Monuments honoring some of the United States’ greatest streamed by the window outside the Nashville Predators team bus as they headed to Arlington, Virginia, and the Washington Capitals practice facility, the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Once there, it was back to business for the team fresh off a 3-2 win claimed roughly 13 hours earlier in Tampa Bay, more than 900 miles south. The consensus following Nashville’s victory over the NHL’s best team at home on Thursday was that the Preds defended a bit too much and got a few “fortunate bounces,” but also that it’s hard to complain too much about a win.
Both Head Coach Peter Laviolette and goaltender Pekka Rinne echoed earlier comments about the one-goal win over the Lightning and said the club will need to be even better when they take on former bench boss Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals in a matinee matchup on Saturday.
“Defensively, we did a lot of good things,” Laviolette said. “The problem is we played too much defense. We didn’t generate enough offense, we didn’t generate enough zone time. We didn’t establish our identity going the other way at all...I just don’t like relying on defense that much, I’d rather play in the other end.”
“I thought that [Thursday] night we got off to a quick start with those two fast goals and then we felt like they were coming hard and pressing all night long,” Rinne said.
“I’m expecting [Saturday’s] game to be similar to the one in Tampa. Washington has a good offense and a lot of offensive threats on the ice…We’ll have to be aware of their top guys. We have to stay out of the box tomorrow, the [Capitals] have a really good power play too.”
News and Notes:
Friday’s practice just outside the nation’s capital was an optional skate. Of note, Matt Cullen (day-to-day, lower-body) was on the ice. Several veterans such as Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro and Shea Weber, on the other hand, did not participate. No formal line rushes were shown as a result.
Earlier in the day, rookie winger Kevin Fiala was recalled under emergency conditions from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals for the second time this season. The 18-year-old Switzerland native was on the ice at practice on Friday.
Emergency recalls are based on the availability and health of a team’s roster and are unlimited in nature if the required conditions (e.g. a team has under the needed 12 healthy forwards or six defensemen) are met. An NHL club is allowed four “normal” recalls from their AHL affiliate following the NHL’s Trade Deadline Day and through the remainder of their season (including the playoffs). The Predators have currently used one such recall following March 2, a call up of Viktor Stalberg, earlier in the month.
All the legendary faces seen on TV have one, and Preds goaltender Carter Hutton has thrown his into the ring as well. The on-air, live-action interviews with the netminder during the third period of Predators’ games now have an official sign-off: “Hey, thanks for having me guys.”
The Thunder Bay, Ontario, native’s farewell phrase first happened naturally during a few of his widely-popular two-to-three minute chats with Preds broadcasters Pete Weber and Stu Grimson via headset from the team’s bench.
Twitter and Hutton’s sultry voice, then did the rest.
“I didn’t even know I was saying it to be honest; it was just a bit of a habit,” Hutton said of his sign-off. “But nothing skips out on Twitter, and I started seeing it, so I’ve kind of made it my own. The last three or four times, I’ve made sure that I’ve said it just to fuel the fire a little bit. Then [Thursday] night, I tweeted it out there too, so it’s all for a good laugh.”
The 29-year-old recognizes the unique opportunity he’s been afforded to be both a professional athlete and a TV personality. The Predators and Fox Sports Tennessee are the only broadcast that goes live to the team’s backup goalie for the night to get his thoughts on the game playing out right in front of him.
“They’ve told me before that no other team does it,” Hutton said. “It’s great, it’s a chance to kind of chime in and share my thoughts on what I see out there. I think it’s a good perspective for the fans to see what’s going on from the bench and exactly how we’re approaching each game.
“I think I still need to work on my color commentary a little bit. They’ve told me that if I see a play while it’s happening to not be shy, and chime in, and I just try to have fun with it. Sometimes it’s 2-2 in the third and the interviews are a little tighter, and then others, we have more of a lead and we can be more relaxed.”
Trying to be part commentator and interviewee isn’t the only challenge for Hutton, however, as he also faces some good-natured chirping, both during and after his traditional third-period appearance.
“That’s hockey, it’s a team sport,” said Hutton. “If it’s not someone trying to hit me with a towel, they’re trying to pull my headset off. I always tell them it’s my time to shine, so give me my space.”
Trip to Washington Features Many Connections:
Saturday’s contest at the Verizon Center will be something of a reunion for many Preds players as they face the coach that led them last season, and several others before that. Barry Trotz, the franchise's coach from 1997 to 2014, along with Mitch Korn and Lane Lambert will go against the Predators for the second time this season as members of the Capitals coaching staff.
“Their influence on me, I’m sure it still shows in the way I work and the way I play,” Rinne said of his former coaching staff. “Spending so much time with Mitch, I owe him a lot and he gave me a lot throughout those nine years. It’s the same thing with Lane and Trotzy. Barry was my first head coach in the NHL for six or seven years, so that’s pretty special, I know that doesn’t happen too often.”
Long-time members of the Preds organization aren’t the only ones that feel a sort of connection to the Capitals, rookie Filip Forsberg spent just a brief stint under Trotz but was originally drafted by Washington in 2012 and traded to Nashville a year later.
Returning to the Caps practice facility on Friday brought back some memories to the Swede, who has blossomed with the Preds since getting a shot in the NHL.
“There’s always going to be that connection,” Forsberg said of his relationship to the Capitals. “Getting drafted is a really special thing, and when I came here, things turned out in a way that no one really saw coming. I will always be a part of it...so it’s good to be back and it’s going to be a really big game tomorrow.”
Shot of the Day: