, and although the familiarity might not be there as it is with other clubs, those in the Nashville locker room know what to expect.
“They’re a really fast team,” forward Matt Cullen said. “We’ve talked a little bit about that. They bring a lot of speed and that presents a lot of challenges, but the emphasis switches over to us as far as we need to get out of the gates quickly and play a fast game.”
“They’re a team that’s found a lot of success playing the game fast,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “You can watch them play recently and listen to them talk on how they’re finding success, so skating is going to be a big key for us tomorrow.”
It’s not only the Rangers’ quickness that Preds defenseman Victor Bartley is interested in, but also a sense of desperation that New York possesses that has him on alert.
“[The Rangers are] still fighting for a playoff spot right now, and with where we’re sitting in the standings, teams know who we are right now, so we have to be ready to go," Bartley said. "Especially with teams coming in hungry every night wanting to prove themselves and us trying to maintain our top position right now, we really have to be ready to play tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day on Friday, the Rangers announced that star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was not making the trip to Nashville and will be out with a vascular injury. Cam Talbot will start in Lundqvist’s place, but as far as Cullen is concerned, it doesn’t matter much who they face between the pipes.
“The goalies in this League are so good,” Cullen said. “Obviously [Lundqvist] is one of the very elite, but everybody has good goalies and it’s just the way the game is now. Honestly, it’s not something that makes a huge amount of difference in your preparation. You know you’re going to have a good goalie and you’re facing a great team, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
Saturday’s contest with the Rangers is the first afternoon outing of the season in Nashville. The Preds are 3-0-0 so far in matinee games on the campaign.
Notes & Lines:
Preds forward Craig Smith was given a maintenance day and did not participate in today’s session. Olli Jokinen filled in for Smith on the top line during rushes.
Today’s lines looked like this:
Forsberg – Ribeiro – Jokinen
Wilson – Fisher – Neal
Cullen – Jarnkrok – Bourque
Nystrom – Gaustad – Beck
Josi – Weber
Ekholm – Volchenkov
Bartley – Jones
Respond & Move On:
After Thursday’s 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks in goaltender Pekka Rinne’s first start since Jan. 13 due to injury, Nashville’s bench boss stated that his club would move on and respond to a game that saw them down 4-0 less than five minutes into the second period.
He and his players were backing up that claim after practice on Friday, with Laviolette looking for the team to come out with a better start on Saturday.
“It was a tough loss [against Anaheim], and I think one of the things you look for is to try and put something behind you and try to move onto the next game; I think that’s important,” Laviolette said. “We had to overcome some difficult things that happened out on the ice and we weren’t able to do it, so I think it’s important that you’re always looking ahead at the next day, the next game, and we get that opportunity again tomorrow afternoon.”
Cullen agreed with Laviolette that the Preds have been quite good at returning to the ice with a better effort after a loss, and he expects the same on Saturday.
“That’s been a trademark of our team this year is we’ve been able to respond to adversity,” Cullen said. “It’s an important trait of any successful team, the ability to respond to a little adversity. It’s important that we get out of the gates fast.
“You cannot afford to start off sluggish, so we’ve talked about it today and we’ll talk about more, but we need to get out of the gates quickly and get to our game right away.”
The Predators needed some extra help in a full-ice drill this morning, and they didn’t have to look far for some additional assistance on the blue line. Assistant coaches Kevin McCarthy and Phil Housley filled in as an extra defensive pairing, much to the enjoyment of the rest of the Preds.
“A couple of times, I went to go [in the drill] and [Housley] is kind of yelling at me,” defenseman Victor Bartley said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Howie, you’re retired, just take it easy, I don’t want you to pull your groin or something.’”
“I thought they were our best pair of defensemen today, actually,” Cullen quipped. “I told the D that. They looked good.”
Pekka Rinne on getting off to a good start against the Rangers:
“[We just need] a good start…just try to get going from the beginning of the game. Other than that, you’re going to have those games [like Thursday against Anaheim] every once in a while. So far, we’ve been pretty consistent and we obviously have to make sure that we come out hard and fast and ready to go.”
Roman Josi on learning from the game against Anaheim:
“I think there’s a lesson to be learned in every game, especially like yesterday, if you go against a top team, you’ve got to be ready from the beginning. We were a little flat in the first period, and they made us pay right away… In the third period, we showed some character and made a push, but we’ve got to play like that for 60 minutes. Otherwise, you’re not going to win many games against those top teams.”
Peter Laviolette on responding to adversity and getting better:
“Even from period to period, I think they’ve done a good job. It can’t be perfect every minute of every period of every game. There’s going to be points where you don’t play the way you want to play. I think the objective is to try and play a lot more, in minutes and periods and games, good than bad and I think our guys have done a good job of that. In saying that, you never want to just not address anything and let it roll under the bridge without giving it some attention. We gave it the attention it needed today, and I think the guys are moving past it and looking forward to New York.”
Shot of the Day: