After four long months the Nashville Predators were finally back together on their home ice at Bridgestone Arena Monday with the start of Training Camp, Covid-19 style.
The day marked the first day of two weeks of workouts before they head to the Edmonton Hub to play in the NHL playoffs.
“It was fantastic!” an excited head coach John Hynes said when asked about how it went. “I mean you come in and obviously there’s a new normal for all of us, but to just see the guys back in, you see the meetings, you see them back on the ice. It’s probably the most back to normal anywhere besides being at home with your family where you’re not concerned about things. Every time we go out in public we have masks, social distancing and things, just the excitement to be with the players.”
The players were all optimistic and excited to be back on the ice with familiar faces, including Hynes who replaced Peter Laviolette mid-season.
The Preds have three weeks until their best of five playoff series with Arizona begins, that means they have to be prepared to play at a high level very quickly. Rinne said today was a great start, “I felt that today was a good showing. Everybody was dialed in and right away, we brought in some system stuff and we brought in some penalty kill stuff.”
Rinne and Juuse Saros are perhaps the Predators biggest question headed into this Stanley Cup Tournament. Who do the Predators go with? The guy who has led them on to the ice for every playoff game for a decade or Saros who was red hot before Covid-19 shut things down.
Hynes has made it clear it is an open competion, “It’s competitive for every guy that steps on the ice for us right now to be in the lineup, to get the ice time they’re in, deserve the ice time they’re in. The two goaltenders are no different. That’s the life of a competitor.”
“Like everybody knows we have a great relationship” Rinne said, “but at the same time it’s a great competition at the same time and we both understand that. We’ll see how it plays out. The biggest thing from both perspective is we both want to help the team.”
Hynes said he has not even thought about a timeline for when he wants to make a decision about who starts in net, but with several back-to-back games looming in this format he said they would likely need both.
The Predators had full attendance on their first day of camp and Hynes said he does not expect any of the players to choose to “opt out” of the post season.