On Friday, the Nashville Predators skated at their practice facility for the first time this month. At 21 days into November and just one session logged at Centennial Sportsplex, the Preds time away from Music City has been both long-term and consistent.
With nine games under their belt this month, just two of the Preds game have been at home.
“It’s been a grind, I think we’ve had two of our last 11 games at home,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s good be here for the next little bit, but we’ve got to be ready to play tomorrow. It’s not going to be an easy game. The [Florida Panthers] are 5-3-2 in their most recent stretch and they’re finding ways to win games. They go to the West Coast and they beat some good teams there. The one thing I think we’ll harp on is our intensity and making sure we’re ready.”
With his team playing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in November, Laviolette has been more apt to alter both the length and content of the Preds practices. Following that precedent, Friday’s time on the ice featured a different spin with the club skating for 30 minutes and running through a series of new drills.
Shrinking Space, Growing Competition:
About 20 minutes into Friday’s practice, the Preds coaches pushed both nets into one zone and positioned the cages across from each other near the half walls. Players then fought for offense in the tight space in a “mini” game. After the spirited session, Laviolette explained his reasoning behind the unique drill.
“I think the goalies probably hate it to be honest; it just changes directions and goes in different ways repeatedly and quickly,” Laviolette said. “It’s a small-area game and the players like it. They compete hard in it. It creates a lot of skill development and goal scoring. We’re just out here trying to break a good sweat for 30 minutes, and that’s a good drill that moves fast and makes everyone compete hard.”
Despite the bench boss’s fear that the netminders wouldn’t enjoy the competition, goaltender Pekka Rinne starred in the mini-game - making repeated and sprawling stops. He also later called the experience, “fun.”
“[The drill] can be a little hard because you don’t have your own crease, so it’s difficult to recognize your positioning,” Rinne said. “But at the same time, it’s always in the back of your mind where the posts are. It’s a lot of in-close situations and quick breakaways. It’s a really good workout for the goalies and things happen like they do at game speed too. One of the main things is just that it’s a lot of fun. It gets all the guys involved and competing.”
Weber Takes Out Rinne:
Following the official conclusion of practice, forward Mike Ribeiro and defensemen Roman Josi and Shea Weber gathered to take one-timers from just inside the blue on Rinne.
It’s no secret the Preds Captain has to take a little off of his slapper in practice so as not to injure his teammates, but Weber’s canon still went a little loose on Friday.
Off a cross-ice pass from Ribeiro, Weber unleashed a one-timer that caught Rinne right in the mask, knocking the goaltender back a bit. Shaken, Rinne inspected the bent metal wire on his helmet before deciding to end his time on the ice a little sooner than originally intended.
Later in the locker room, Weber checked on Rinne again by asking if his shot had been too heavy. When Rinne said it was only a little harder than Weber’s average, “subdued” shot, the Captain proclaimed, “Oh, so like Josi-level power” and walked away laughing.
Chuckling, Rinne again stated that he was fine before explaining what had happened earlier on the ice.
“It bent my cage pretty good,” Rinne said. “After that you don’t want to risk getting another puck through the wires. I’ve done that once and it’s not fun. It always rings your bell a little bit especially when it’s Weber shot, but other than that, it’s part of being a goalie. I like that guys are trying their hardest to score on me. They are trying to pick the corners and shoot up high. I would never ask them to shoot low even in practice. I like the challenge the way it is and that’s why you wear the mask.”
Lines and Injury Updates:
Due to the switch-up in today’s session, the Preds did not run through formal line rushes. For a look at the team lineup from Thursday’s game, click here.
Cleared for contact, forward Mike Fisher was a full participant in Friday’s practice. Goaltender Carter Hutton was absent from Friday’s practice for a maintenance day and Viktor Stalberg remains out with a lower body injury (4-6 weeks from Nov. 7).
Olli Jokinen on netting his first goal as a Preds player:
“It’s nice to score, I’m not going to lie....It hasn’t been that frustrating for me not to get a goal because we’ve been playing so well as a team. I’ve tried to fill my role and when you’re not scoring then you trying to find another job and do it really well. It’s not like I haven’t gotten any chances during this stretch, I feel like I’ve had opportunities. So hopefully this goal opens the floodgates for me.”
Laviolette on Nashville not losing two games in a row:
“I think our guys have been pretty consistent with their game. Even last night it’s disappointing not to get a win, I think the guys battled hard. We had a lot of good chances to score and didn’t give up a whole lot. We were a little bit loose in the second and it ended up costing us. I would expect us to come out hard tomorrow and fight for a win. And I think that in the past has helped us put some wins together.”
Shot of the Day: