The Nashville Predators had six days for their training camp. It did not even take that long for them to get tired of one another.
“Just having an opponent that you actually hate is good rather than an opponent you want to go to battle with,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That is just the mindset that you have to get into.”
Welcome Columbus Blue Jackets.
The short training camp concludes Friday and the long wait for the National Hockey League season ends the next day when Nashville hosts Columbus (7 p.m.) on the first day of the regular season.
The Predators and Blue Jackets have maintained a healthy dislike for one another since they entered the league as part of the most recent wave of expansion. Nashville has won 49 of the 69 all-time meetings, including five of six last season, and the one-sided nature of the rivalry has helped fuel the Blue Jackets’ emotions.
Given that this season, which will consist of 48 games, is atypical, however, with the short preseason and no exhibition contests it is difficult to predict what will happen in this – or any – game.
“There’s going to be situations where rust is going to come in or lack of reps,” Trotz said. “But it’s going to be the same for everybody. … It’s just reps. As soon as we get some games under our belt we’ll be fine. We’ll keep building. I don’t think there’s any team that will tell you different. I don’t think there’s one team that will go, ‘We’re absolutely 100 percent ready in every aspect of our game.’ That won’t happen.”
The reps will come quickly.
Saturday’s game is the first of three in four days. Within the first 15 days of the season, Nashville will play eight times, including six on the road. February includes three sets of back-to-backs within a two-week stretch and the first week of April includes three matchups with Chicago in a stretch of five games.
Under normal circumstances, none of those situations would be likely.
“You want to be ready to go at the drop, the first game and have our game kind of ironed out and buckled down,” defenseman Scott Hannan said. “We have to come in ready. Every game is going to be big, especially with the condensed schedule.”
Eventually, once they get into the rhythm of games, players expect that it will feel much like any other season. Saturday’s contest, on the other hand, is likely to be something different.
“It’s like riding a bike but it’s not like riding a bike,” Trotz said. “You have to take the bike out in the street and see if it works again.”