With just two games remaining on their preseason slate, the Nashville Predators still have some key decisions to make as far as what players will be part of the roster when the regular season begins October 7th in Columbus. Further, the team wants to make sure that everyone is ready for what will be expected of them in the regular season.
Following Wednesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals, Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz said that a conversation with Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom a couple of years ago at the NHL’s awards show in Las Vegas helped him change his thinking on how to prepare his team for the regular season.
“Why do you play all of those games at the end, don’t you want to rest before the season?” Trotz asked of the multi-Norris Trophy winning blueliner. “He said, ‘No, I actually want to get prepared for the season because usually in training camp you are playing 15 to 20 minutes a night and then all of a sudden you are playing 27-30 and you are not prepared to do that,’” Trotz said.
With the two remaining games coming this Friday in Winnipeg and Saturday back in Nashville against Carolina, Trotz went on to say that many of his players will play in both games to simulate how things work in the regular season. After the regular season opener in Columbus, the Predators play in St. Louis the next night.
The team’s top defensive tandem of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber led all Nashville skaters in ice time Wednesday night with 24:01 and 23:54 respectively.
“Everyone in here wants to get as much ice time as they can just to get ready for the season,” Weber said. “I don’t think you want to jump in and play minutes that you weren’t even playing in exhibition. I think everyone works hard in the offseason to get ready off the ice, but it is still a whole different thing getting into games.”
Weber scored his first goal of the preseason Wednesday night, converting from in tight after coming down from the right point and burying a nice behind the goal line feed from Martin Erat.
Weber and Suter both averaged over 25 minutes per game in the 2010-11 regular season. The duo may be in line to see even more than that at least at the start of this season. Kevin Klein and Joanthon Blum will be the team’s second blue line pairing in all likelihood, but the team still has decisions to make when it comes to which players will round out the defensive corps. The team’s third pairing will be new to Nashville if not the NHL altogether, so Trotz will likely start that group off with limited ice time in favor of players he knows well and trusts in all situations.
Pekka Rinne played his first full preseason game Wednesday. After seeing just ten shots over the first two periods, the 6’5” Finn saw 14 in a busy third period. For the game, he allowed just one goal on the 24 shots against.
While there is no question as to who the team’s two goaltenders are going to be, getting the work in is just as important to them as the position players.
“It was good just to play a full 60 minutes,” Rinne said. “I got to handle the puck a lot. Our ‘D’ did a great job of finding places where I could pass and we were able to keep the flow of the game going pretty well.”
Rinne will likely go the distance in one of the two remaining preseason games.
“I am excited for the season,” he said. “I can’t wait for it to start.”