Despite the fact that the Nashville Predators earned more points in the standings in the regular season than the Phoenix Coyotes, their opponent in the Western Conference Semifinals, Phoenix will have home ice advantage in the series by virtue of the fact that they won the Pacific Division.
After completing their last practice in Nashville Thursday morning prior to Friday’s Game 1 in the Valley of the Sun, the Predators seem to embrace the fact that they will start the series with two games on the road. Nashville had a more than respectable road record of 22-16-3 in the regular season and won both of their road games in their quarterfinal round matchup with the Detroit Red Wings.
The Predators have been in Nashville ever since flying back from Detroit following their Game 4 victory the night of April 17th, so hopping on their charter for a flight across the country will kick their minds back into game-playing mode.
“I’m really happy we are starting on the road,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “I think it is needed for our team. We have been at home for probably ten days now total and it is time to get on the road. I think it will be a great way to get back into the swing of things by going into the other team’s den right off the bat.”
Nashville closed out its series with Detroit in last Friday’s fifth game, so the players know that there is a chance that they could be somewhat rusty as they embark on the conference semifinal round for the second time in as many years.
“We played well on the road in the first round and the regular season,” Mike Fisher said. “I think we know we have to come out strong and play really well early. It has been a long layoff, so we have to have a really strong start and get ourselves back into it and get going.”
Over the course of the last week, Trotz gave his charges two days off to get away from the rink and each other, but they are still tired of practicing with and against each other.
“We’re ready,” Trotz said. “You could tell the guys are ready to play. We’ve practiced a couple of days here. They just want to play. They are excited about it.”
Going on the road triggers a type of mentality for the players. Gone are the distractions that come along with being at home leaving them the ability to focus on the games in front of them.
“It is going to help being around the team and travel together and just be around the team and get into that game mode that comes automatically when you do that,” Pekka Rinne said. “They are going to be a fired up team and we need to match that.”