The idea behind the moves made by the Nashville Predators on Monday was to change the team. For the better.
The Predators have, in fact, been different in the two games since they acquired forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad in the final hours before the NHL’s trade deadline. Following both their victory Monday over Los Angeles and their loss Tuesday at Carolina, players and coaches felt they played worse than expected or what they consider to be acceptable.
“[Monday] I didn’t think we had that focus and urgency that we did the [previous] couple of games,” coach Barry Trotz said following the 2-1 victory over the Kings. “I didn’t like our … we had a number of guys that I didn’t like their game.”
That one did not include either Kostitsyn or Gaustad.
They joined the team in Carolina, but only one of the two — Kostitsyn — played against the Hurricanes in a game Nashville lost 4-3. His most significant impact on the stat sheet was a penalty he committed, which led to the first of two second-period power play goals against that turned the contest in favor of Carolina.
“I thought we would have a little more urgency because the group that’s out there … [there’s] a couple of guys that will integrate into the group so you want to make sure you seal up your spot,” Trotz said. “I thought a couple guys who usually are pretty good weren’t so good [Monday] night.”
Thus far, it hardly has been the expected impact for Nashville, the team many league observers felt improved itself as much or more than any other at the deadline.
Players had off — and an opportunity to regroup — Wednesday were scheduled for two consecutive days of practice before their next game, Saturday at Florida. The last time the Predators had three days between games, not counting the All-Star break, was the first week of January.
“It’s in the back of your mind that you’re going to get a couple of new guys, but we didn’t let up [Monday] night,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “Sometimes that might be the case because you kind of give yourself a mental break.
“You have to trust those guys that are coming in to get the job done. … These games are crucial. We’ve had a tough schedule behind us, and I’m sure everybody’s tired but getting wins is key.”
A year ago, Nashville traded for Mike Fisher nearly three weeks before the deadline and then let the final day of dealing pass without any transactions. It then went 1-1-2 in its next four before it finally got some traction and won 11 of its final 15.
The team’s approach was different this time, but the immediate impact has been similar. With 18 games to go, there again is plenty of time to shake off whatever effect the trade deadline had.
“Everybody was probably watching the deadline to see what kind of pieces we were going to get,” right wing Patric Hornqvist said. “… We know we have a great group of guys right now and two new players who are going to make us even better.”
That’s the idea, at least.