(Reuters) – The Nashville Predators are on the road again to open the Stanley Cup Final on Monday against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, but they have every reason to feel confident.
The Predators began their first three playoff series away from home this year and won Game One each time on the way to their first Stanley Cup Final.
Nashville has developed a comfort zone on the road and embraced the opposing atmospheres at the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference first round, the St. Louis Blues in the second round and the Anaheim Ducks in the conference final.
“I think it’s just our mentality within the room,” Predators defenseman Matt Irwin told reporters on Saturday before the team traveled to Pittsburgh.
“We can play anywhere against anyone. We know what’s at stake in Game One; it’s an opportunity for us to get off on the right foot. It’s just another game for us, that’s the way we look at it.”
The Predators stumbled at first away from their Bridgestone Arena home this season, going 1-5-2 in their first eight games on the road. But the young team went 16-15-2 in their final 33 away games and are 5-3 away from home during the playoffs.
“I think that you can pull confidence from that,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You know that you can go into a building and find success. Our guys have made it a point of emphasis for Game 1.
“At some point we’re going to have to win a game on the road. We were the last one into the tournament and so we don’t get home ice at all. We knew that coming in and we knew we were going to have to win some road games.”
Nashville will have waited seven days since they defeated the Ducks in the conference final before getting back on the ice at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena to start the championship series.
But rest has served the Predators well during the playoffs.
They had six days off after sweeping Chicago in the first round and five days after beating the Blues in the second round.
“Waiting does get old,” forward Colin Wilson said. “But at the same time it’s always good in the playoffs to get a week off. It’s a pretty big grind so hopefully the rest will do us well.”
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Peter Rutherford)