The Predators are deeper into the notably taxing Stanley Cup Playoffs than they've ever been before, yet they've never felt better.
Through two grueling seven game series a year ago, the Preds racked up more than 20,000 miles flying back and forth to Anaheim and San Jose. The wear and tear of that travel was evident at the end of the Sharks series when the Predators seemingly had nothing left to give in a 5-0 game seven loss.
"I think we just ran out of gas," defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "It's so much better not having to travel across country every flight."
This season the Predators took the road of less travel through the first two rounds with series against Central Division rivals Chicago and St. Louis. Couple the shorter trips with the fact that they played four fewer games thanks to a sweep of the Blackhawks and a six game decision over the Blues and the Preds have traveled ten times fewer miles than they did a year ago.
While that may not be good for their frequent flyer miles, the Predators are grateful for their easier path.
"When you're in the middle of it you try not to make it a big deal," Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. "But it does make a difference. It was nice to stay in the division (this year)."
So as the Predators finally return to the west coast for their first ever conference final game Friday night, travel logistics should not play a factor.
If anything, Nashville may have caught a schedule advantage. After clinching their second round series win, the Preds were able to take Monday and Tuesday off from on-ice activities while the Ducks had to grind out a seven-game series win over the Oilers just Wednesday night.
That extra rest means the Preds have had a similar workload this week as they had leading up to each of the first two rounds when they were able to steal game one in both Chicago and St. Louis.
"I think we're grateful for the extra rest," forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. "We had kind of the same situation before Chicago and St. Louis and I think it just gives you the chance to have more energy."
The Predators hope the freshness they feel can carry them however long this series lasts. Their ultimate goal still sits a month away, and they plan to be in it for the long haul.
There's no excuses this time. They're rested and ready to go.