There won’t be any points up for grabs for the Nashville Predators in Sunday’s preseason doubleheader against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena, but the exhibition contests are anything but meaningless for those playing in them, coaching from the bench or evaluating from above.
The Preds and Panthers face off at 3:30 p.m. (CT) tomorrow, then again at 7, providing ample opportunity for the Nashville coaching staff and management to get a glimpse at veterans and rookies in game action for the first time in 2015-16, just three days after the start of training camp.
“There’s ice time, roster spots, specialty teams, there’s lots of things that are available [in the preseason] and guys are going to be put in situations tomorrow where maybe in the regular season, they might not get as many opportunities,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Training camp is an opportunity to show what you can do.”
Sunday’s contest also means a bit more for Eric Nystrom who hasn’t skated in a game since March 3 due to injury. The Preds forward is scheduled to appear in the latter outing tomorrow, and is anxious to face an opponent once more.
“I can’t wait,” Nystrom said Saturday after the second day of on-ice sessions at training camp. “It’s really exciting to be in a game situation after being out for a while. I really worked hard this summer on my game and getting back that timing. It’s not going to feel like game No. 44, but I’m going to try and get some good habits in, bump into some bodies, compete, go as hard as I can and try to help the team win, just like always.”
Each player will face their own set of challenges in their first preseason game, no matter their experience or skill level. There’s timing to regain, systems to recall and habits to improve, among other obstacles.
“For the guys that have been here, it’s more of getting your head screwed back on and remembering what our systems are, and for the new guys, it’s a quick turnaround from learning a new system to implementing it in the game,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “Everyone always reacts and plays best in a game and not so much in practice, so I think everyone kind of looks forward to the games more.”
While some roster spots may be all but guaranteed, there are others who have the ability to raise some eyebrows. For example, forwards Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson both had a strong showing at training camp in 2014, only months after they’d been drafted, which they later turned into call ups to the NHL during the 2014-15 campaign. According to Laviolette, a game situation may provide the best opportunity to do so.
“Everything that makes an impression,” Laviolette said of what he looks for from his players during preseason games. “How you show up and what kind of shape you’re in, how hard you work in practice, how coachable you are, how quick you pick up the systems, and ultimately the games. Somebody could make a good impression tomorrow.”
Rosters and Notes:
Defenseman Barret Jackman was absent for the second-straight day of on-ice sessions due to an elbow injury. He’s expected to remain out for the next few days.
Of the 53 players currently attending Preds Training Camp, 40 of them, including Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, James Neal and Pekka Rinne, will suit up for one of the two preseason games versus Florida on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena (3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. CT start times).
Rosters for both teams for the 3:30 p.m. contest can be seen here. Game two’s lineups are available here.
Fisher Thankful for First Training Camp with Laviolette:
Continuity and familiarity have already proven to be buzzwords during training camp for a Predators team that’s returning all of its core and starting year two under their head coach. Veteran Mike Fisher, however, is getting his first taste of training camp with Laviolette after missing last season’s edition due to an Achilles injury.
Being absent from a training camp is a difficult setback to overcome during a season according to forward Eric Nystrom, who is personally starting the 10th camp of his career.
“It’s great to have [Fisher] out there this year,” Nystrom said following Saturday’s on-ice session. “He just has a presence, and he’s a big part of our team. When he was out at the beginning of the season, the guys picked up the slack and we had a great start. When he came back it made us that much better. Losing him in the playoffs was really tough. But now he’s healthy, he’s looking good and like a force out there.”
Fisher inked a two-year, $8.8 million contract during the offseason to remain in Music City and the center is hoping to build on the 39-point (19g, 20a) performance he turned in during the 59 contests he suited up for in 2014-15. Going full bore in his fifth training camp with the Predators and 16th overall is a big part of being ready to do just that, says Fisher.
“It’s nice to be part of a camp; it’s never fun being on the outside looking in,” Fisher said. “I think everyone’s excited, maybe a little bit nervous, but it’s an exciting time to get rolling and we’re looking forward to a great season. We feel confident as a group and that obviously brings added excitement around the building.”
“It’s going to be important for us to get off to a good start, and we’re not going to fly under the radar this year,” Nystrom said. “People know we’re here to stay and that we have a great core group, we’re going to continue to improve and adapt to little changes within the system, but it’s a good feeling around here with the guys. We know we have a good group of guys that can compete for a Stanley Cup; that’s the ultimate goal.”
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