lFeb 19, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (6) takes a break from facing the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Predators defeated the Stars 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

If the Central is to be Won, It Needs to Start Tonight

In the span of a week, everything has changed. The Blackhawks have surged into the race for the 4th spot, having tied Nashville for 5th at the moment. Nashville does have two games in hand over Chicago, and one game over Detroit who has a one point lead. The Blues sit at 100 points, but play a second part of a back-to-back in Los Angeles after losing in Anaheim.

If the division is to be won, tonight is key. The Blues will be playing a Kings team that’s absolutely rolling, and the Predators play a white-hot Penguins squad. Tonight may be one of the more important nights of the year. Brace yourself, kids… and get the coffee ready. It’s gonna be a long night.

The Rangers kept Detroit from getting both points, but don’t assume the Wings are circling the drain. Jimmy Howard and Lidstrom will be returning in the very near future. With that said, this is still a team riddled by injuries. The Blue have had their injury struggles themselves, but their balanced lineup has forced you to ask the question “Just who were they missing? Seemed fine to me.”

It’s all about the schedule, and the Blues are hitting the West Coast- albeit an abbreviated trip, but playing the Kings and Coyotes who are both trying to avoid the wrath of the Canucks in the first round is never easy. The Kings especially are a touch match up for anyone, especially the Blues. Looking past this week, the Blues only play one non-playoff team in their remaining games (Columbus). That includes a tilt against Nashville next week in the hardy confines of Scottrade Center, and a trip up to Chicago.

Nashville’s schedule is very similar, but with tougher road contests. Going on the road to Pittsburgh, then after hosting the Jets before facing the Blackhawks, Blues, Red Wings before turning around that Friday leaving Detroit to face Chicago here in Nashville. Sounds rough huh? From there, it appears to get easier. Home against against the Wild, a streaky Stars team and an Avalanche team on the road that will likely be holding on for dear life.

If tonight goes in favor of Nashville- here is the picture. That is, IF Nashville can win tonight and IF the Blues fall to the Kings tonight, the Predators will be in 4th, 6 points back but with one game in hand. Cash in the two points against the Jets, and it’s four points. Beat the Blues in their fortress- it’s two points. From there out, the schedule favors Nashville- and anything can happen.

Playing Chicago in a 4 vs 5 series doesn’t sound terrifying, but the talent on the Chicago roster didn’t just vanish. It doesn’t seem natural, but Nashville plays Chicago twice on the second half of back-to-backs in this month. But if the Predators want to avoid hitting every possible roadblock in April, they’ll need to be big in March. In the next nine days, we’ll have a good idea of where we’ll stand.

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