Preds say regaining focus won’t be a problem after five-day break
The Nashville Predators were the hottest team in the National Hockey League going into the all-star break with a 9-1-0 record in their last 10 games. Nashville is 12-2-0 since December 28th and Predators netminder Pekka Rinne, named the NHL’s second start of last week, was playing some of the best hockey of his career, winning 9 consecutive starts and posting an 18-2-0 record in his last 20 games before the break.
Rinne was excited to be back on the ice Monday afternoon at Centennial Sportsplex.
“It felt great on the ice today. I felt really sharp. I felt winded right away, but that comes from not being on the ice. Getting your legs underneath you is the biggest thing. Other than that, I felt great. It’s just getting back to doing what you do,” Rinne said about returning to the ice after a five-day break.
The Finnish netminder says the break couldn’t have come at a better time, despite Nashville’s impressive play. “Even though we were rolling pretty good, it was a good time to get that break. We played 50 games. Anytime you realize there is a break ahead of you, you let everything out, all your energy every single game. We did that. We played extremely well. Now we got our break and we recharged our batteries and got the energy levels back. I’m really excited and looking forward to getting back at it,” Rinne explained.
Nashville’s offense was also “rolling pretty good” at the time of the break. All three players on Nashville’s top line posted at least 11 points in the Predators last 14 games. Mike Fisher had 5 goals and 8 assists for 13 points, while Sergei Kostitsyn scored another 7 goals and added 4 assists for 11 points. Then there is Martin Erat who has 3 goals and 9 assists in his last 14 outings.
Erat says he is not worried about his ability to regain focus for Tuesday’s game. “For me personally, I dont think so. I’m used to the breaks. We have had the Olympic breaks and the All-Star breaks before. With experience, you know what to do when you have a couple days break or a longer term break,” Erat said, adding “For the young kids, it is going to be something different. In the season, they have never had five days break. It is going to be interesting how they make out, but I think they are going to be ready.”
One player who is not used to a five-day break is rookie Gabriel Bourque. The 21-year old says no one has an advantage over anyone else when it comes to the all-star break. “I don’t think so,” he said when asked if it would be tough to regain focus, adding “Everybody had five days off, it was the same for both teams. It is the most exciting part of the year, so everyone will be excited for the game. The guys are pretty focused and will be ready.
Head Coach Barry Trotz agrees. “The guys are excited. I think the guys had a good break, it was a well deserved break,” Trotz said, adding the team is exactly where it wanted to be entering the final stretch of the regular season. “The good thing is before the break we had a real good purpose. We understood where we wanted to get to. Once we got there, I didn’t want to see anybody for four or five days, and they didn’t want to see me. We had a goal, we set a goal and achieved it. Now we need to set other goals.”
What is the first goal set for the Predators as they start the final stretch to the playoffs? “Get two points [against Minnesota],” Trotz said.
Photo credit: AP