The 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend has come and gone from the city of Nashville, and it was back to work on Monday afternoon for the Predators on the newly redone Bridgestone Arena ice. Absent are the All-Star logos from the frozen sheet, as well as throughout the building, signaling the start of the final 32 regular-season games to commence, and beginning tomorrow when the St. Louis Blues come to town.
The Preds won four consecutive games for the first time all season prior to the All-Star break, and as far as Head Coach Peter Laviolette is concerned, the time off came at the right juncture for his club.
“I do think that winning games and putting games together can build confidence in a team and we needed some rest, so that’s why I feel like it was at a good point where we went into that break,” Laviolette said. “There’s a little bit of decompression that goes on when you get off those road trips, and now I feel like we’re coming back and ready to go. I can tell you I’m charged up. I’m ready to go.”
Laviolette also took some time to take in the All-Star festivities over the weekend, attending the Skills Competition on Saturday and the game on Sunday as a fan with his family. Similar to all who made their way through Music City over the course of four days, the bench boss was rather impressed.
“It was one of the best events I’ve ever been too, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in Nashville, I’m saying it because that’s how I feel,” Laviolette said. “The city was unbelievable, the weather was unbelievable, the events were terrific, the game was great, the Skills Competition was great, the fans as usual were outstanding, and you couldn’t have asked for anything better, really. As a hockey fan and a family that is fans of the game, we thoroughly enjoyed every part of it.”
As the Predators reconvened on Monday, minus their four All-Stars – Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Roman Josi and James Neal, who received a well-deserved day off – the group turned their focus to a St. Louis team that currently sits eight points ahead of them in the Central Division standings.
“The break is awesome; it was good to get away, relax, but everyone comes back and they’re happy and they’re excited to get going again,” forward Mike Fisher said. “There’s no bigger [game] than tomorrow night.”
“We need to come out hot against a good team there,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “Our backs are against the wall, we have to play well and we have to earn our way into the playoffs. It’s going to take everyone in here to do that.”
While some of his teammates were being recognized as All-Stars in Nashville this past weekend, Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis was receiving his own honor back in Windsor, Ontario, where he played junior hockey for the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires.
Ellis had his No. 6 jersey retired on Saturday night at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, becoming the 12th player in team history to have a banner raised to the rafters.
“It was a great experience,” Ellis said. “They did a terrific job. My whole family was there and had a great time and they really took care of them. The team won the game which made it even better, so it was good to be back and good to get the win for them too.”
Ellis won two Memorial Cups with the Spitfires and his 313 career points are the most ever by a Spitfire defenseman. Now in his fifth season in Nashville, Ellis couldn’t help but reflect as he watched his banner rise in front of him.
“I was speechless,” Ellis said. “Their ceremony brought back a lot of memories from the days I played there and the championships we won. It was a great time.”
Roster Notes and Injury News:
All-Stars Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Roman Josi and James Neal received the day off from practice on Monday. Forwards Colin Wilson (Injured Reserve, lower-body) and Eric Nystrom (Injured Reserve, lower-body) did not participate either. Forward Gabriel Bourque (Injured Reserve, upper-body) did skate with his teammates.
Forward Viktor Arvidsson, who was recalled from Milwaukee on Monday morning, was in attendance.
Monday’s lines looked like this:
| ||Forwards || |
|Filip Forsberg ||Ryan Johansen ||Gabriel Bourque |
|Calle Jarnkrok ||Mike Ribeiro ||Craig Smith |
|Viktor Arvidsson ||Mike Fisher ||Austin Watson |
|Miikka Salomaki ||Paul Gaustad ||Cody Bass |