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Coach lightens Preds' mood, wears bull's head for road wins

Nashville Predators celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Edmonton, Alberta, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

By TERESA M. WALKER

AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Nashville coach Peter Laviolette pulled out a bull's head to lighten the grind of the 82-game NHL regular season and challenge the Predators to get a couple of road wins.

Win both games in western Canada, and Laviolette would put on the bull's head while talking to reporters.

The Predators won both contests, beating Calgary 5-3 and shutting out the Oilers in Edmonton 3-0 on Saturday night.

So Laviolette put on the bull's head.

"Guys want to have fun at the end of the day," Laviolette said Monday. "When there's a couple minutes left in the game and Roman (Josi) finally puts in the empty netter and they're laughing at me and calling for Bushwhacker at the press conference you know I'm in trouble. So like I said, it was fun. It was good to go up there and win a couple games and just have some fun."

This isn't the first time, and likely not the last, that Laviolette has offered up a quirky challenge to his Predators. Last season, Laviolette and his coaches wore Christmas suits during a game just before the holiday.

Laviolette's wife, Kristen, spotted the bull's head at a store and brought it home knowing her husband would use it somehow. The bull's head reminded Laviolette of the famed rodeo bull, Bushwhacker.

"He goes into teams' buildings and he dismantles people," Laviolette said of the now-retired Bushwhacker. "And we needed that type of an effort going up into western Canada."

Credit Josi the captain with figuring out that Laviolette would wear the bull's head while talking to reporters if the Predators won both games.

With the victories, the defending Presidents' Trophy winners sit atop both the Central Division and the NHL with 14 points and a 7-1 record having won five straight games.

"When he tried it on, everybody was laughing because it actually moved with his mouth, which was pretty sick," forward Filip Forsberg said. "So yeah, he's a man of his word. Everybody appreciated that."

Defenseman P.K. Subban was among those who shot video of Laviolette wearing the head, and photos were on the wall inside the locker room Monday with the coach wearing the head and giving a thumb's up beside goalie Juuse Saros. Two more photos show Laviolette talking with reporters.

"Everybody got a good kick out of it," Subban said. "I think professional sports sometimes can be a little too serious, so it's always nice when you can have some fun like that with your coach."

Laviolette has made it very clear he will never wear the bull's head again.

"He's done, he's retired," Laviolette said after practice Monday. "He won't be coming back."

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Updated October 22, 2018

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