Tonight’s Game One against Detroit will be the playoff debuts of a handful of Predators. Forward Gabriel Bourque and defenseman Roman Josi will certainly be making their debut, and possibly Craig Smith as well.
“[I’ll] just tell them to have some fun and enjoy the moment,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said this morning. “It’s going to be a level that they might not have seen through the 82 games.”
Bourque, who had 19 points in 43 games in the regular season, has played a valuable energy role ever since being called up from Milwaukee. He mentioned that he has a bit of nerves heading into tonight’s game.
“When I wake up from my pre-game nap it’ll start to get exciting and I’ll be more nervous than usual,” Bourque said. “I just need to stay focused on my game and play the same way I’ve played all year.”
Bourque mentioned that some of the veterans have pulled him aside to let him know what to expect in a playoff setting.
“David Legwand talked to me this morning,” Bourque said. “He said just to do the same thing I’ve been doing every game and that it’s just going to be louder in the building.”
Mike Fisher has been through the playoff wars throughout his career, playing in 87 career playoff contests between Ottawa and Nashville.
“We’ve talked about it in the last few days, trying to channel the energy in the right ways and being disciplined,” Fisher said of the rookies making their debuts tonight. “There’s no need to nervous.
“At first a lot of emotions are high. It’s similar to going from exhibition to regular season – that kind of jump.”
Josi, who doesn’t expect to have a lot of butterflies tonight, has played important minutes this season, and his role may increase with Hal Gill a question mark heading into the game. Meanwhile, Smith couldn’t wipe the smile off his face in anticipation for tonight – even though he doesn’t know if he’s going to be in the lineup or not.
“Whoever is playing, they’ll be ready. I know I am. I wish we could play right now,” Smith said. “I’ve been in the playoffs before, but obviously not at this big of a stage. There are going to be some differences. We need to make sure we stay within our game, but elevate everything.”
With two, maybe three rookies making their playoff debut tonight, some may think that it could be a risk having that many youngsters playing in a new situation. However, Trotz doesn’t see an issue with it.
“As long as they aren’t in that wow moment where they go ‘Wow’ and not think about the game and not focus on their tasks,” Trotz said, “but I don’t see that being a problem.”
Defenseman Hal Gill (lower-body injury) is a game-time decision tonight, head coach Barry Trotz said this morning. Jack Hillen or Ryan Ellis would take Gill’s spot on the blue-line if Gill is unable to play.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” captain Shea Weber said. “We’ve got guys that can step up and guys that have played well for us. It’s no big deal if he can’t go; we’ll be ready.”
Not having Gill would be a moderate blow to the defense corps, though; he has been an invaluable part of the blue-line. He has logged important minutes and the penalty kill is 51-for-57 since he arrived.