The Nashville Predators return to action tonight at 7 p.m. at the Sommet Center against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Predators are currently riding a five game win streak and are the hottest team in the NHL.
Entering tonight’s contest, the Predators are in a seventh place tie with Edmonton with 68 points, two points behind the sixth place Blue Jackets. With a win the Preds will move into a tie with Columbus at the 70 point mark.
The Predators are coming off a wild game on Tuesday with Edmonton that had six lead changes and ended on a Jason Arnott power play goal in overtime. Defensively and in goal the Preds did not have one of their better games but they were still able to claim victory and move up in the standings.
The players and coaching staff appear excited about their renewed chances for postseason play. Left for dead at the all-star break, the Predators are 12-5-1 since then.
After the game, David Legwand’s remarks typified the team’s excitement, “We can’t sit back now, Thursday we play Columbus and they’re still in front of us so it is a must-win one again. This is an exciting time to play hockey, here at the end of the season being in the mix. The teams that are out of it probably aren’t having as much fun as we are."
Legwand further added, “It’s a challenge, obviously, we’re playing a lot of minutes and they’re counting on us - Arnie, J P and Sully to do the job and that’s what we have to do. We don’t want to be done playing hockey April tenth, out of the playoffs, and just watching, we are doing everything we can do to get in”.
Coach Barry Trotz talked about the team’s recent run and their move in the standings, “When we came back from the All-Star break, we got off to a pretty good start. When you get 8 or 9 games into it, and you go 6-2, it looks like you haven’t really gained any ground on anybody. It’s come back for us and the guys have stayed with it and been persistent, which we talk about just about every night, so good things can happen. You have to go up the ladder one step at a time.
All five games in the Predator’s win streak have been different types of games from Tuesday’s roller-coaster win, to last Saturday’s blowout of the Wings, to the come from behind win against Chicago a week ago.
Coach Trotz was asked if any of the games built more confidence than the others, “They all have a different kind of fulfillment, and they all challenged the different layers of your team and different layers of character, comeback wins, a real good start against Detroit, and this one was a back and forth type of game, so it challenges you and makes you stronger. You find out a lot about the guys and the guy sitting next to you, I think they all just build character”.
After tonight’s game, the Predators will travel to Philadelphia for a game against the Flyers on Saturday. Next week they will have home games against Washington and the New York Rangers before leaving town for the first extended road trip in six weeks when they travel to the west coast.
This is the first time this season that the Predators have been four games over.500. They have 18 games remaining and will probably need 11 or 12 wins to stay in the top eight at season’s end and make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and the Columbia Daily Herald