Photo: Doug Brumley
Head coach Barry Trotz talks with center Josef Vasicek during practice on Tuesday.
The Nashville Predators enjoyed a shortened practice day on Wednesday, coming off the RDV Sportsplex ice in Orlando, Fla., about 45 minutes earlier than expected. Afterward, Predators head coach Barry Trotz said it was a much needed and much deserved break for the club.
"I think we had some really good work days," Trotz said. "I think we got a lot accomplished, from a team standpoint and also a standpoint of getting some good work on the ice taken care of. I think it's worked out really well. Today was a day where we wanted to refresh the minds a little bit. It's been six straight days where we've had a lot going on. I think it was necessary that we shortened the day today. They were really good early, and I think we'll be ready to go tomorrow."
The abbreviated day is also an indication that the coaching staff is pleased with how training camp is progressing. That doesn't mean all the key questions regarding personnel decisions have been answered, however.
"Some questions we're getting answers on," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said following Wednesday's on-ice session. "On some, clarity is not quite there, because some guys have performed better than expected. It sort of clouds the issue. That's a good problem to have because we're really happy with everybody. I don't think there's one player I can say I'm disappointed in right now.
"[The] No. 1 [question] is probably our lineup. We have 15 [forwards]. We've got to get down to a smaller number. That may be answered when we see how [David] Legwand comes back in the next day or so. Getting Legwand in the lineup--he'll probably see [preseason game] action on Saturday, as of right now--he sort of comes into the mix and sort of clouds things up a little bit, just because it sort of affects everybody on our lines."
For the players, Wednesday's early exit was certainly a welcome one. "When you're not playing games, you don't want to go hard too many days in a row," forward J.P. Dumont said. "You need a day to just focus, not only physically but mentally. Today was short and we had a lot of fun. All the drills were shooting, trying to score goals."
Goaltender Chris Mason, who along with Tomas Vokoun was on the receiving end of all those shots, appreciated the rest as well. "Tomas and I have been working pretty hard here," Mason said. "It's tough with extra guys and two goalies. They're trying to give everybody their repetitions."
Team Mason takes 3-1 lead with shootout win
Before leaving the ice Wednesday, the Predators participated in another team challenge. This time, Team Mason and Team Nichol battled it out in a shootout, with Mason's side grabbing a 4-2 victory to take a 3-1 lead in the weeklong series of competitions.
"I don't know if it's commanding, but it's a pretty substantial lead at this point," Mason said. "Never count out [Team Nichol]."
"I think we had the lead with two guys to go [in the shootout], and Paul Kariya was the last one to go and he scored," said forward J.P. Dumont, a member of Team Mason. "[Team Nichol] didn't have to go at the end because we had the lead by two. That was a big win for us. We let one go last night that we should have won, so it's just a little payback. Right now we have the lead and we're going to have to make sure that we keep that lead with that poker tournament later on."
The Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, is one of the final events in the team challenge. It's an activity a number of the players have been looking forward to.
"There are some guys that play and they get pretty into it," Mason said. "They've got their math strategies and their betting strategies. It's going to be pretty fun. I think it's mostly luck, personally. But you've got to have a little bit of savvy in there. I'm OK, but there are some guys here that play pretty serious."
Forward J.P. Dumont is one Predator who plays a lot, but as a newcomer this summer, he's still learning the tendancies of his teammates. "I've been playing a little bit, and a guy like Jordin Tootoo will pretty much go all-in with anything," Dumont said. "Those are the guys you have to be careful with, because you'll go to call him one time and he's going to have the big pair. I'm new here, so it might take a few months to get everbody's poker face."
While Team Mason's 3-1 lead is looking strong as training camp draws to a close, no one but the coaching staff is sure just how many team challenges are left. "That's sort of the good thing about this," Trotz said. "I can tell you there's the one today and there's at least one more tomorrow. I can't say if there's a secondary one tomorrow.... Today it could really change. The point standings are pretty involved."