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Early season jitters normal for rookies and veterans alike

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As the Nashville Predators prepare for Thursday night’s season-opening game in St. Louis against the Blues, the players are eager to start the 82-game regular season schedule in front of them.

A veteran of over 1,000 NHL games, newly acquired center Matt Cullen is looking forward to Thursday night, his first game as a Predator.

“I definitely do get excited,” he said. “This time of year is awesome. As you start winding down camp, you really start to feel that excitement. We’re right around the corner here from another season. It is just that excitement of anything can happen. For me, it is always fun. I love the game and I am looking forward to it.”

On the other end of the games played spectrum is rookie Seth Jones, who will celebrate his 19th birthday Thursday by playing in his first-ever NHL contest. Already in his young hockey career, Jones has won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships and played in the Memorial Cup, but the number four pick in last June’s Entry Draft knows that the start of his professional career is a much different story.

“It is obviously pretty exciting, but it is good that I got a couple of preseason games under my belt to really get the feel,” Jones said. “It’s going to kick up to another level here for regular season, but I am very excited to get it started.”

Entering his fourth season as Nashville’s captain and ninth season overall, Shea Weber is looking to move past the team’s disappointing result in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and start with a clean slate on the full season ahead.

“Before that first game, I am definitely going to be a little bit nervous and excited,” Weber said. “It has been a while since we have played last, so until you get out there and take a hit or do something, it is always a little bit nerve-racking.”

With the amount of ice time Weber receives and the physical nature with which he plays the game, it leads one to believe that it will likely not be very far along into Thursday’s game before Weber records that first hit to calm his nerves.

And it is not just the players who have some butterflies in their stomachs, the coaches have them as well, and possibly even to a greater degree.

“I’ve been here from day one, and I looked at the schedule, and I go, ‘We could start the season 20-0, or 0-20. Every game is so hard, we may never win a game,’” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “And that scares you to death. I think every coach is like that. We’ve got to be good. We’ve got to be good to win a game. Even year one when I looked at our lineup and Colorado came in here and I looked at their lineup and I am going, ‘We may never win a game.’ We won 28. But I still have that gut feeling that you are never going to win a game. Until you win one, it sort of doesn’t go away.”

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