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Preds Vets Focus On First Games

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators were in Florida on Monday and played their first two preseason games.

But that doesn’t mean every Predator has a game under his belt yet.

The reason? Predators Coach Barry Trotz was handling the doubleheader in Florida with a split-squad approach, mainly because Nashville is playing Tuesday in Baltimore against the Washington Capitals at 6 p.m. CT. That’s three games in two days, and the coaching staff didn’t want its veterans to be worn out so early into camp.

Because of that, about a dozen Predators stayed behind in Nashville on Monday and practiced at Centennial Sportsplex in preparation for the trip to Baltimore. Among those who stayed in town were captain Shea Weber, fellow defenseman Ryan Suter, forward Martin Erat and top goaltender Pekka Rinne.

That means more Predators veterans will likely play against Washington, which is expected to play a healthy dose of its veterans.

“It will be our first game in a long time,” Weber said. “Obviously you have to get prepared for the season and this will be a good starting point to get things going. We need to move quick, move pucks quickly and get things on the right track.”

The Predators veterans playing their first preseason game are viewing this game as one step in the process as the regular season nears.

“It’s more about just getting up to speed with game situation type stuff,” Suter said. “During the summer, it’s tough to work on the physical part and playing against other guys.”

While it is not known exactly which Capitals players will be on the ice, the Predators are expecting to see a style that has made the Capitals one of the most explosive NHL teams in recent years.

“They have high-powered offensive guys,” Suter said. “They also have good goaltending now. Their D is solid. They have offensive power on the backend, too. They have some big guys up front. We don’t know who’s playing, but normally that’s what they’ve got.”

Weber echoed those words.

“It’s a highly offensive team,” Weber said. “I think they tried to implement more of a defensive system, but they still have a lot of firepower and guys who can score goals.”

The game is being billed as the 2011 Baltimore Hockey Classic and will be held at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore. The Capitals called Landover, Maryland home from 1974-1997 and now play in Washington D.C.

It will be a more intimate setting than NHL players are accustomed to, but 1st Mariner Arena is highly regarded. Last year, Billboard Magazine ranked it as the seventh-best arena in the world in the 10,001 – 15,000 seating category.

This won’t be the last time the two teams see each this preseason. The Capitals come to Bridgestone Arena on Sept. 28.

Note: Tuesday’s game against Washington will mark the debut of the Preds Radio Network on 102.5 The Game. The pregame show starts at 5 p.m. CT and the game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.

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