If the last 11 months of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught professional athletes anything, it’s that they have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
The Nashville Predators are learning that lesson firsthand after having their Tuesday night game against the Carolina Hurricanes postponed after four Hurricanes players were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.
As of Wednesday afternoon, no Predators players were added to that list after having played the Hurricanes on Monday night.
Now, instead of playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Predators had an extra day of practice, a practice that was presumably the most intensive of the season as it ran over by about 30 minutes on Wednesday morning.
“As soon as the game got canceled, the coaches looked at each other and said, ‘You know what, we’ve got an opportunity to have two good practices going into the Dallas series,’” Predators coach John Hynes said. “We’ve played three games, and you’ve got a real good menu of things to choose from ... and some things that you really want to hammer home identity wise. To have today and tomorrow to be able to do it is a benefit.”
The Predators will have another practice on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena before departing for Dallas to face the Stars, who just went through their own COVID-19 battle and had to postpone the first four games of their season after 17 players tested positive before the season opener.
The Stars have yet to play a game this season, with their game against Nashville on Friday to serve as their season opener. Enough time has likely passed for all of Dallas’ players to get out of quarantine and get healthy. But the health and safety of themselves surely has to be in the back of the minds of Predators players.
“This sounds maybe a little crass, but you’ve got to use it to your advantage a little bit if we’re talking gamesmanship and just purely on NHL competition,” defenseman Mark Borowiecki said.
“They’re not quite up to game speed, I would assume, but at the same time, we can’t get complacent. If we think this is going to be an easy game for us because these guys have been sitting around, we’re going to get whacked pretty good. So, we need to go in there with a bit of a chip on our shoulder.”
If anyone knows about the severity of COVID-19, it’s Borowiecki, who had the virus last month. He and his wife Tara have an 11-month-old son at home, Myles, and the 31-year-old defenseman didn’t mince words when talking about the seriousness of taking the right precautions away from the ice.
“I feel like collectively here, not just our team but society as a whole, enough is enough of not taking this seriously,” he said. “You’re not just putting yourself at risk, you’re putting other people at risk. It’s one thing to think, ‘I’m going to be fine; I’m going to be healthy,’ but you don’t realize the potential health risks, and not to sound too shallow, but the inconvenience for a lot of people.
“In terms of being in a team environment, you’re not doing right by your teammates. Everyone has put so much effort into getting back into game shape, to go out and be irresponsible in any capacity, it could actually affect someone else’s season who’s actually doing all the right things. To me, that’s just not being a good teammate or a good person.”
Nashville has a two-game series scheduled against the Stars on Friday and Sunday before returning to Nashville to host the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday and Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_