The last time the Nashville Predators were in the state of California, they saw their 2016 postseason run come to a close. Although there is certainly less at stake this time around as the club embarks on a five-game trip that begins in Anaheim Wednesday night, there's still plenty of opportunity for the Preds to pile up some points early in the season.
Nashville will face the Ducks to start, followed by excursions through Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado and Arizona before returning home 10 days from now.
It's a long time to be away no doubt, but with a trip like this, the potential to start making a mark in the Western Conference is available.
"You always want to build confidence as a team, and it definitely makes you feel good and feels like you're going in the right direction," forward Craig Smith said. "These five-game segments are going to be huge for us. We had a setback the last game and we took care of business, and now we have to take the trip and take the circus on the road and go have some fun."
Positive results would go a long way in allowing the Preds to enjoy themselves, and when the question was posed to Head Coach Peter Laviolette as to whether or not the trip will be a good thing for his team, he preferred to take a wait-and-see approach.
"We could pick up a lot of momentum if we win games, so we have to go play them and win them," Laviolette said. "But that's, I think, just punching the clock and doing the work. We realize we have a long trip ahead of us, got a lot of games on it; we'll just go one at a time and do the best we can on it."
As much time as the Predators will spend on the ice in these five games across the next week and a half, they'll have just as much time together away from the rink, and with that comes a chance to get to know teammates over a steak dinner as opposed to while skating on a power-play unit.
"Even though you play for the same organization and have the same logo on your jersey, I think it's really important that you become friends off the ice," goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "Then you really battle for somebody, and I think that's the biggest thing when you get to spend time with each other and have dinners together, just be comfortable with each other."
That comfort level will continue to expand on the West Coast, and just five games in, the Preds would like to return to Tennessee with a few more points than they left with.
"We're not where we want to be, so we have to be better," Laviolette said. "These games are important, and I think the guys realize that. You have to go out there and work, win the hockey games, put them in the win column and climb in the standings.
"We have to go make our own way, so I think it's a good time to go out on the road this early in the year. It's good to get this one out of the way early in the year, so it could be a positive trip. We have to go win some games."