Wednesday, for the first time in 15 days, the Predators stepped onto the Bridgestone Arena ice. With a successful road trip in the rear view mirror, the Predators are looking forward to spending most of February at home. Eight of their next 11 contests will actually be played at home.
“It feels great to be at home,” Pekka Rinne said Wednesday.
Following’s Thursday’s tilt against Los Angeles, the Predators will travel to Minnesota Saturday before starting a four-game home-stand Sunday when Chicago comes to town.
While it will be good to have a lot of home games coming up, there is concern for a potential letdown Thursday night. It will be their first game back home since the second game of the season, when they hosted St. Louis on Jan. 21. Dating back to 2010-11, the Predators have dropped each of the last three home games that have immediately followed a road trip of five games or more.
“We have to establish something here,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We have to get used to playing at home here again. Tomorrow will feel a little bit like a road game because we haven’t played here a whole heck of a lot. It will take us a period or two to feel back at home here.”
The Predators will be looking to build off Tuesday’s 6-1 win in St. Louis instead of taking a step back against the defending champs.
“We have to be the team that comes out of the gates, not the other way around. You can’t allow yourself to feel any more comfortable playing at home. You can’t lose any of that fire,” Rinne added.
Ignoring a possible letdown, the Predators have to feel good about how they have been playing of late. They seem to have found that Predator Hockey identity again, as they ride a three-game winning streak heading into Thursday’s action. The team hasn’t allowed an even strength goal since last Monday’s shutout loss in Phoenix.
“It’s always good to finish a road trip on a strong note like we did,” Rinne said. “We’ve been strong defensively and playing more of our style of game.”
The Predators, who have been one of the league’s stronger home teams in recent years, will be the last team to capture their first win on home ice this season. They are one of two teams (Chicago being the other) to have only played two home games thus far.
Patric Hornqvist, who has been out since Jan. 26 with a sprained knee, was a spectator during Wednesday’s practice as he sat on the Predators bench for a few minutes.
“He’s doing quite well,” said Trotz, who mentioned Hornqvist has begun working out with weights. “Hopefully he’ll get on the ice here shortly.”
Hornqvist was initially given a three-to-four week recovery period. This Saturday will be the two-week mark.