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Nashville Predators

Andrew Brunette Has Predators Locked In As Playoff Race Heats Up



Photo by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Tuesday night’s tilt between the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights is a big one.

Vegas trails Nashville by just three points in the wild-card race after knocking off the St. louis Blues on Monday, and the Predators are only five points back of the Winnipeg Jets for third place in the Central Division.

After taking the team photo on Monday morning prior to an optional practice, head coach Andrew Brunette sounded off on what he believes has started to click for the Predators during their 17-game point streak.

“I think they’ve recognized, I’ve kind of said this a few times, sometimes what I’m asking them to do they maybe don’t understand why,” Brunette said. “Why do I have to do these sort of things? When you get results, I think, you start understanding it and believing in it. And you got 20 guys right now believing in it and pulling each other into the fight every night and understanding, starting to understand the why, you know, of why I’m asking them certain things.”

Though things have been going right, Brunette believes he can push the team harder to perform even better.

“You know, when you’re winning you sometimes have to correct more because…when you’re losing, it’s maybe take the foot off the gas a little bit and let them play,” Brunette stated. “So, it’s that balance; it’s always balance.”

Brunette also expressed how crucial it is to keep the team invigorated and focused down the stretch as the weather gets warmer and the gaps between teams competing for playoff spots become more narrow.

“I think for us, we have to stay energized,” he added. “That’s a big part of how we play. We have to have the enthusiasm, the energy to play, and so, I think you balance both, you’ve got to stay sharp. Mentally is probably as much as anything this time of year, especially the weather gets a little nicer outside, you know, the sun’s out, days are longer, the golf clubs are hanging around the corner a little bit.

“So I think that for us it’s the focus, it’s the mental part of this year. And we’ve got a lot of work to do. I mean we’re not, you know, again we’re moving straight ahead, I still think we can get better.” 

Brunette has a self-imposed standard he wants his team to play at and he doesn’t shy away from expressing his frustrations when that standard isn’t met.

Despite the franchise-record point streak, Brunette prefers to keep it business as usual with every game being important and every point being crucial.

While it’s easy to be optimistic when the team is winning, the ultimate test will come when Nashville eventually suffers its first regulation loss in over a month. How does that relentless mentality translate in adversity? The Vegas game will surely be a test.

While Vegas is coming to Nashville unaccompanied by one of its primary goaltenders, Adin Hill, it’s coming with a multitude of fanfare about its use of long-term injured reserve.

Putting that topic aside for another day, Vegas has experienced its ups and downs but enter the game having won three straight and six of its last 10 as it seeks to solidify its wild-card spot and chase down the Predators, who occupy the top spot in the wild card standings, as well as the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings, who sit near the top of the Pacific Division.

Although goaltender Logan Thompson started Monday in St. Louis, it’s probable he’s in net again for the back-to-back as Jiri Patera was recently recalled to replace Hill. It would make sense for a more seasoned goaltender to be in net with Vegas needing to collect as many points as possible.

Other notable absences for Tuesday’s game include Golden Knights captain Mark Stone (LTIR), Alex Pietrangelo (illness), and Tomas Hertl (LTIR and has yet to make an appearance since the blockbuster trade deadline acquisition from the San Jose Sharks).

Despite these absences, Nashville should be in for a battle. This will be a game that puts Brunette and Nashville’s relentless M.O. to the ultimate test. Good news for the Predators, however, is it appears Jeremy Lauzon may return for Tuesday’s game after Brunette called him a game-time decision following morning skate.

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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