NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators insist they understand it’s time to stop talking about producing on the ice and just get it done.
Since reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the Predators have talked a lot about how good they were only to have diminishing playoff returns.
Now they are coming off their earliest end to a season since missing the 2014 playoffs at the end of coach Barry Trotz’s tenure. General manager David Poile ran out of patience in January, firing Peter Laviolette and hiring John Hynes as Nashville’s third head coach.
With the NHL stopping play in March, the Predators had a final chance at the postseason only to lose their best-of-five qualifying series to Arizona in four games. The Predators said after losing that they liked how they played despite the result.
“Now it’s time to execute the words,” Hynes said as Nashville opened training camp. “It’s time to not have a say-and-do gap — say we’re going to do this but then we don’t do it. We want to take the gap out of what we said we want to be and now we’re able to get to work at it.”
Nashville went 16-11-1 under Hynes before the NHL stopped play in March. After the four games played in the bubble, Poile made some moves to add players onto the roster to better fit how Hynes wants the Predators to play.
One group Nashville needs better production from is its highly paid forwards. Matt Duchene had just 42 points in his first season with the Predators. Hynes isn’t saying if he’ll keep the top line of center Ryan Johansen with Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg together.
Johansen had only 36 points last season and his 22 assists were a big drop from 50 the season before in 12 fewer games played. Arvidsson had a 20-point dip scoring 28 points last season, and Forsberg has had fewer points in each of the past three seasons.
“We’re not panicking or anything, but we know it wasn’t good enough last year, and it’s something we’re looking to change,” Forsberg said.
NORRIS TROPHY WINNER
Captain Roman Josi won the Norris Trophy after scoring a career-high 65 points in 69 games, and he’s back to anchor the defense along with Ryan Ellis. The defense also got a bit younger with Dam Hamhuis retiring. Nashville has to improve defensively after allowing 3.07 goals a game last season, 20th in the NHL.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
The Predators will be leaning heavily on Juuse Saros, a restricted free agent after this season, and veteran Pekka Rinne. Saros started all four games against Arizona after going 17-12-4 in 34 starts last season with a 2.70 goals-against average.
Rinne, 38, is earning $5 million in the final year of his deal. He started 35 games last season but went 18-14-4 and had a 3.17 goals-against average. The 2018 Vezina Trophy winner is looking for a bounce-back, saying he was not happy with how he played last season.
“At this point in my career, only thing I’m thinking about is winning and and not so much personal things,” Rinne said.
Poile bought out the final four years of Kyle Turris’ $36 million deal. Poile also traded Nick Bonino and Austin Watson. The GM also signed Matt Benning, Nick Cousins, Mark Borowiecki and Brad Richardson.
The Predators still have Mikael Granlund, re-signing him to a one-year, $3.75 million contract. They also signed Erik Haula, Granlund’s former teammate in Minnesota.
Hynes now has two new assistants. He hired Dan Hinote in September and added Todd Richards, former Tampa Bay assistant and former head coach of Minnesota and Columbus, in October.
The Predators open the season Jan. 14 hosting Columbus, and their second game will be against the Blue Jackets on Jan. 16. That’s the first of nine sets of back-to-back games in this truncated season and the first of 23 times Nashville plays the same opponent in consecutive games.
They will have a pair of six-game road trips, the second in March while the Southeastern Conference takes over Bridgestone Arena for its men’s basketball tournament. Nashville wraps up the season May 8 against Carolina.
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