As the NHL nears a return from a four-plus month hiatus due to COVID-19, the Nashville Predators are among 16 teams preparing for the league’s Return to Play qualifying round leading up to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The regular season is finished, the 24 total teams in the playoffs will have one exhibition game each next week to warm up prior to being tossed straight into the fire, and, for all intents and purposes, each team is on a level playing ground to decide one of the strangest Stanley Cup champions in over a century.
One of the biggest questions, though, is how will teams prepare mentally for a direct jump into the postseason after a two-week training camp? There will be no preseason. There will be no split-squad scrimmages with other teams in different conferences to see which fringe player will make the opening night roster.
Each coach has a brief time period to figure out which players are going to work best on which line, who will start in goal, and which strategy will work best in trying to pull out a trio of victories to move on past the qualifying round.
For players, though, it’s different. They’ve had a four-month layoff from one of the most up-tempo professional sports in North America, not knowing if or when they’d be brought back to perform at the same level . . .
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