With three days off between games, allowing for two-straight days totaling almost three hours of on-ice work, the Preds spoke confidently regarding what they’ve been able to accomplish over the past 48 hours.
“I think we’re good,” forward Viktor Stalberg said. “We’re in a spot where we’re still chasing the top seed both in the Conference and the League, and with 10 games to go, we’re in a situation where we have a chance to do that.”
Head Coach Peter Laviolette has liked what he’s seen from his club over the past two days and believes that the plan is now in place to carry the habits tweaked on Thursday and Friday and implement them over the final 10 contests of the regular season.
“Practice has been good, it’s been an opportunity to work on a lot of different things,” Laviolette said. “Ultimately, you have to take what you practice and bring it into games and look to execute when it's live and it counts and it’s worth the two points, so that’s the plan that we have.”
The bench boss has also noticed a sense of rejuvenation across the roster, something that some much-needed time off at this point in the campaign has brought about.
“There’s no question that a day off helps; a break in the schedule, and the mental part of playing every other day as consistently as we did, and then throw in some back-to-backs, it’s a grind,” Laviolette said. “You never get a break. Even if it’s an off day, you never get a break; you take the game from the previous night with you the next day…So it’s nice to get three days off, take one completely away from the rink, take a couple and work on a lot of things in practice. [We] look to take all of that and bring it to the game on Saturday.”
And even with the Predators less-than-ideal record over the past couple of weeks, they’ve still got 94 points to their name, just two behind Central Division-leading St. Louis. The knowledge that higher ground is certainly attainable brings that much more optimism.
“We’re pretty excited about the opportunity ahead of us here,” Stalberg said. “We’re going to try to do everything we can to take [the division lead once more].”
Combos & Pairings:
Earlier on Friday, the Preds recalled forward Viktor Arvidsson from American Hockey League Milwaukee under emergency conditions. The 21-year-old Swede, who is experiencing his first-career recall, slotted in on a line with Mike Ribeiro and Gabriel Bourque on Friday in place of forward Colin Wilson.
Wilson, who left practice early on Thursday, did not skate on Friday, with Laviolette calling the forward day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Today’s lines looked like this:
Arvidsson – Ribeiro – Bourque
Cullen – Fisher – Smith
Forsberg – Jarnkrok – Stalberg
Beck – Gaustad – Santorelli
Josi – Weber
Jones – Franson
Ekholm – Ellis
Bartley – Volchenkov
Fresh off his first call-up to the NHL, Viktor Arvidsson joined the Predators for practice on Friday. The 21-year-old joins the club via the Milwaukee Admirals, giving the Preds a whopping five Swedish born players on the roster, something the team’s leading scorer Filip Forsberg says is clearly a benefit.
“It’s a good thing; the more the merrier and we’re really happy for him,” Forsberg said with a smile. “The first call up is always special and it’s going to be really interesting to see what he can bring to the table [Saturday].”
Based on past work with the Ads, the expectation would be that Arvidsson would infuse some scoring opportunities into the Preds lineup. The 5-11, 176-pound winger leads the Preds American Hockey League affiliate in points with 51 (20 goals) and paces the entire AHL in shots with 237.
“He’s a hard worker,” Stalberg said of his fellow countryman, Arvidsson. “I think that’s the biggest thing, he works extremely hard in all situations. He’s got a good shot, he likes to shoot the puck a lot. He skates hard, and I think that’s his game, he shoots a lot and I’m sure he’ll put up 7 or 8 [Saturday] in his first game.”
Forsberg echoed Stalberg’s analysis of his teammate from the 2011 Under-18 World Championship:
“He loves to shoot the puck, go to the hard areas in front of the net and score a lot of goals,” Forsberg said of Arvidsson. “ He’s a really good skater as well. Really fast, works really hard and shoots the puck a lot.”
And assuming the forward lines utilized on Friday hold true for the Preds second and final meeting of the season with the Sabres, the newest Swede on the club will certainly have an opportunity to create offense for a Preds team that’s tallied nine goals in their last six games.
“It feels great to play with [Mike] Ribeiro and [Gabriel] Bourque, they’re two good players,” Arvidsson said after practice. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m going to play wherever they want me to play, so it feels great...I’m a hard worker and I’m out there to help the team win.”
So will the rookie be nervous before potentially taking to the ice in his first NHL game Saturday? Sure, but he says it’ll help that he feels more at home than most players do before their initial contest in the League. He does have his new Swedish family after all.
“It’s helps a lot to have these guys with me,” Arvidsson said. “Stalberg has been with me in Milwaukee for a couple weeks; [Forsberg] and I played together with the [Swedish] National Team and Ekholm and me have the same agent. It’s really fun to come up here to have guys that I can ask stuff of.”
Mike Ribeiro on getting five more assists for 500 career helpers:
“When you get close to milestones, the puck just seems to not go in, so I try to not think about it and just focus on my game and what to do out there. I think if I work hard, I’ll create offense.I just have to focus more on working hard and trying to get those passes, but if I focus on working, it’ll all fit together.”
Mattias Ekholm on gelling as a defensive pair going into the playoffs:
“You always want to have a good feeling going into the playoffs. Doing all the right things out there, feeling good, feeling confident and working as a unit of two and a unit of five. I don’t think there’s a goal you can just set, you just have to have that good feeling. It’s about how you’re playing. There are a lot of tough games right now down the stretch, so that’s just what we want to do, we want to get a good feeling for the playoffs and feel confident going into it.”
Filip Forsberg on his advice to Viktor Arvidsson about playing in his first NHL game:
“For me, it was just a huge experience being able to play in it. I played my first game here at home like him, and it’s an amazing feeling. I’ll tell him to just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”