NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Predators coach Barry Trotz says the lockout-shortened season will feel like groundhog day for players once the NHL resumes play with the constant travel and playing and shame on anyone not ready.
"We've had a lot of time off," Trotz said Tuesday.
The Predators anticipate opening training camp either Saturday or Monday at the latest and opening the season likely Jan. 19. First, players must vote on the deal and the NHL has to finish putting together an expected 48-game season.
Nashville has made the playoffs seven of the past eight seasons and reached the Western Conference semifinals each of the past two years, earning the No. 4 seed last spring. The Predators lost defenseman Ryan Suter to Minnesota through free agency but matched a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet for captain Shea Weber, a big commitment by the team's owners. They also re-signed defensemen Kevin Klein and Hal Gill and forwards Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad, Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson to new contracts.
Trotz said hopefully what the Predators have fostered in the franchise's first 15 years hopefully will pay dividends in a shortened season that will test coaches and players daily.
"You're going to have things hit you right between the eyes and you're going to have to react the next day," Trotz said. "It can't phase you. Teams that don't get phased are going to be the ones able to get through this 48-game schedule. It's going to be compressed. It's going to be a grind. It's going to be a groundhog day for players because they're going to play or travel almost every day."
Trotz talked to reporters at the team's practice facility where some of the Predators practiced for a second straight day after the agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. Forward Colin Wilson and Brandon Yip joined their teammates with more expected in coming days. The coach compared being limited to watching and not able to coach to the final days before training camp usually opens in September.
The coach did speak to a few of his players, limited though until the players ratify the new agreement.
"I'm not going to walk by a player and not talk to him," Trotz said. "We got too good of a relationship and hopefully everything gets ratified. Just asking them how was their time off, what have they been up to, that type of thing. I think that's just being professional and being cordial."
Weber led a group of Predators who spent the lockout working out about 15 miles south of Nashville, though six players went to Europe including top goaltender Pekka Rinne and Kostitsyn. Others are expected to trickle back to Nashville in the next couple of days, and Trotz said he understood that Kostitsyn would be returning Tuesday night.
Wilson said he and Yip just happened to rejoin their teammates on the same day and the forward called it exciting to get back on the ice with his teammates after being isolated back home with his family. Wilson said the lockout was mentally taxing.
"I really felt like an unemployed bum sitting around at home every day," Wilson said.
Trotz sounds like he knows the feeling very well too. He said team officials have had so much time to organize and prepare for the start of the season that they needed only 30 minutes for a meeting Tuesday morning. He knows he can't prepare for one challenge that will hit him on the first day of training camp in the team's first session on the ice since losing to Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals last spring.
"I guarantee you at the first practice I probably won't be able to talk to you. My voice will be gone," Trotz said. "I haven't yelled. I haven't screamed. You go on the ice ... you have to speak at a lot higher tone and your voice is not even prepared for that. We're going to be a little rusty in some areas."
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