Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz thinks the hardest round for a team to get past successfully in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the first round.
The Predators are definitely familiar with that problem. For the past three years they have stalled in the first round, once against the Red Wings and twice against the San Jose Sharks.
Thursday night at 6 they will face Detroit in Game 1 of the quarterfinals at the Joe Louis Arena. Game 2 is Saturday at 2 in Detroit.
“It’s all hyped-up on emotion,” said Trotz. “Teams are really, really on a high. I can’t speak about the second round on the NHL level, but I can on the American Hockey League level. In that league that farther you go, it gets easier because you are more on an even keel.
“You see it every year on the NHL level how vicious the first round can be. Everybody puts pressure on getting past that round.”
The Predators have developed both a rivalry and healthy respect for the Red Wings in the past 10 seasons. This season the record for the eight-game series was 3-3-2. The Red Wings won the Presidents’ Trophy for the most points in the NHL this season.
“For the most part we just wanted to get into the playoffs,” said Predators team captain Jason Arnott. “Who we were going to play really didn’t matter.
“With Detroit we are playing against a veteran team and a really good team,” Arnott said. “They didn’t win the Presidents’ Trophy for nothing. It is not going to be easy. They are going to be fired up. They are going to come at us with everything they have got. We are going to have to be ready at the first drop of the puck.”
Center Scott Nichol knows the Red Wings have a depth of talent, but he thinks the Predators can stay with them for a seven-game series.
“We have a real good skating team,” said Nichol. “All four of our lines skate well and all four of their lines skate well. We have to make them skate. We both have real mobile defensemen.
“It will all come down to who wants it more, special teams and big goals. They have the experience. They win every year. But there is always a Cinderella story each year. Why not us?”
Nichol echoes the rest of the team when he stresses that the playoffs are really a new season. Everyone starts at 0-0 and any of the 16 teams remaining can win it all if everything falls into place.
“It has been a struggle all year for us,” Nichol said. “But this is a new season. It was just meant to be. It was destiny. However you want to say it things really worked out for us.
“It sounds a little cheesy, but we really all do care for each other. We all came together as a unit and played hard for each other. It hasn’t mattered who is in the lineup. Guys have been stepping up. Everyone on this team considers it to be their own and I think it shows.”
LEGWAND UNCERTAIN: Center David Legwand tested out his injured foot Monday in a workout on the ice with Predators strength and conditioning coach David Good. Legwand skated in full equipment, but Trotz doesn’t know when to expect his return. He will not practice with the team today, but Trotz wouldn’t rule out a team workout Wednesday.
“I think he has ramped it up another 25 percent from where he was,” Trotz said. “We’ll see how he responds. You can’t go from zero to 60 in one day. He has to sort of build it up, but his work load has increased substantially. He has done a good job of keeping himself in shape.”
Legwand, from Detroit, plays some of his best games against the Red Wings.
“We will do what is right for the player in the long run,” Trotz said. “That is what we always do. David wants to get in as quick as possible. We will let David and the doctors determine that. When he’s ready to play all he has to do is let me know when he gets the OK.”