After arriving in California on Wednesday afternoon, the Nashville Predators took the ice at the Honda Center on Thursday for the first time. Now one day away from Game One versus the Anaheim Ducks, which will commence on Friday night at 9:30 p.m. (CT), it’s starting to sink in that the club’s springtime journey is just about underway.
“Our guys will be ready, we’ll certainly be ready to play,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said following Thursday’s practice. “Everybody’s excited until you lose a game, then everything changes - or win a game - either way, that’s the playoffs. All teams get into it, and they’re ready to go and then things heat up once the game gets going. Once the game’s over, you wake up to a different day, regardless of the result.”
The Preds would like to rise on Saturday morning with a 1-0 series lead, but in order to do so, they’ll need to bring their best tomorrow evening. According to Filip Forsberg, he and his teammates can’t wait to get going.
“It’s been a long way since we played and clinched the playoffs with these games,” Forsberg said. “You’re just trying to get ready and practice, and it’s finally time to go.
“You go out there and play. You play for the Cup; that’s every kid’s dream, and now we have a good chance for it.”
The math is quite simple. If the Nashville Predators don’t find a way to come away on the right side of the scoresheet in at least one contest at the Honda Center in Anaheim over the next two weeks, their season will come to a close.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette echoed those sentiments as the Preds headed west to face the Ducks in Round One of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Preds went 18-16-7 on the road during the regular season, including the 11th-best road power-play in the League. Nashville is hoping for some of that to carry over and return to Tennessee on Monday with at least a tied series.
“All I know is that if we don’t win one on the road, we’re not going on,” Laviolette said. “That’s our objective at this point. Just to make sure we go out there and do the right things, try to play our brand of hockey, do enough good things where we can come away with a win or wins. Then we have to come back home and hold serve. It’s a long series. I think it’s probably best to just go slow with it and talk about Game One.”
Laviolette and his team haven’t played since their regular-season finale last Saturday in Dallas, leaving them plenty of time to prepare for their upcoming opponent. There’s no doubt in his mind that his team will be set to go when the puck drops on Friday.
“Our guys will be ready to play; we’ve had lots of preparation, we’ve had a couple of good practices and it’ll be exciting, it’ll be fun,” Laviolette said. “It’s Game One of the playoffs. If you can't get excited for that, it’s hard to get excited about anything. That’s what you play all year for, and now we have that opportunity to get into Game One, so it’s an exciting time.”
First Timer’s Club:
When Anthony Bitetto steps on the ice for the first time in Nashville’s Round One series with Anaheim, it’ll be his first taste of Stanley Cup Playoff action.
The defenseman, who skated in 28 games this season after making his NHL debut in 2014-15, is no different than any other child who grows up playing the game. He dreamed of one day getting the chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. No better time than the present.
“It really hasn’t sunk in that this is my first playoff [game],” Bitetto said. “It’s kind of a special moment for me. The whole week, you’ve just got to practice hard, and that’s kind of been the mindset for me. Come Friday, it’s just trying to keep an even keel, I guess. Once the game comes, I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun and exciting, and that’s why you play the game.”
Bitetto does have experience at this time of the year elsewhere, including a 2009 Clark Cup Championship with the Indiana Ice of the USHL. But there’s nothing like the NHL postseason, and Bitetto can’t wait to get a taste.
“There’s more on the line, there’s a lot more pressure, and the building will be a lot louder; you’re playing for the Stanley Cup, and that’s something every kid wants to play for,” Bitetto said. “You have dreams of scoring those game-winning goals, so you have to go out there and do what you do, but at the same time, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“You play all year for this moment, and Friday is going to be extremely fun and exciting. There’s a lot of emotions, but if you had to choose one word for it, it’s fun. It’s the best time of the year.”
Shot of the Day: