By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators went 1-1-2 on their recent West Coast road trip, and returned home three points outside of the top eight in the Western Conference standings. With 12 of their last 15 games on home ice, the Predators are just a strong homestand away from making their sixth playoff appearance in the last seven seasons.
“We are one point out of the pack and we have 12 home games so we have to make a move at home here. If we do we’ll make the playoffs, if we don’t we won’t,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.
Nashville forward Joel Ward acknowledged the favorable position of the Predators schedule. “It’s huge. It’s ours for the taking. We have to take advantage of playing at home. We have to hope our fans come out strong back home and lead the charge for the next couple of games.”
Fan support for the team at the box office has increased this season, including 11 sellouts, and with the Predators in a tight playoff race, the team can expect attendance to remain strong during this final stretch.
But playing at home and winning at home are two different things.
“It’s a favorable schedule but you still have to win the games,” Captain Shea Weber said about playing the next 12 of 14 at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville ends the regular season on the road in St. Louis on April 9th.
The Predators have traditionally been a strong team at home. This season, however, only Edmonton and Colorado have less wins at home than Nashville in the Western Conference, though the Predators have played less home games than the rest of the Conference. Every team has played between 32-35 home games. The Predators have played only 29 games on home ice.
Despite the 15-7-7 record, Nashville enjoys some positive statistics when playing at home. The Predators penalty kill a solid 85 percent kill off rate, good for 5th overall in the League, improves to 88.5 percent on home ice, second only to Vancouver. Nashville has allowed only 12 goals when shorthanded at Bridgestone Arena, but on the road have allowed almost double that at 22 goals.
The power play is slightly better at home. Nashville has scored 18 power play goals at home, but only 16 on the road, a road statistic improved on Tuesday night in San Jose where both Nashville goals were scored with the man advantage.
The Predators have scored many more goals on the road with 92 versus the 71 tallies they have registered at home. The flip side of the equation is that Nashville is very stingy on home ice when it comes to giving up goals, allowing only 60 goals against in 29 home games this season, as opposed to the 95 goals they have given up throughout 38 games on the road.
While the Predators have a chance to improve in some areas like goals for at home, Nashville’s captain knows the road to the Stanley Cup playoffs narrows with every game played. “Every game is still going to be a playoff battle and it’s been that way for how long now? It’s going to be tough but I don’t think we’d want it any other way.” Weber said of Nashville’s road ahead.
Nashville’s first battle begins tonight when the Predators host the Minnesota Wild. Just one point ahead of Nashville in the standings, tonight’s contest is what amounts to a four-point game and a must-win for Nashville to get this homestand kicked off in the right direction. A win would give Nashville 78 points, good for 9th in the Western Conference.
Game time is 7pm at Bridgestone Arena. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at the Box Office or online at ticketmaster.com
Follow Predlines on Twitter @Predlines