The Nashville Predators spent upward of 30 minutes working on special teams play during their practice at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday morning, prior to departing to St. Louis for Thursday night’s game against the Blues.
After returning from a 12-day, six-game road trip, Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette looked at Wednesday’s practice as the perfect opportunity to continue to tweak the power play and rotate a few different combinations of players.
“The whole time on the road, we didn’t really get a chance to work on [the power play] too much because we were always in somebody’s rink and someone was watching,” Laviolette said. “It was good to get an opportunity to get out and continue to work on both the power play and penalty kill.”
“We just keep working on it,” defenseman Roman Josi said of the power play. “It’s obviously got to get better. I think it was better the last couple of games than it has been all year, but it’s still got to get better, so we just work on it every day.”
The Preds will look to put that work to use tomorrow against the Blues, in what will be their second contest in just six days in St. Louis. Nashville snapped the Blues seven-game win streak last Saturday and the Preds don’t expect anything easy from the team that sits just one point behind them in the Central Division and overall in the Western Conference.
“I don’t think they were happy the way they played against us [on Saturday] and we know that team is going to be ready,” forward Olli Jokinen said. “At the same time, we feel confident here going into any building. With the goaltending we have, it gives us a chance to win every night, so we don’t expect anything less than to get two points. We know that they’re going to be ready, so we just have to match that and keep playing our game and get two points. That’s the only thing we’re focusing on now is to try to get a win.”
Forwards Viktor Stalberg (4-6 weeks, lower-body injury) and Colin Wilson (day-to-day, lower-body injury) were absent from practice on Wednesday. The Preds line combinations looked like this:
Forsberg – Ribeiro – Neal
Cullen – Roy – Smith
Bourque – Jarnkrok – Jokinen
Nystrom – Gaustad – Beck/Fisher
Josi – Weber
Ekholm – Ellis
Volchenkov – Jones
The club used their top line of Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal to makeup the front three on one of the power play units, while Derek Roy, Craig Smith and Taylor Beck saw time on another unit. Beck was marked as a net front presence, utilizing his 6-foot-2 frame as a screen in front.
“He’s a big body,” Laviolette said of Beck. “He’s got good hand-eye coordination and he can wrestle with big guys in front. We’ll see, we’re looking at it.”
Matt Cullen, Ryan Ellis, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones and Mattias Ekholm all rotated in and out of point positions during the session.
Peter Laviolette on matching lines heading to Thursday’s game against St. Louis:
“I think you always try to look at matchups. You try to get some players against some other players; sometimes you get it, and sometimes you don’t, but we trust all of our guys out there. They’re going to have times in the defensive zone playing against [the Vladimir Tarasenko] line or other lines on [St. Louis] that are dangerous. We’ll do the best we can but…it can’t just be five guys shutting down five guys. It’s going to have to be our team playing well, doing a good job in the defensive zone and working to create offense. We know we’ve got our work cut out for us. They’re going to be ready to play so it’s going to be a really competitive game, I would think.”
Olli Jokinen on his line with Calle Jarnkrok in the middle:
“I think we’ve been playing good as a line. I know we would love to have points and all that, but I think as a line, I think we do things right. It’s just a matter of time and the pucks are going to start going in. We get chances every game. The big thing for our line is that when we play, we don’t want to give up anything. We want to be the line that coach can put is out there any situation… These first 15 games have been a lot of fun being on the winning side, and we’ve been winning as a team. It’s been all good here and we think that we’re going to get better and better as a team and as a line. We’ve just got to keep working and good things will happen. We’ve got 67 games to go so if [Jarnkrok] can score in 50 of those games, he’ll end up with 50 goals…no pressure…[laughs]…but we’ve been getting chances as a line and that’s all you can do. The pucks will go in [eventually].”
Shot of the Day: