As Nashville Predators Captain Shea Weber has said before, one of his favorite aspects of the NHL is that another opportunity for redemption usually comes along a night or two later.
Forty-eight hours after Nashville’s 2-1 loss in St. Louis on Thursday, the Minnesota Wild come to town for another Central Division showdown on Saturday night. The Preds, who have lost three-straight games and have only three victories in the month of December, know they need to find their way out of the current slump that has seen them move to fifth in the Division overall.
They also know they’re not going to lose every game for the rest of the season; they’re confident the wins will come again, and Weber is one of the players the Preds are looking to help lead them back to the upper regions of the League standings.
“The toughest thing is staying positive and not getting frustrated, and I think the more experience you have, the longer you’ve been in the League; you try to look up to those guys who have done it before,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “Guys like [Weber], [Mike Fisher], who have been in the League for a long time, you try to watch them and see how they handle it. That’s why they’re our leaders and they do a great job.”
Head Coach Peter Laviolette also expressed confidence in his leadership group on Friday after Nashville’s optional practice at Centennial Sportsplex. Laviolette acknowledged he’d prefer to start talking about the team winning instead of losing again sooner rather than later, but he also believes in his club’s ability to persevere.
“It’s been really strong here, since I’ve been here,” Laviolette said of Nashville’s leadership core. “Shea has a presence about him, sets the example, Pekka [Rinne] the same thing, Mike Fisher when he’s in the lineup and so on and so forth through the lineup. There’s a lot of character players in there and I don’t think that’s in question.”
It would be easy for the Preds to be down and out right now, and while things aren’t going their way, it’s a stretch that will inevitably happen for seemingly every team in the NHL at some point over the course of an 82-game season.
“Any time you face adversity, you try to work your way out of it and that’s the biggest thing,” Rinne said. “I know it sounds boring, but you have to just keep working and try to stay positive. The mental part is the biggest thing, and you try to just try to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We still have a great team. I love my teammates, I love this team, so tomorrow it’s another great opportunity for us. A lot of times, the only thing you need is one win.”
“Our guys will be ready to play the game tomorrow,” Laviolette said. “I’m sure of that.”
Pekka Rinne sees hundreds of pucks come his way on any given practice day. On Friday, however, he was the one doing the shooting. And celebrating.
With an optional skate for the Preds, and only a handful of players participating, Rinne elected to trade in his glove and blocker for a pair of smaller gloves with a thinner stick than what he’s accustomed to carrying.
Looking like a coach in his track suit, Rinne’s giddiness at skating freely around the rink was contagious.
“I loved it, I felt like a kid again,” Rinne said post-skate. “I grew up playing pond hockey and stuff, so I love to play outside and be a player, shoot some pucks and just have fun with it.”
“He’s got a heck of a shot, I can tell you that,” forward Austin Watson said. “You wouldn’t know, those guys using a goalie stick, using player stick, he’s really shooting out there. It’s good to have him out there, keeping things fun and looked like he was enjoying himself for sure.”
Rinne even put a few pucks in the net – without a goaltender – but that didn’t keep him from showing some jubilation from time to time.
“That was just for fun; it was nice to get a couple,” Rinne laughed.
Shot of the Day: