Photo Credit: John Russell - Getty Images
The Predators’ 5 day shotgun training camp had its final on-ice session this morning. Looking more like a regular practice than another day of training camp, the team started to emotionally prepare for tomorrow night’s opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Barry Trotz and company have a bit of work ahead of them, as the roster they released a little while ago shows the team sitting with 8 defensemen on the active roster (a major congratulations to Victor Bartley, by the way, who sticks with the team for the start of the season). The decision to ride with 23 total players on the roster (including the 8 defensemen) appeared to be more of a precautionary tale than anything else.
“I think that will fluctuate a bit. I think the key is to get through this first little segment,” said Coach Trotz. “Almost a week to week segment where you go ‘Where is Milwaukee playing?’ If they’re not playing, maybe you carry 23. If they are playing, maybe you carry 22 and have [an extra guy] play.”
The biggest factor for tomorrow night is no longer the readiness factor, but enjoying the benefits of a sellout Nashville crowd at home in the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena. While the team appears physically ready for the season to start, emotions will be flying high tomorrow.
“When you start at home, you’re realizing the excitement of the fans and how long they’ve been waiting. It’s going to be great to get that first game at home, I think it’s going to get us a little more excited and give us a little more of a jump,” Predators forward Colin Wilson said.
“It’s nice to see all of the fans and all of the community that are excited for us to play. We feed off their energy and they always make a ruckus out there,” said Predators defenseman Kevin Klein. “It will be exciting to see Cellblock 303 back in action and everyone causing mayhem”
While the team may get a boost from the raucous crowd inside Bridgestone Arena, both the players and the coaching staff understand that they have to keep their emotions in check and focused to play a sixty-minute game.
“I’ve done it enough in my career to where I get really amped up for something and then get really low. I’ve learned that I’m really excited for it, but I think the fact that I haven’t played in a little bit, I’m a little tentative,” said Wilson. “I want to be out there, get my first hit, get my first shot, and get all of those things to get back in the groove. I think it will help calm my emotions.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to play and the fans have been waiting, there certainly is going to be a lot of emotions,” Predators defenseman Jon Blum noted. “You have to control it and you can’t get too excited, but I think just having that thrill and excitement about being back and being back on home ice in front of the great fans here is going to give us that extra help.”
Overall, though, the team feels ready to head out of the tunnel tomorrow night and start their journey towards Lord Stanley’s Cup. What will happen over the next 99 days is for time to tell, but the Predators are looking forward to getting started in a little over 24 hours.
“We’ve had enough time to prepare. The core group of guys have been together even before we started up this week-long training camp,” said Klein. “I think it will be exciting, we might have to scale back on the total ice time for some of the guys, you know kinda spread it out through the entire team. For the most part, we’’ll be ready to rock.”