When the alarm clock goes off on Friday morning, the typical grogginess is likely to be replaced by a feeling comparable to rising on a certain holiday in December.
"You ever wake up on Christmas disappointed?" Head Coach Peter Laviolette quipped.
Indeed, the Nashville Predators are pretty anxious for Opening Night, now just one sleep away. The Chicago Blackhawks come to town Friday, a formidable foe to begin what the Preds hope will be a season to remember. But they need some pleasant memories first, and the opportunity has almost arrived.
"It's big, everyone's excited for hockey," Captain Mike Fisher said after Thursday's practice at Centennial Sportsplex. "You can feel it in the city, and as players, we're ready. We're glad that training camp is about to be over, and it's kind of like a first playoff game in a sense. We want to be at our best tomorrow and let everyone have a good time."
While the entire roster is undoubtedly set for the opening contest, perhaps some have been anticipating the evening just a bit more than others. Consider winger Colin Wilson, who had a less than ideal regular season in 2015-16 as far as offensive productivity is concerned. Once the puck drops Friday, the slate is wiped clean.
"As much as I like the nickname 'Playoff Colin Wilson,' I'd rather just be Colin Wilson," the forward said with a laugh. "I'm hoping to have a good regular season, and everything I've done in the offseason was done getting ready to prepare for this, to have a consistent 82 games. I'm extremely ready to go."
Veteran center Mike Ribeiro, who struggled down the stretch, is another who has been counting down the days.
"I've been waiting to start the season for a while," Ribeiro said. "Looking forward, I think we have a great team, and I think the city in general is pumped for tomorrow. We have a great opponent, and we're ready to start the season on the right foot. Guys are excited, and the city is excited."
Nashville's opponent has already played once this season, falling 5-2 to St. Louis on Wednesday. Laviolette and his club are well aware of what they're up against, regardless of the early mark on the Hawks' record.
"It's an exciting time, but I'll guarantee Chicago with a loss right now under their belt, they're not sitting there saying it's no big deal," Laviolette said. "They're revving up and ramping up, so we've got to be ready to play. We're playing a really good team. It's going to challenge us, and I think that the guys are prepared and they're ready for that."
Once the final horn sounds on Friday night, approximately 15 minutes before 10 p.m., the Preds will have a notch in their record, too. And in order to be satisfied with the result, the message is simple.
"It goes back to what I've been saying all week: we've got to do the work," Laviolette said. "If we do the work, there's a good chance that we'll like the outcome."
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