2012-13 Nashville Predators Training Camp Report

Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 3:00 PM
Jimi Russell  - Nashville Predators

Monday, January 14

The Predators open their first day of on-ice training at Centennial Sportplex

This morning’s practice marked the first time the Preds were on the ice with their coaching staff in more than seven months and the pace of practice showed the urgency needed to prepare for Saturday’s season opener.

“It was sort of a strange day,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “As a staff, we probably had 100 drills set up for today, when we really only needed eight or nine. There were a couple of things I liked – we weren’t really sloppy. There were a couple of guys who were rusty, but we were OK. Can we be better? Absolutely. We don’t have that many new guys out there, so I didn’t have to spend time explaining things, I just said something and the guys understood. That helped keep the pace pretty good.”

Two new faces appeared on the ice Monday morning for the Preds, as Sergei Kostitsyn made his first on-ice appearance since returning from Europe late Saturday night. Another fresh face was defenseman Victor Bartley, who was recalled early Monday morning from Milwaukee. The Maple Ridge, B.C., native ranks first among Admirals d-men this season with 19 points (6g-13a) in 37 games.

“I’m excited more than anything,” Bartley said. “I feel very fortunate to be here right now and I’m going to make the best of my opportunity. I’ve been playing a lot of minutes in Milwaukee and I feel very confident in my game right now.”

The morning began a little early as goaltending coach Mitch Korn separated Pekka Rinne and Chris Mason to work on rebound drills on one rink, while the skaters worked the power play on the other.

The Predators top power-play unit looked very similar to the group that led the League in the category during the 2011-12 campaign, after converting 21.6 percent of their man-advantage chances. Captain Shea Weber is once again quarterbacking the unit from the blue line with his new defensive partner Roman Josi, while Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist round out the forward group.

Once the entire team came together on the same sheet of ice, they began working on various drills including odd-man rushes, two-on-twos, and work with their current lines and defensive pairings.

“It’s nice to get some direction in practice,” Weber said. “We worked on power play a little bit before practice and some of our other systems. It’s a short turn around here, so we need to be ready.”

The line of Erat, Fisher and Kostitsyn remains consistent from a season ago, while Nashville’s other three lines are beginning to take shape but, there is still room for movement heading into Saturday’s tilt. Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand and Craig Smith formed the second line during Monday’s practice and worked well together during the various drills. The third line was comprised of Paul Gaustad, Matt Halischuk and Colin Wilson. Wilson and Hornqvist swapped spots during certain drills and situations during practice – definitely something to keep an eye on throughout the week. Brian McGrattan, Chris Mueller, Nick Spaling and Brandon Yip rounded out the forward group for the Preds on Monday.

Along the blueline, the top five defensive spots are claimed by Weber, Josi, Kevin Klein, Hal Gill and new-comer Scott Hannan. The battle between Bartley, Jonathon Blum and Ryan Ellis for the final two defensive spots will be another storyline to follow during the abbreviated camp.

“I think everything is in pencil right now,” Trotz said. “Just like everything else, you have to see which guys are meshing well together. We went with a plan today – it is the same plan we had this summer – that’s where we started and we’ll adjust it as we go. Some guys are closer to their ‘A’ game and some guys aren’t – we’ll just see how it goes.”

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Tuesday, January 15

The Preds took to the ice at Centennial Sportplex again on Tuesday morning and the energy level continued to ramp up as the team prepares for Saturday night’s tilt.

“I’m pleased with the effort so far,” Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “We were just saying that you don’t want to be sloppy and rusty – you can’t be both. There has been some rust in our thought process as far as game skills, but in terms of our execution we’ve been really good, our pace has been good and our focus is really good. I think the group is buying into the fact that we have a short training camp and we have lots to cover.”

Much like Monday morning, the day started off early as the goalies were pulled aside to work on specialized drills, while the skaters continued to work special teams on the other rink.

Chris Mason and I have been going on the ice a little bit earlier with Mitch (Korn) to work on some drills to make us more comfortable,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “We did a lot of straight shots, seeing the puck. Then we did a lot of rebound stuff. It’s been really good to help us feel comfortable on the ice – he has a lot of drills and tools to use.”

