Most would assume that the end of the season can’t come soon enough for the Nashville Predators.
A string of injuries that cut short the campaign for several top forwards and seven straight defeats headed into Friday’s game at Chicago is a combination that would leave a lot of teams counting down the days to the finish.
To hear coach Barry Trotz tell it, though, this week is one that offers a measure of joy to those still on the ice. The game against the Blackhawks is the only one in a seven-day stretch, which began Tuesday, the day after the most recent defeat. It also starts a closing stretch of four games in eight days to complete the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, one in which Nashville will not make the playoffs.
“One thing that this season did is not allow you to practice,” Trotz said. “I think we’re a team that needs to practice. That’s the way we’re made up. Our DNA is we like to practice and we get to work on things.
“I think we have to have a lot of reps.”
Of late, the only thing the Predators have repeated have been defeats. Each of the losses in the current skid have been in regulation. There have been just eight goals and three games in which they have been held scoreless.
Following a day off Tuesday, players practiced Wednesday and Thursday before they departed for Chicago. After Friday, they won’t play again until Tuesday – the final home game of the season – which means a couple more days of workouts.
“It’s a little late,” Trotz conceded. “We’re trying to just get reps with guys and lines and the power play, a little bit of system work, a little bit of cadence.”
It’s not likely that any amount of practice will make perfect at this point, but Trotz is perfectly satisfied with his players’ individual and collective approaches to games even if the results have not been what anyone wanted.
“I think the focus is just ‘play hard all the time,’” he said. “Obviously, we’re having some adversity with a number of people out, but you’re finding out who it matters to – and it seems to matter to everybody, which is great.
“We just want to keep that spirit.”
• Briefly: Defenseman Kevin Klein, who sat out Monday’s loss to Vancouver, has practiced the last two days and is expected to play against the Blackhawks. Two forwards, Daniel Bang and Kevin Henderson, will be recalled to help fill out the lineup. … Chicago goalie Ray Emery has been ruled out of the game with a lower body injury. Emery is 16-1-0 with a 1.91 goals-against average this season, including victories over Nashville on April 6 and 7, the last time the teams met.”