In their first practice since playing in a back-to-back set on the road, the Nashville Predators focused on offensive-zone cycles and special teams work during Monday’s session.
The over 90-minute practice utilized both ice sheets at Centennial Sportsplex with the Predators coaching staff pushing the 24 players through many up-tempo drills. Grueling practices have been a familiar occurrence for the club this season with first-year Head Coach Peter Laviolette demanding top-notch conditioning from his team since the start of training camp. The focus on intense workouts day after day seems to have already paid off for the club with its strong start to the campaign, and the Preds high-fitness level aided the club again on Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Despite playing the night before in Winnipeg, Nashville placed 12 shots on the Chicago net in the final frame; a number that not only beat the Hawks 11, but also represented more than the total number the Preds had registered across the game’s first two periods.
“I think that’s part of the reason why the third period was strong for us,” Laviolette said of his team’s conditioning. “I think more to the point, a lot of the guys played with a lot of desire. That was evident to me with how they played despite the travel, the late hour they got to bed the night before and the energy they expended in that game. I really want us to have a will to win and to be successful, and I was happy with how we showed that.”
The bench boss later expounded on the desire and belief he’s seen from the Preds in their first five games and explained how encouraged he is by the team’s will to win. “I think the belief is really within our guys right now more than the system. The system we’ve put in is just a vehicle, it’s how you navigate the ice in a certain way,” Laviolette said. “For me, they’ve shown a lot of competitiveness early on here, and I think that’s been a strength of ours. I think that [belief] can be a leading factor in victories and I’ve been happy with that.”
Special Teams Get Spotlight:
The penalty kill and power play for Nashville delivered more results against the Blackhawks than the Preds had seen in the first few games of the campaign, but a few of the team’s players explained they still want more from their special teams’ units. The Predators went 1-for-4 with the man advantage on Saturday, but a costly, shorthanded goal by Hawks Captain Jonathan Toews won the game for Chicago in overtime.
Today, the team worked on four-on-three and five-on-four power play situations, and Assistant Coach Phil Housley had the units use quick rotation around the diamond alignment to set up either Shea Weber or James Neal for one-timers on opposite sides of the zone.
“The results aren’t exactly what we want on the power play yet, but it’s going to come,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “We’re working on getting a lot of shots through and trying to capitalize on second chances. Every year you go through those slumps on the PP where you don’t score, but then you have a game where everything goes in. We worked on it some more today and we’re staying positive about it.”
Today’s lines looked as follows:
The only change in the Predators lines from their previous two games was a forward switch between the second and third lines. Colin Wilson moved into the top six on Derek Roy’s line, while Viktor Stalberg joined Calle Jarnkrok and Olli Jokinen.
Matt Cullen’s injury status remains at “day-to-day with an upper body injury” and he remains on injured reserve. The center participated in practice today while skating on a line with Rich Clune and Taylor Beck.
Roman Josi on limiting the chances of top Blackhawks players:
“Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are big bodies that can drive the net hard. You have to be aware of where they are on the ice all the time. Those guys can score every shift, so you have to press on them whenever you can. I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping them from too many chances. It’s just too bad that Toews got the goal in OT.”
Filip Forsberg on his fast start offensively:
“Last season was an up-and-down season for me, and I tried to use that as motivation this summer as I was getting ready for this year. I think that’s been a big key. On the ice, I’m trying to make some simpler plays and work hard to keep bringing my best.”
Shea Weber on the Predators early success:
“We’re feeling pretty confident here, but we’re not going to look ahead either. We’ve got some tough games coming up this week. We’ve had a good start to the season and we want to sustain that, but we recognize that we’re going to have to get better as the year goes on too.”
James Neal on his facing his former team the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday:
“It’s going to be weird. I’ve been through it before when I was traded from Dallas and then I played there the next time, but this one is a little different. It’s a little fresher. Everyone has got to go through this probably at least once in their career. I’m excited too though. Things have gone well here with a fresh start, and I’d really like to beat my old team.”
Shot of the day: