The Nashville Predators took one final skate around the Centennial Sportsplex ice Tuesday morning prior to jetting off to Western Canada.
Nashville begins a season-long, six-game, 12-day road trip on Wednesday night in Edmonton, with the club scheduled to face the Oilers, Flames, Canucks, Jets, Blues and Stars before returning to Music City.
“It’s a big road trip for us with a lot of games and you need to start on a good note,” forward Mike Ribeiro said. “Those two first games there, you need to go there and play solid games and play really simple, but you need to on a long road trip like this. You want to get those wins early and go from there.”
Tuesday morning also brought about some roster moves, with the Preds announcing that they’ll be activating forward Matt Cullen off of the injured reserve (IR) list. Cullen had been out of the lineup since suffering an upper-body injury during the club’s first preseason game at Tampa Bay on Sept. 24.
The team has also placed forward Rich Clune on waivers and assigned forward Viktor Stalberg to the Milwaukee Admirals on a conditioning assignment. More on those roster updates can be found here.
With Matt Cullen’s return to the lineup imminent, the line rushes during the session had a bit of a different look once again. The second line of Derek Roy skating between Colin Wilson and Craig Smith was back together, with Cullen seeing time centering the third line.
Tuesday’s combinations looked like this:
(Jarnkrok, Fisher, Clune and Stalberg rotated in the lines as well.)
Power play units were as follows:
(*Jones also saw some time with a power play unit)
Matt Cullen is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday night in Edmonton, and the veteran forward is more than ready to go.
“I’ve gotten four or five good practices here throughout the last week, so it’s kind of nice to get the timing back and get out with the guys, so I’m excited,” Cullen said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s been nice to see the boys get off to a good start and get us in a good position here so it’ll be nice to get out there and hopefully contribute a bit.”
Head Coach Peter Laviolette, who won a Stanley Cup with Cullen in 2006 with Carolina, is looking forward to having the 11-time, 30- point-getter back in the lineup. Laviolette said that Cullen will likely see time in five-on-five, power play and penalty kill situations, with the coaching staff set to monitor his ice time coming off of an injury.
“Those first two periods he played down in Tampa [on Sept. 24] before he got hurt, I thought he was one of our top forwards,” Laviolette said. “Maybe he can bring some scoring and some balance to those middle lines. He’s done that in his past, so we need to get him back in there.”
When working on special teams during the latter portions of practice, Laviolette has his penalty-killers utilize sticks that have had the front half of the blade broken off. The bench boss stated that he’s used the tactic for years, and it presents a different challenge for those on the PK, forcing them to hone in on different aspects of their game in that situation.
“Really what it does is gives the power play just a little bit of an edge and for the penalty killers, really makes them focus on their routes and their positioning because they don’t have the full stick to their advantage,” Laviolette said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the power play and the penalty kill here for the last two days, so we’re hoping to bring that into the games and see how we do.”
Peter Laviolette on the team’s position in the standings headed into the road trip:
“I think everybody is excited about where we are, but in the same sense, we’re coming off a game where we could’ve played better. We end up getting beaten by Pittsburgh in our own building and we realize that we’ve got a tough road trip ahead. Our focus turns the page pretty quickly and dials in on what we’re trying to do next as opposed to looking too much in the rearview mirror. That can get you into some trouble.”
Pekka Rinne on the team coming back from deficits so far this season:
“We’ve been able to come back and have had really good third periods. We’ve gotten some big goals in key moments, and at times, the penalty kill has come up big. I think everybody plays with confidence right now and when you have that going on, some of the bounces are going to go your way. What we need to do is just keep working hard and try not to focus on it too much… We just have to keep focusing on our game and just try to improve every single game and really focus on this road trip.”
Shot of the Day: