Rested and recharged coming off of their League-mandated, five-day break, the Nashville Predators got back to work in preparation for the unofficial start of the second half of the season, which comes Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena with the Vegas Golden Knights in town.
It’ll be quite a test for the Preds against the expansion team in the third and final meeting of the regular season – Nashville is 0-1-1 against Vegas thus far – and will give them an opportunity to pick up where they left off before the respite, two wins in a row and points in three straight.
And, aside from the contest on Tuesday, the next few months as a whole will show just how high the Predators can reach before mid-April rolls around. Yes, they currently sit second in their own division with 56 points and four games in hand, but the Preds say they still have plenty of improvements to make in their game in the coming weeks.
If that is indeed the case, look out.
“There’s been times where we’ve played really well, went on a stretch where we won a lot of games, and there’s been some inconsistencies inside the game,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “What we did in the first half, we set ourselves up to be in a good spot to this point in the year, and now it’s about taking on the second half and trying to build off of that. I do agree that there’s room to move forward and improve from the work that we did from the first half, but we put ourselves in a good position.”
“I’m really excited, and it’s definitely been a good first half for us, but there’s still a lot to improve,” Predators Captain Roman Josi said. “We try to work on that every day and hopefully get better and better and peak at the end of the season.”
A few items come to mind when looking to pinpoint what needs correcting – better starts to games and spending less time in the penalty box, for instance, and those have both seen improvement as of late.
Josi also named shot totals as something he’d like to see increase, with a greater emphasis placed on Laviolette’s belief that more pucks to the net will simply equate to more goals scored.
“I think we can get more shots to the net,” Josi said. “A lot of games we’ve won, but we got outshot and our goalie stood on his head or we played really well defensively. I think one thing we take a lot of pride in as a team is to get a lot of shots to try to get a lot of time in the O-zone. That’s something we can work on.”
The work that vamped up once more on Monday will continue in the days, weeks and months to come, and although the focus is on Vegas for now, the Preds know in the back of their minds as the springtime slowly inches closer and closer.
“It’s going to be a fun time for our group to grow and take that next step,” Nashville center Ryan Johansen said. “We want to prove to ourselves again that we can get to the playoffs and hopefully play for the Cup again. We have a lot to prove here in this second half, and we’re going to be making some noise.”
Forward Viktor Arvidsson left the ice and needed assistance to the locker room during Monday’s practice after suffering what looked to be a lower-body injury; there was no update on Arvidsson’s status immediately following the session.
However, winger Filip Forsberg, who remains on Injured Reserve with an upper-body injury, stepped onto the ice near the end of the session and did some stickhandling by himself. There is no change to Forsberg’s original timetable of a 4-6 week recovery, which would point to a return sometime in February.