As the Washington Capitals look to find consistency and get back to their winning ways against the Nashville Predators, head coach Peter Laviolette will be behind the bench for one of the most meaningful games of his career so far.
Not only is Laviolette one victory away from 700 in his career, but he is also in for his first game back in Nashville since his dismissal from the Predators in 2019-20 following a 15-17-9 start to the campaign.
“It’s always a little bit different when you come back,” Laviolette explained. “Been here for five years going on six. A lot of memories, lot of friends. Good things that happened. Hit me first just leaving the airport and driving downtown… It’s good to be back.”
Laviolette has coached for five different clubs in his 20-year NHL career, but he was with Nashville the longest. He was behind the bench for 451 games with the Preds, going 248-143-60 while leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and helping them clinch a Presidents’ Trophy to boot.
“Watching that unfold the way it did the city of Nashville and the surrounding towns and cities as well embraced it the way the town gets shut down and the number of people that flooded into downtown Nashville as the playoffs moved on from Conference Finals to Finals, the country music stars that got behind it as well just made it an incredible atmosphere to be a part of. Those things you’ll remember the crowds out in the street, you’ll remember the fans, the empty-net goal that pushed us to the FInals… Those are some things that you’ll remember.”
But, beyond the milestones, Laviolette said he remembers the connections he made throughout Nashville during his tenure the most.
“[My mind] always goes first to what we were able to build what we were able to create in here and I think that leads to the memories whether it be runs in the playoffs or winning some rounds or Presidents’ Trophies or all of those things I think it’s the people you meet while you’re here along the way. You remember the players and the organization you remember the fans in the building and all that is pretty cool so all of that was put in place and then we were able to do some things on the ice and it kind of brought everything together and made it loud and made it special. There were some good things here.”
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The first person Laviolette saw back in Nashville was locker room attendant Craig “Partner” Baugh.
“We two massive bear hugs on each other, exchanged our ‘I love yous’ and it was great to see him. He’s such a terrific person. He was the first person I saw when I got here this morning. It was spectacular,” Laviolette said.
Now with the Capitals and on the cusp of a milestone, Laviolette said that his stop in Nashville will always hold a special place for him and that he’s still happy to be coaching at the NHL level with Washington.
“I think you know when you get moved on from, the first you know you’re looking back wondering if you’ll ever get another chance. And I’ve been fortunate to be a part of this league and part of the game and the NHL, and I’ve been fortunate to experience great cities. I’ll probably remember that more than I’ll remember anything else or a reason why or what happened,” Laviolette said. “You know, I look back at the stops I’ve been and so for me the successes and those memories… You remember the good things.”
Laviolette said that it’s odd at first coming back, but as a coach, the perspective is a bit different.
“I’m not playing the game. I’d imagine for the players that’s why they say it’s tough coming back. [I’m] just coaching,” Laviolette explained, adding, “When you’re in a place for a period of time, it’s always just a little bit different coming back. It happens for everybody. Everybody moves around and goes to different places. Just a little bit different. Once the game starts, it’ll just be about the game and the players on the ice. They’re playing really well right now. We need to get a win they need to get a win so it should be a good game.”
Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET. Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals are eager to see Laviolette get to 700, which would be even more meaningful back in Nashville.
“We gonna be happy for him obviously. He knows how to win. He love the game and we will be happy for him,” Ovechkin said.
“I think he’s honest to the player. He loves hockey. That’s the most important thing. He wants to win, he always wants to be a champion. He’s that kind of person.”