NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators believe they learned a couple of important lessons in reaching the first Stanley Cup final in the franchise's history.
Play at home as much as possible.
As the second wild-card team in the West, the Predators lost only once on home ice while winning the Western Conference, and their second loss in Nashville came in a painful Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final . Every game was a sellout with thousands piled outside watching on outdoor TV screens for some of the biggest parties Music City had ever seen.
Starting even one playoff series at home could be the boost that helps them hoist the Stanley Cup next June, so a higher seed is the first goal as the Predators open their first season as defending conference champs.
"That's something as a group we have to remember,"
The Predators can help their goal of a better seed with a better start. They went 2-5-1 in October last season before finishing fourth in the Central Division with 94 points. Goaltender Pekka Rinne says they can't assume they can pick up where they left off in June.
"Obviously, we're going to try to carry that momentum at the start of the season, but we really can't think that we played in the finals, so automatically now we are more ready to play or something like that," Rinne said. "We got to prove that again and really have to bear down in the beginning of the season and hopefully get off to a good start."
Here are some things to know about the Predators who open the season Oct. 5 at Boston:
JOHANSEN'S CONTRACT: General manager David Poile gave Johansen the biggest contract ever handed out by the Predators with an eight-year, $64 million deal in July . Johansen tied for the team lead last season with 61 points, and he played even better in the
"Being injured and not being able to be out there and contribute gives me more motivation to have a good, healthy year and try to give myself a chance to play in that situation," Johansen said of missing the Stanley Cup Final.
OTHER BIG DEAL: Poile was very busy this
NEW, OLD FACES: Anticipating the retirement of captain Mike Fisher , Poile also shored up his
Bonino had surgery after signing with Nashville on the foot he broke during the Stanley Cup Final but expects to be ready for the season opener. His new teammates have been ribbing him about leaving the two-time Stanley Cup champs, but Bonino said he sees a similar hunger among the Predators as his second year in Pittsburgh.
"We wanted it that much more because you know what it feels like," Bonino said of being so close to the Cup.
"He can create a lot of room and space out there for players on his own team because of the fact guys on the other team have to keep their head up when they're out there with him," Subban said.
BACKING UP RINNE: The Predators found their eventual successor to Rinne last season in Juuse Saros, and now the only question is how many more games they give the young goalie to keep Rinne rested and healthy.
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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press