Tuesday was technically the first game as head coach of the Nashville Predators for John Hynes, but tonight truly feels like the inaugural outing.
The Preds and Blackhawks will get together for the 116th all-time meeting - this time in Chicago - and it'll be the first time Nashville players will be tasked with playing with fresh systems and concepts that have been implemented by Hynes over the past two days.
A practice in Nashville on Wednesday was followed by morning meetings on Thursday in Chicago, and while Hynes and his players know things aren't going to be perfect from the start, the bench boss is feeling confident in what he's been able to teach over the past 48 hours.
"We've tried to keep things concise and pointed and not try to make huge adjustments," Hynes said Thursday at United Center. "But we did a couple things in the defensive zone that shouldn't be too difficult, but hopefully can just provide some things that we want to do… Keep our D in a little bit better position, deny the middle of the ice more with layers of defense; those are things that [can be helpful]. They're NHL players, so if you can be clear and concise with the video, and then we just went out and practice exactly those concepts, [that can be effective]."
Video: Coach Hynes previews Preds at Blackhawks
Just like the rest of his teammates, Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm will have to make some adjustments compared to what he's been used to over the past five-plus years. However, Ekholm says the information hasn't been overwhelming.
"Everything that he's gone over with us now, the most important thing is it makes sense and it's easy," Ekholm said of Hynes. "It's nothing crazy, so I think they've been really good points that he's brought to the game and brought to the team. Hopefully, I can implement that tonight."
Nashville centerman Nick Bonino feels the same, and while these ideas are different than what the Preds have been following, hockey is still hockey.
"We've all played enough systems that there's parts of every system we've [seen at some point during our careers]," Bonino said. "This one is a bit different from [Peter Laviolette's], and that's not to say one is better than another, it's just a new system for us that hopefully will help us."
The Predators will get their first true look at that system in game action tonight, and while Hynes will continue to evaluate in the days and weeks to come, this evening presents a quality starting point.
"We want to play a little bit faster, we want to push the pace more, we want to get the puck up and out of the D's hands into the forwards and play as a five-man unit up ice a little bit better," Hynes said. "Simple things, and we're looking forward to seeing those things take place tonight. They're not going to be perfect, but as I talked to the players, it's about building an identity and staying with the identity and forging it. Not everything's going to be perfect, but it's got to continue to get more and more into our game over the course of time."