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Weekend Work Preps Preds For Early Gauntlet

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators players are pumped about it.

The coaching staff? Well, not so much.

After only two training camp practices, the team will play three consecutive games. The first two are Monday in Florida at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The third will be Tuesday at Washington at 6 p.m.
“I do like it,” Predators forward Jerred Smithson said. “It’s always tough to go out there at training camp and battle against your teammates. You don’t want to go 100 percent and run over your own teammates. It’s good to get a few good skates in, get the pace, and then get right into games.”

Predators Coach Barry Trotz would rather have a few more practice sessions before facing other teams.

“You really don’t have any special teams play,” Trotz said. “You say, ‘OK, here’s the power play, you five guys, we’ll give you some structure in terms of what we want you do.’ There’s really not going to be enough time to work on that. So those are things we’re going to accept.”

Like if things are ugly early on.

“If we go 0 for 8 on the power play, don’t get too worked up,” Trotz said with a laugh. “We haven’t even worked on it. All they’ve seen is a little bit of film and we tell them, ‘Well, this is what we’re hoping you can do.’ Same with the penalty kill. If (Florida) gets five power play goals, we haven’t worked on it.”

Predators forward Jordin Tootoo shares Smithson’s sentiments about getting into the thick of things early on.

“We work all summer to be in shape and be ready for this,” Tootoo said. “I’m sure you’ll find out who did a little extra over the summer and who didn’t. It will be a challenge, but it is a good challenge for everyone.”

When asked about the two-practices-three-games scenario, goaltender Pekka Rinne smiled. “It’s different,” Rinne said. “We’re hockey players and it’s fun to play games. It will be interesting. I think the biggest thing with the three games is the coaching staff and scouting staff want to see how we do. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve practiced with the guys. You go out there and play. They are evaluating you. This has never happened before so it will be interesting to see.”

The biggest challenge will be for the rookies. Trotz said he spoke with Florida Coach Kevin Dineen and expects the Panthers to play more veterans than the Predators, mainly because Florida does not play the next day. Trotz, who is approaching the first two games with a more split-squad approach, wants to keep his veterans fresh through the three games. That means a large number of rookies will be going up against the older Panthers team.

“It will be a good test for our young guys and good for evaluation,” Trotz said.

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