At this point, it’s not just construction of the Nashville Predators’ roster that has yet to be completed.
The players’ locker room at Bridgestone Arena, damaged in the May floods, also remains a work in progress and – as of Thursday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Hurricanes – uninhabitable.
“It wasn’t really a normal game experience for us,” coach Barry Trotz said following a 3-1 loss to the Hurricanes before a crowd of 14,627. “It will be very nice when they get it done. Hopefully, they’ll give us a couple days to move in. We’re hoping it’s not done on Oct. 8 and they say, ‘We got it done on time.’ That just disrupts everything.
“So if the contractors are listening, Oct. 5 would be a good day.”
Trotz and his staff, on the other hand, have all the way until Oct. 9, the day they open the season against Anaheim, to complete their task.
With that in mind, they used this game, the first of four in five days, to inspect some of their raw materials. The lineup was loaded with high draft draft picks like center Blake Geoffrion, right wing Jonas Andersson, left wing Taylor Beck and defensemen Jonathon Blum and Ryan Ellis.
“They had all their top guys – they probably had three of their lines in for the year as well as, probably, four of their (defensemen),” Trotz said. “All their big names were pretty well in there. Our top four on defense were not in the game. … It was more about evaluation for us.”
While the group came together well enough to build a number of good scoring chances, particularly in the third period when they outshot Carolina 11-4, the Predators’ lone goal came from a pillar of the team in recent years, J.P. Dumont. Intent on rebuilding his reputation as a scorer and not just a passer, he capitalized on a giveaway in the Carolina end and gave Nashville a 1-0 lead with an unassisted goal at 9:18 of the opening period.
“That was one of the main things with me the last few years, ‘I don’t shoot enough,’” Dumont said. “That chance I that I had was in the slot so I took the shot. I really liked the result.
It was clear early on that one critical piece of the foundation is in place and ready for anything.
Goalie Pekka Rinne started and played the first 23:03 against a Carolina lineup weighted much more heavily with established NHL players. He made 17 saves (a couple of them spectacular) on 18 shots and left with the score tied 1-1.
“Every game you take seriously and you give your best every time you go out there,” Rinne said. “Give some credit to (the Hurricanes). I thought they played pretty well. … I think it was a good first game, a pretty solid effort.”
One might say it was one to build on.
As for the locker room, Rinne said, “I saw it (Thursday) morning. They were still doing a little bit of construction. For sure, it’s not ready, but it should be ready pretty soon.
“It looks great. I think the basic setup is just like we used to have, just maybe a little bit upgraded.”
They can only hope the same is true of the roster once it is set.
The Predators and Hurricanes play again Friday at Raleigh.
Nashville’s lineup for that game will be:
Goalies: Mark Dekanich, Anders Lindback.
Defensemen: Jonathon Blum, Francis Bouillon, Aaron Johnson, Kevin Klein, Teemu Laakso, Ryan Suter.
Forwards: Jonas Andersson, Martin Erat, Ryan Flynn, Matt Halischuk, David Legwand, Jamie Lundmark, Cal O’Reilly, Nick Spaling, Andreas Thuresson, Jordin Tootoo, Joel Ward, Colin Wilson.