The first Nashville Predators training camp under head coach Andrew Brunette is starting to wind down as there is just one more practice at Centennial Sportsplex before the team’s final two preseason games.
Brunette put the remaining 27 players through a quick-paced practice session on Tuesday as he tried to narrow down his final cuts before the deadline on Oct. 9.
“I think we’re playing faster,” Brunette said. “I think there’s still some comfort level in parts of our game, but I think they’ve grasped that a little bit of the heading north fast. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it, I think we just got to clean up some of the other things.”
There are eight defensemen left on Nashville’s roster, and just one was an American Hockey League regular last year — Marc Del Gaizo, who said he had a chip on his shoulder at the beginning of camp as he inches closer to making his NHL debut.
He’s pushing teammates like Dante Fabbro, Alexandre Carrier, and Jeremy Lauzon. All are blue-liners who are learning a new system too and need to take advantage of the time they have left.
“I’m just trying to construct myself trying to get ready for the beginning of the season,” Lauzon said. “We still have two exhibition games. I just want to make a good impression and show the management I can help the team win night in and night out.”
Brunette stated he’s looking for chemistry among the D-men in the final week of camp. He’s found pieces to like via the line rushes from the last few skates while trying to establish his foundation as the newest bench boss teaching an entire new group the way he wants the game played.
Unofficial line rushes today:
Forsberg – ROR – Parssinen
Gurianov – Glass – Nyquist
Tomasino – Novak – Evangelista
Sherwood – Jankowski – McCarron
Trenin – Sissons – Smith
Josi – McDonagh
Fabbro – Carrier
Del Gaizo – Fabbro
Lauzon – Barrie
— Nick Kieser 🏒 (@KieserNick) October 3, 2023
“Again, I don’t know all these players all that well,” Brunette said. “I’m just trying to see what fits with who and do they develop any chemistry or not? And then obviously, the little details, little things of the habits that I think are important. And then the details in the structure a little bit of our system is a little loose right now. So I think we’re trying to tighten that up.”
Lauzon’s positioning was on point during Tuesday’s skate. He kept from biting too early on pucks during the 2-on-1 drills, and he would wait until a shot to commit an on-time poke check or allow goaltenders Juuse Saros or Kevin Lankinen to make a save on different reads he had throughout practice.
Carrier batted a few pucks down in the same drill, while Fabbro didn’t make it easy when forwards wanted to make a quick break at the net. Fabbro and Del Gaizo were paired together during the 2-on-2 drills, and when it came time to box forwards out, they weren’t afraid to claim their best spot on the ice when defending a shot.
“I’m looking for them to keep understanding the system,” Brunette said. “The way that play puts a lot of pressure on them as the forward group is gonna be a little bit better to help them all, but I think were some things that we do a little different that they’re trying to grasp. I think we’re getting better every day, but we got to continue to work on it every day.”
Lauzon is a veteran of 209 NHL games. As he continues through training camp, he knows as the final days get dire he needs to make an impression on Brunette and the rest of the coaches. Along the way, he’s been asking questions from the older defensemen as he gets a fresh start with Brunette.
“I think we’re buying into the new system, so we’re excited to get it going here,” Lauzon said. “You have to be quick on pucks and close quick and that fits really well with the kind of player I am a hard-nosed defenseman.”
Follow Nick Kieser on Twitter/X: @KieserNick