Following the individual sessions, the team gathered on the same sheet of ice to work with their lines – all lines remained the same from Monday’s practice – and also began to work on battle drills. These battle drills allow the players to battle, two-on-two, to gain puck possession and attempt to score. It gives practice a little more grit than usual and prepares the players for the physical rigors of an actual game. The players then moved into a blue vs. white scrimmage for the final portion of practice to work on their five-on-five game and to get used to a game-like pace.

“We use that time to get our timing right,” Rinne said. “The guys can play on actual lines and get ready for Saturday. It’s good for us. We’ve only been working on drills the last couple of practices, so to scrimmage today for the first time was good. The tempo was good.”

Practice ended with the news that the Predators claimed forward Rich Clune on waivers from Los Angeles to add some grit to the lineup going into the 2012-13 season.

“(Clune) is an energy type of player,” President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile said. “He’s a little bit like Jordin Tootoo if you will – I think he brings that kind of element to the team. He’s a fearless type of player, he plays hard all the time and he’ll engage in fisticuffs if necessary. He is really good team player.”

Clune has seven points (2g-5a) and 98 penalty minutes in 35 games this season for the King’s primary developmental affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. Since turning pro in 2006-07, the 5-10, 207-pound native of Toronto has appeared in 275 career AHL games, posting 75 points (26g-49a) and 925 penalty minutes. During the 2009-10 campaign, he played his first 14 NHL regular season games (0g-2a, 26 PIM) – and four playoff contests (0g-0a, 5 PIM) – with the Kings.

Rich Clune is feisty guy,” Trotz said. “He brings a lot of energy and he brings some physicality – he hits a lot and pound-for-pound, he’s a really tough kid. He tough to play against – he’s one of those guys you hate to play against but you’d love to have him on your team. I think he is a real good fit.”

Note: Wednesday’s practice has been moved from Centennial Sportsplex to Bridgestone Arena to help the coaching staff simulate more of a game atmosphere for the players in anticipation of Saturday’s season opener.

“There a couple of things we can accomplish at the arena,” Trotz said. “We are going to work on special teams in a little be more of a structured basis. We are going to go through cleaning the ice – like a normal period break. Then we are going to scrimmage and get into some five-on-five.”

The practice will be open to the public from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and free parking is available in the Bridgestone Arena Sixth Avenue garage. The Nashville Predators Pro Shop will be open, as well as select concession stands.

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Wednesday, January 16

Wednesday’s practice moved to Bridgestone Arena to help simulate the atmosphere and pace of an actual NHL game.

“There were two reasons we switched to the arena,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “We wanted to get guys familiar again with the good feelings here. There is always a lot of energy here on game days, so we wanted to get into that routine and mindset. It is a little warmer in this building, the ice is a little different and there are a lot of factors that you have to get used to.”

Practice opened as the players worked on shootout drills prior to the coaches stepping on the ice. Once Trotz and his staff appeared, the players went through their customary warm-up drills and moved into a Blue vs. White scrimmage. Each squad was made up of two lines and the players spent 30-45 seconds on the ice – simulating an actual game shift – before changing out. Trotz kept the pace high and the players seemed to feed off the energy of their teammates and the building. The scrimmage was highlighted by some spectacular saves from both Pekka Rinne and Chris Mason, but Chris Mueller took home the best play of the day with a nifty tip-in off a Jon Blum shot midway through the game.

“We scrimmaged not only from a conditioning standpoint, but from a game skills standpoint as well,” Trotz said. “Our game skills weren’t there – we were thinking, but we weren’t moving. We are trying to knock that rust off. That has been the process the last two days and I’m sure you’ll see us scrimmage another time here before we get going.”

Following the Blue vs. White scrimmage, the team took a ‘period break’ to help simulate an intermission to help the players adjust to the stop-and-go of a normal game.

“A lot of the guys said ‘this is like between periods,’” Trotz said. “You forget how you’re wound up, wound up – then you sit for 15 minutes and then have to get going again.”

The players then returned to the ice to work on the power play and penalty kill. The Preds top power-play unit of Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn remained the same for Wednesday’s practice. The penalty kill unit changed around some during practice, but Paul Gaustad and Hal Gill both saw extensive time on the PK. The team finished off the day with another round of shootout attempts by each squad.

