Predators' 'simple' strategy works like charm vs. Caps

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BALTIMORE | The Predators’ Barry Trotz is the second-longest-tenured coach in the NHL, behind only Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff. Neither has won a Stanley Cup behind the bench with that team, but smarts and getting a lot, often from limited talent, has kept them both employed.

Trotz knew exactly what he was doing going into Tuesday night’s preseason game against the Capitals at 1st Mariner Arena. His Predators had just played a doubleheader at Florida on Monday and flown back to Nashville before going to BWI, and 14 guys who played against the Panthers were in the lineup vs. the Caps.

Plus, as a former assistant coach with the Baltimore Skipjacks of the American Hockey League, Trotz knew a little about the conditions he and his team were going to encounter, even though players didn’t step onto the ice there until warmups at around 6:30 p.m.

“The conditions were what they were in a hot building, so you’ve really got to be mentally tough. So we talk about, let’s keep it simple,” he said. “We can’t control the humidity and the heat and all that – let’s just have to play a simple game and be really mentally tough.”

Trotz and his Predators won their first playoff series in franchise history last year, with a roster not much different than they’ll have for 2011-12. It’s no secret that Nashville doesn’t play an up-tempo style, and that played to its favor Tuesday.

“We had a little more structure. We knew that the Caps have so much firepower, that we have to play a real patient, smart game, get on the forecheck a little bit, and not give them too many chances,” Trotz said. “And when they did have chances, our goaltender was pretty good.”

Pekka Rinne (and then Jeremy Smith) were impressive, though few of the Caps’ 29 shots represented quality scoring chances.

The two goals the Predators scored came as a result of a Washington turnover and a broken play that Colin Wilson turned into an insurance marker. They were hard-working goals, though, and by design.

“We had to say, even from our standpoint, let’s not try to be too creative here because a little bit of the conditions don’t allow you to do that,” Trotz said.

It worked out for the Predators. And it’s a style that Nashville fans should expect to see continue (and continuing to thrive) once the games start counting.

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