Fresh off of their 5-4 shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Nashville Predators took to the Centennial Sportsplex ice on Wednesday afternoon to continue building on their early season success.
The 5-1-0 Preds will face a 1-3-1 Anaheim Ducks team on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, and those in the Nashville room are well aware that the record of their next opponent isn’t necessarily indicative of the caliber of team on the other side.
“It probably even makes them a little more dangerous,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of facing Anaheim. “These guys probably didn’t get off to the start they were looking for, and you know that they’re a good hockey team. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
“I remember when we lost a bunch in a row last year, every game it seemed like we battled as hard as we could, but the results weren’t there despite the effort,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “When you have a kind of rougher start, I’m sure they’re going to come out hungry and fast. It’s going to be a rough game.”
Goaltender Pekka Rinne has been played in plenty of Ducks and Preds matchups over the years and always enjoys the challenge that comes with facing players like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
“They’re just an experienced team, a really solid team and I think over the years they’ve been one of the more consistent regular season teams throughout the League,” Rinne said of the Ducks. “It should be another tough and good game for us, and it’s always a fun team to play against.”
Injury News and Lineup Updates:
The Predators were without three players against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night with Ryan Ellis (lower-body), Barret Jackman (upper-body) and Austin Watson (upper-body) each absent from the contest.
All three skaters participated fully in Wednesday’s practice with Jackman proclaiming after the session that he, “feels great” and will be in the lineup tomorrow against the Ducks. Ellis, who took a puck to the leg in Saturday’s shootout win versus the Ottawa Senators, says he also has seen some improvement and did not rule out the possibility that he could return as well.
“It was a lot better, some of the swelling went away today. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow, and base the playing decision on that,” Ellis said.
“[The puck] hit me square on the bone. Usually you have padding on 95 percent of your body, and every once in awhile you’ll catch it where you don’t have padding and it hurts. That’s pretty much what happened to me.”
Preds Captain Shea Weber, d-man Roman Josi and forward Mike Fisher did not skate on Wednesday and were given maintenance days.
“We’re Never Out Of It”
The Preds trailed the Lightning 2-1 in the second period on Tuesday night. Then Shea Weber tied it. Tampa Bay retook the lead before James Neal tied it again before the period was out. Neal tallied once more, to even the score at 4-4 with just five and a half minutes to play in regulation before the Preds eventually won via the shootout.
Every time the Lightning struck, Nashville had an answer. That resiliency is a quality that’s always important, but to show it this early in the season, and against a team like Tampa Bay – makes a team's’ confidence grows that much more.
“We’re never out of it,” forward Eric Nystrom said. “We’re never going to quit and last night was a good example of that. We got some huge goals down the stretch and came away with a win in that game. That’s a good sign of a good team and we’ve got to continue to do that. Not every game is going to be picture perfect, but if you can find ways to win and come from behind and respond, that’s always something you want to have.”
The Predators have also talked about playing more consistently throughout the course of a game, and while Nystrom doesn’t feel the club is quite there yet, Nashville’s showing against the defending Eastern Conference Champs leaves plenty of reason for optimism moving forward.
“You’re not going to go out there in a game against a team like Tampa and totally dominate in the one end; you’re going to have to defend and play some defense,” Nystrom said. “They’re going to have their chances, but if you can just battle and battle and keep coming back like we did, that’s the kind of hockey we want to play. Obviously you want to dominate games, but we’re definitely improving."
Shot of the Day: