Greg de Vries has plenty of playoff experience, which means he has experienced plenty of playoff races during an NHL career that began in 1995-96. Thus, the volatile nature of the current Western Conference standings, which change daily, is nothing new to the Nashville Predators’ defenseman.
“I’ve been in a couple races like this, for sure,” de Vries said. “I lost out on one, so I have that experience. [It was 2006] in Atlanta the one year [that] we needed to win one game in the last couple and didn’t do it. So I have experience on both sides.”
Even though he missed out on the 2006 postseason de Vries has more playoff experience than any other current Predator. He has appeared in 111 career postseason contests for five different teams, including last year with Nashville.
That, coach Barry Trotz says, makes the 36-year-old invaluable at this time even as his ice time has decreased. Three times in the last five games he has logged fewer than 11 minutes of play.
“I think anytime you have experienced guys they can get you through some the anxieties that go along with the playoff push and watching the standings,” Trotz said. “They can just keep a cool head about everything, and they’re guys who can sense that other guys are maybe squeezing a little bit or they’re tensing up a little bit.
“(de Vries) has been around. I think guys really respect him as a player on and off the ice. He sort of has good order to his life, and I think players respect that.”
For example, de Vries’ defense partner, Kevin Klein, is 11 years his junior and never has appeared in an NHL playoff contest. Klein relishes the opportunity to benefit from that experience every time they go over the boards.
“He’s played in every situation,” Klein said. “He’s done it all so it’s good to be out there with him. You have confidence because he’s always got your back. He’s great at talking, and that’s one of the biggest keys to playing defense – communication. It’s great.”
Off the ice, he draws upon a broad base of experiences as they relate to all of his teammates and their current predicament – ninth in the Western Conference following Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim.
de Vries has been on high-powered teams, one of which (Colorado in 2000-01) won the Stanley Cup and returned to the conference finals the following season. He also has been on ones that squeaked in at the wire and has been dealt to a top contender at the league’s trade deadline.
Through it all he has learned to approach each playoff chase as if it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
“That’s what we play for – to get a chance to play in the playoffs,” he said. “Someone told me once, ‘Don’t take this for granted. Being in the finals or even being in the conference finals, it’s not as easy as it seems.’ If you do it your first couple of years, you kind of take it for granted. Now it’s been since 2002 since I’ve been to the conference finals.”
The common thread is the pleasure derived from the pursuit.
“That’s what I try to tell these guys – have fun with this,” de Vries said. “Every game means so much, and not that they don’t at the start of the year, but the pressure now is so much higher. You just want to have fun with it.”
A rundown of the current Nashville Predators with the most playoff experience:
Greg de Vries 111
Jason Arnott 100
Radek Bonk 73
J.P. Dumont 42
Steve Sullivan 29
WHAT’S ON TAP
Thursday vs. San Jose, 7 p.m., Sommet Center
Saturday vs. Los Angeles, 5 p.m., Sommet Center
Sunday at Detroit, 4 p.m.