Pressure cranked up

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

Barry Trotz calls it the most miserable winter in Nashville in 10 years.

He was talking about the weather, not the hockey.

"It's cold," the head coach of the NHL's Predators was saying from his office yesterday. "Usually we're golfing this time of year. I've had to wear a pretty heavy jacket the last while."

Apparently, Dauphin's favourite son is getting soft.

Again, we're not talking hockey.

Because Trotz's team remains locked in a dogfight for not only first place in the Western Conference, but first overall.

And now they've got Peter Forsberg, one of the top players in the game, acquired from Philadelphia last week.

Start scripting the Stanley Cup acceptance speech, right?

Maybe not.

Because the super Swede brought more than phenomenal ability with him to Music City. He also brought a load of expectation, the kind of thing that can weigh you down like a grand piano.

After a first-round playoff loss last year, Trotz was already expected to push the Preds through a longer run this spring. And that was before Peter the Great got on board.

"The pressure's cranked up," Trotz agreed. "And there's nothing wrong with pressure as long as you deal with it correctly and realistically. If you put unrealistic pressure on yourself then you're probably not going to be successful. It's something we're learning to deal with."

Trotz has learned, too, that you don't just throw two of the league's top players together and instantly create Gretzky-Kurri II.

Through two games, Forsberg and linemate Paul Kariya haven't scored.

"They keep running into each other because they haven't played with each other," Trotz joked. "We're sort of laughing. They'd be, 'What are you doin' here? I'm over here. Why are you over here?' They need a little growth period here."

Actually, the thing may be sprouting already.

Because Monday night against Phoenix, Forsberg and Kariya apparently did everything except put the puck in the net.

"They could have had about eight," Trotz said. "Nothing showed up on the scoreboard, but they were dominant. The more you're around him, you realize how good he really is.

"Getting to know him as a person has been neat, because I didn't know much about him. He's a little bit quiet. You find out why he's really good, just the way he prepares and does things. He does them full speed."

Sounds like the former Dauphin Kings and U of M Bisons head coach is going to have a front-row seat to something special.

"The biggest challenge is making it all work, finding everybody a role and a comfort level they can all accept. Some other players will get their roles reduced now, and how do they deal with that? Our job is to hopefully sell it to them: this is what we have to do to be successful."

All eyes, of course, are on Forsberg's health, specifically the foot injury that's plagued him this season. From what he's told the Preds, that might be history.

"He said he feels like he's 20 years old," Trotz said. "Everything's dialed in. He's got no real issues."

All the attention's been a god-send in Nashville, where hockey can use all the help it can get.

But Trotz wouldn't mind if the media spotlight cooled down just a little.

"Right now because we got Peter we're probably the flavour of the week. Who knows, later this week with all the general managers in Florida, maybe somebody gets a Bill Guerin or a Keith Tkachuk or maybe another deal, and somebody else becomes the flavour of the week."

At least until the Preds make that long playoff run.

Trotz wouldn't mind putting off golf until well into the Nashville summer.


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