Practice Note: Forward Rich Clune, who was claimed on waivers Tuesday morning, made his first appearance as a Pred on Wednesday. Clune primarily worked with the fourth line, but did show some of the grit that drew the Predators staff to him.

“I’m going to be myself,” Clune said. “I’m a pretty aggressive player. I just play the way I want and I’ve been successful in doing that. I’m doing my job when the other team is chasing me.”

While he has only been in Nashville for a couple of hours, Clune has already made his presence known on the ice and in the locker room.

“Everyone has been really cool,” Clune said. “I actually know Brian McGrattan pretty well and he introduced me to the team. Shea Weber and Mike Fisher introduced themselves to me and I already feel like part of the group, but I’m still going to have to earn their respect.”

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Thursday, January 17

Thursday morning the Preds shifted back to Centennial Sportsplex, but practice remained the same as the coaching staff continued to work on five-on-five play and special teams.

With just two days remaining before Nashville opens its 2012-13 season, Head Coach Barry Trotz held a shorter, less intense practice to help the players manage fatigue leading into Saturday night’s tilt. The day opened with a few drills and more practice on special teams as the units worked on positioning and timing. The team then moved into a brief, but high-paced scrimmage – still remaining in the same lines as the previous three days of practice. The line of Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Sergei Kosititsyn continued to work well together as they look to build off of a very successful 2011-12 season.

The defensive pairings continue to grow as both Shea Weber and Kevin Klein are adjusting to new defensive partners. Hal Gill remains in the Preds top five d-men, while his partner has yet to be determined with Ryan Ellis, Jon Blum and Victor Bartley all playing well.

The practice closed as the players broke into smaller groups to work on specialized drills – shooting, passing, one-timers and face-offs.

The Predators final day of training will take place tomorrow morning at Centennial Sportsplex from 10-11:30 a.m. and it is open to the public.

Notes: Victor Bartley was selected to the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic later this month in Providence, Rhode Island . Prior to his recall to Nashville, Bartley led Admirals defensemen and ranked fifth overall on the team with 19 points on six goals – including a pair of power-play goals – and 13 assists. The Maple Ridge, B.C., native also tied for second on the team with a +6 rating.

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Friday, January 18

The Predators closed their 2012-13 training camp on Friday, now looking towards Saturday night’s season opener against Columbus.

“It’s officially a new year,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “That is the way we are looking at it and we are excited about it. We have a good balance of experience – I think we have nine guys who are 30-years or older – and we have a good mix of guys who are a little younger. I think everyone’s roles are pretty defined right now, and that’s a luxury of having a team that is intact.”

Trotz kept the pace high during Friday’s practice as he and his staff continued to formulate their lines during the final on-ice session. The players went through a series of drills while working with the same line pairings we’ve seen since camp opened on Monday. The line of Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn is set for Saturday’s tilt, while David Legwand, Craig Smith and Patric Hornqvist also stayed together for Friday’s session. Colin Wilson returned to the ice after being sidelined on Thursday and reunited with Paul Gaustad and Matt Halischuk. Nick Spaling continues to center his line, flanked by Rich Clune, Brian McGrattan and Brandon Yip.

The defensive pairings have taken shape for the most part, as Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Kevin Klein, Scott Hannan and Hal Gill round out the top five. Ryan Ellis seems to have secured that sixth defensemen spot for now, but Trotz remained mum on the final lineup for Saturday. Jon Blum and Victor Bartley will remain with the team to start the season.

Following five-on-five work, the team broke into their special teams units to continue building the foundation and chemistry that made the Preds so successful in 2011-12. The top power-play unit looks to feature Weber, Fisher, Erat and Hornqvist with Josi as the only addition to the League’s top PP unit from a season ago. The penalty kill figures to be even stronger than last season with shot-blocking aficionados Klein, Gill and Hannan on the blueline, and face-off aces Fisher and Gaustad up front.

Practice finished with players once again separating into individual groups to work on the finer points of their game. Attitudes grew more intense towards the end of practice as the Preds shifted their focus to Saturday.

“It’s a big day for us tomorrow and we’re excited for it,” Captain Shea Weber said. “It’s exciting to play at home on a Saturday night – the place will be going crazy. We take a lot of pride playing at home and we have to be good at home again this year.”

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