by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
(author’s note: The format of the page cut the first and third pictures in half. Please click on them to see the whole team.)
So happy to be here. The huddle was all smiles as Barry Trotz gave notes at the halfway point of practice.
January is over. The road trips that seemed to go on forever are now a memory. What remains are the points the Predators managed to accrue in hopes of getting a berth in the playoffs, a nod from the league to Pekka Rinne as a star of the month, Shea Weber’s star turn as the possessor of a deadly slap shot and the personification of personal grace and empathy during the All-Star Games and best of all, the undeniable atmosphere of optimism.
For those of you who had lost sight of the hope that carried the team from the Bridgestone Tent Revival that was the 2010 Skate of the Union to the occasional feeling of freefall that being a Predators fan in November and December could entail, there’s good news. The team that captured Nashville’s imagination last summer is back.
Pekka Rinne and Martin Erat get down to business during their first day back at the ‘Stone
Today’s practice was marked by hard work, sharp, clean play and a general feeling of camaraderie that comes from having survived the spate of injuries, missteps and losing streaks that plagued the team during the last weeks of 2010. Now the Predators are coming back and if what was on the ice is any indication, the best is yet to come.
The energy was up. The drills looked cleaner. The specificity of the skills exercises showed that everyone is going to be that much sharper tomorrow night. This could arguably be a post-break energy surge, but a look at who was on the ice suggests it was that and more.
Spread the word! Barry Trotz is getting the band back together!
The return of Steve Sullivan and Jordin Tootoo to the ice for today’s practice with the team contributed to the feeling that the Predators’ magic number was being restored. As the local NHL franchise, they do in essence belong to the city, but the spirit of teamwork and brotherhood that was evident as they welcomed back two of their own was something that writers can only grasp in the intellectual sense and fans can project as the stuff of personal daydreams. In truth, the only people who will ever truly get the bone-deep allegiance that pervaded what happened today are the guys who wear the laundry, possess the character that it takes to play in Nashville and do the hard work by lacing up every day to get ready for the games.
Wilson has a message for the rest of the NHL: Bring it!
This morale boost couldn’t come at a better time. The week ahead promises to be a tough one for the team as they face some of their strongest competition. The next two weeks will bring the Big Cats face to face with Calgary, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Colorado and Detroit times two. Casual glances at the standings have turned into long hard looks as speculation begins about the chances of the Big Cats going deeper into the postseason this time around. As the news spreads, and it will, so should the faith that this could be the year for Nashville.
Strength in numbers: The Brotherhood of the Smilodon gathers to plan their next move.
This is Jas Faulkner, who hopes everyone will come out and cheer as Nashville takes on the Flames, who are in Calgary and not Atlanta. I’ll be seeing you at the ‘Stone and the Plex and online at Twitter and Facebook!