Bridgestone Arena, in Nashville, is known throughout the NHL as being one of the loudest and most difficult buildings for opposing teams to skate in. Count the SAP Center in San Jose, the site of tonight’s Game One, Second Round matchup between the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks, as another one of those locations.
The noise within the building will be just one of the new challenges facing the Preds as they begin their series tonight with the Sharks, two days after defeating Anaheim in Game Seven, also on the road. While the Predators have had only one day in between games, the Sharks have been off since last Friday after ousting the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette isn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of rest with his team compared to San Jose, something he’ll wait to evaluate when the puck drops after 9:30 p.m. (CT).
“I would say teams that have had time off, sometimes they come out slow and sometimes the rest has done them well and they come out firing because they’re re-energized,” Laviolette said. “I would say teams that finish and have to start right away with not much rest, sometimes they seem weary and sometimes they’re ready to go. We won’t know until we get to the game, and we’ll go from there. I think it works both ways for both teams. You don’t know what you have until you start playing.”
The Preds do know they’ll have to deal with a loud venue, something veteran defenseman Barret Jackman has experienced in the postseason before as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
“This building is the loudest I think I’ve ever played in; I’ve played here a couple times in the playoffs, and I think the acoustics and the energy of the building is deafening,” Jackman said. “We have to be ready to make smart decisions and know what we’re doing with pucks before we get it because communication is going to be tough.”
That awareness will be key when dealing with San Jose’s forward group, including Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, two constants for the Sharks for the last decade.
“Joe Thornton is going to be looking for Pavelski, and they have great chemistry,” forward James Neal said. “They work off each other and find open spots in the offensive zone, so we have to be physical on those guys. We have to be hard on them, don’t give them time and space.”
“They’re a team that’s been together for a long time,” Jackman said. “I think they have three outstanding lines that are very dangerous, and even their fourth line has some skill and some finishers. You can’t let your guard down, and you have to be hard on all four lines and not take anything for granted.”
The Predators will find out soon enough what will transpire in Game One, their first trip to Round Two since 2012, but the club found a way to get it done in the First Round against the Ducks. They’re hoping for more of the same on the West Coast.
“It was nice to be in California and stay in the same time zone, get our rest and focus on a new team,” Neal said. “I don’t know what’s better, but for us, it’s a mindset to focus on ourselves and do what we have to do to prepare for a new series. Don’t look past Game One, focus on having a good start, everyone having a first good shift, and we’ll go from there.”
The Preds recalled forward Pontus Aberg from AHL Milwaukee on Friday morning. Forward Craig Smith did not participate in the Preds morning skate today and was given a maintenance day.
Shot of the Day: