Predators face congested schedule with weary minds, bodies

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 11:46pm

Several Nashville Predators players needed to rest their bodies Wednesday, and they did.

With just over three weeks remaining in the season, though, no one is able to put their mind at ease.

“It’s stressful to have so much emphasis on every game going into the last stretch of the season here,” defenseman Cody Franson said. “When every game is that important, it’s tiring mentally, and we’re thankful we’re home here for the last stretch with as many games as we’re playing.”

With the Boston Bruins in town for a game Thursday (7 p.m. Bridgestone Arena), Nashville is set for three games in four days, the last time during the regular season it faces such a stretch.

After the game with the Bruins, the Predators will host Detroit on Saturday and then play at Buffalo on Sunday.

With that in mind, more than a third of the players sat out all or part of Wednesday’s workout, which was an abbreviated session as it was.

“We’re just playing lots of games, guys are getting banged up and playing hard,” coach Barry Trotz said. “So we’re just trying to get everybody healthy by giving maintenance days to guys. So we had a little bit of a skeleton crew [Wednesday].”

Among the missing was Joel Ward, a last-second scratch prior to Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles, a 4-2 loss that cost the Predators an opportunity to move back into the top eight of the Western Conference standings. Also out were David Legwand and Mike Fisher.

Ward has been one of the team’s hottest offensive players of late. His status is day-to-day with a lower body injury, and the plan is for him to participate in Thursday’s morning skate, at which time his availability for the game will be determined.

“I think there’s a good chance he’ll play [Thursday],” Trotz said. “We’ll see.”

The Bruins’ visit ends a stretch of 18 straight games against Western Conference opponents for the Predators. They went 8-7-3 over that period but 0-3-0 against the three teams directly ahead of them in the standings (Chicago, Dallas and Calgary) at the end of play Tuesday.

The matchup with an Eastern Conference team (Nashville is 7-4-4 against the East) does nothing to make anyone feel better.

“It’s probably more desperate,” Franson said. “[Tuesday] night against L.A., those were a huge two points for us to lose. We can’t afford to lose another two to Boston.”

Nor can they afford to lose anyone else to injury. So they’re doing what they can to avoid that.