Starting off the 2014-15 season with a pair of wins has generated nearly the same amount of buzz as the manner in which the Nashville Predators have emerged victorious.
Dominant third-period performances on both Thursday and Saturday night have caused a lot of questions to be asked of the club’s players and coaches on why the team has had such success late in contests. After Monday’s practice at Bridgestone Arena, Preds forward Olli Jokinen explained that believing in the new system throughout each game has been the main reason for the wins. Continuing to put a high number of shots on the opposition’s goal and pressing forward on the forecheck eventually tilts the ice to the Predators favor according to the 35-year-old forward.
“We think we can play better, and that there is a lot of room to improve,” Jokinen said. “But at the same time, we’ve been down late in the games and we got a goal on the last shift in the last game and a couple late ones on opening night. We believe here that we can win games and that’s been the most helpful thing. The game is 60 minutes long, so we believe that if we keep doing the right things and outshooting our opponents then the good things will come. If we trust in the new system we know it can give us an advantage over the other team, and that’s been the case the first two games.”
James Neal Loses a Tooth:
Nashville’s highly touted goal scorer James Neal participated in some roughhousing with fellow forward Rich Clune during a drill on Monday. What appeared to be a good-natured struggle turned south quickly when Neal had one of his pearly whites knocked out, however. The forward took part in the rest of practice before heading to the dentist for repairs.
When Clune was questioned on his involvement in “toothgate,” the winger gave an unclear - but legally appropriate - testimony:
Clune: “Um, I didn’t see it happen no. I think it was Nystrom that knocked it out.”
Nystrom (laughing): “Oh yeah, sure it was!”
Neal has been staying with Clune the past few months, so it remains to be seen how today’s incident will impact the pair’s relationship. Clune seemed to think the forwards will only grow closer through the accidental adversity.
“It’s been a good experience. I think my skill has been rubbing off on him,” Clune said. “We grew up in Toronto together and our first year pro we were rookies together in the American Hockey League. [...] I’m not sure he’ll ever want to move out.”
To watch a clip featuring Clune and Neal in the Predators upcoming behind-the-scenes video series entitled Beneath the Ice, click here.
Forwards Viktor Stalberg and Matt Cullen both skated in practice on Monday. Cullen wore a grey, non-contact jersey and skated on a line with Clune and Stalberg in most of the drills.
*Cullen wearing gray non-contact jersey
Ekholm–Ellis (Bartley rotated)
Goaltender Pekka Rinne on the team’s new system:
“I feel like the coaches have been really intentional in getting us to learn the new system. We have a lot of meetings and we really want to learn the new way the coaches wants us to play. I think it’s gone pretty smoothly. We had a really good training camp and we worked on getting to know each other and our families too. I feel like the new guys have settled in and they’re going to help us a lot this year.”
Jokinen on playing against his former club on Tuesday:
“I enjoyed my time [in Calgary] but I’ve played with almost half the teams in the league, so it’s not that big of a deal anymore.”
Head Coach Peter Laviolette on the Preds first period against the Stars:
“Dallas played a heck of first period and if we hadn’t stayed committed to our plan than I think we would have gotten in a big hole. The real positive for our group was that we stayed with the plan and the process and eventually it worked out.”
Laviolette on starting the season 2-0:
“Give the choice of the two roads, I’d rather be on the one we’re on right now. In saying that, I want us to be sure that we keep our nose to the grindstone and doing the work in practice and in games. I’d rather focus on the work that we’re doing than the standings. Those come and go on a day-by-day basis, but if we’re working the right way than the results will come.”
Shot of the Day:
Photo Credit: John Russell