Preview #80: Predators Look To Clinch Playoff Berth Tuesday Night

Season Records

Atlanta Thrashers 33-33-13

Nashville Predators 42-26-11

How do you forgot about losing a game after letting a three-goal lead disappear?

“We have to,” Predators Captain Shea Weber said when asked about putting Saturday afternoon’s overtime loss behind him. “It’s tough, obviously. We wanted to beat Detroit. They’re a good team, and it hurts. We’ve got to continue to the next game. We’ve got to get that game.”

That game they need to get is on Tuesday night when the Nashville Predators play host to their closest geographical rival, the Atlanta Thrashers. Both teams are coming off losses over the weekend, as the Predators didn’t just let a 3-0 lead slip away; they also lost any chance at the Central Division title–won by Detroit on Sunday after their win against the Minnesota Wild.

Weber’s defense partner, Ryan Suter, says there is a lesson to be learned in giving up a three-goal lead. “You can’t take your foot off the gas. You have to keep going on them. You sit back and — with the talent that there is out there in the League — if you sit back, it’s going to be in the back of your net,” Suter said.

The Predators will to try keep their foot on the gas against the Thrashers, a team that has gone 5-5-0 over their last 10 contests. The Predators are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, and have a 8-2-1 record in their last 11 home games.

The Thrashers have many familiar faces to the Predators. Captain Andrew Ladd was a member of last year’s Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, as was standout defenseman (then forward) Dustin Byfuglien — so there is familiarity, despite the teams only playing twice this season. In fact, John Manasso, a writer for NHL.com, quotes Ladd as having listed Pekka Rinne as the best goalie in the Western Conference.

This season, the Predators are 22-9-8 at Bridgestone Arena. The home-ice success has made the Predators just one of three teams, along with Washington and Vancouver, who have fewer than 10 regulation losses at home. The Predators look to continue their domination of home-ice statistics when they attempt to win their 23rd home-game of the season. If Nashville can get that 23rd win either Tuesday or Friday night, the Predators will post 23 wins at home for the sixth time since 2005-06.

Putting aside team statistics, a win on Tuesday night, paired with any sort of a Dallas loss,  clinches the Predators sixth playoff berth in seven seasons. If the Predators lose in overtime, and Dallas loses in regulation, the Predators would also clinch a spot in the post season.

Nashville has relied on several hot players as of late including goaltender Pekka Rinne, named the NHL’s third star for the month of March, Martin Erat and David Legwand, as well as Sergei Kostitsyn. The first-year Predator scored his 20th goal on Saturday afternoon against the Red Wings. Kostitsyn is on a career-high nine game point-scoring streak. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are also having career seasons, and Patric Hornqvist just recorded his 100th career point on Saturday afternoon when he picked up an assist.

Joel Ward is one point shy of 100 points on his career.

The Predators are down to three games remaining in the regular season. After Tuesday night’s game, the Predators will wrap up play on home ice with fan appreciation night on Friday when the Predators host the Columbus Blue Jackets. The regular season concludes on Saturday for Nashville when they travel to St. Louis to face the Blues.

Playoffs are set to start next Wednesday, April 13th.

Photo credit: AP

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