After a couple of extra practices a few thousand miles away from home, it’s finally time. Game One between the Nashville Predators and Ducks comes tonight from the Honda Center in Anaheim, the last of the eight opening round series of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to begin.
The break left plenty of time for the Preds to prepare for their opponent, and now, after a week of practices and meetings, the real thing has arrived.
“We’re very excited in here,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said Friday morning. “It’s a couple more days than we thought we’d get off, but rest is always a good thing. We’re looking to get a strong start out of the gate, and so are they, so it’s going to be a tough first period.”
Waking up on the morning of Game One for a hockey player has, at times, been likened to a young child rising on Christmas morning. The excitement is plentiful, as well as a few other emotions.
“Everyone is a little nervous, but if you weren’t, there’d be something wrong with you - but you’re also excited,” Ellis said. “We got a taste of it last year in Chicago during the playoffs, and it’s a different animal in Anaheim. It’s going to be a great series.”
Win or lose on Friday night, the Preds also know someone has to win four games before a winner is declared. Finding the right way to keep the emotions in check is something the club is focused on, especially with another year of postseason experience throughout most of the lineup.
“We thought we played a strong series against a team that eventually won the Cup last season; it was challenging at both ends of the ice and there were a lot of highs and lows in that series,” Ellis said. “In a lot of playoff series, that’s the way it goes. You can’t get too high too low, but Game One, everyone’s excited in here and looking for a strong effort.”