Nashville Predators: Let the March into the Playoffs Begin Tonight

Kyle Turris #8 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Kyle Turris #8 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

With the trade deadline finally behind us, it’s time for the Nashville Predators to kick it into another gear and find their true identity.

Now that the rumors and possibilities can be put to rest until the offseason, the Nashville Predators can now focus on making a sixth-straight playoff appearance.

The Predators have the rebuilding Ottawa Senators in town tonight. A team that is far out of the playoff race and restocking for next year and beyond.

Many have the Senators coming away as winners of the trade deadline thanks to pilling up all of the draft picks.

As for how they look currently, surely the Predators can dismantle this team pretty easily, right? Let’s hope so, but I’ve learned this season not to take anything for granted.

Where Nashville stands

The Predators decided to go through deadline day without much fireworks. They re-signed Rocco Grimaldi to a two-year deal, and traded away Matt Irwin for another defenseman in Korbinian Holzer from the Anaheim Ducks.

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In other words, GM David Poile has the confidence in this current roster to not only make the playoffs, but hopefully push for a Western Conference Finals appearance.

This is why people are upset by that hope. It doesn’t seem plausible that the Predators are going to do anything more this season than getting ousted in the first round again.

Focusing on tonight’s game, the Predators can be back officially into a playoff spot with a win and losses by Arizona and Calgary.

A lot can shift after tonight’s collection of games in a busy night in the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets play tonight as well, who are one point ahead of the Predators in the wildcard race.

The truth is the Predators should handle tonight’s game against Ottawa in relatively easy fashion. You don’t get many “easy” games on the schedule this time of year, but this should be one of them.

But for some reason, I have my reservations. It’s become so difficult to trust this Predators team that still hasn’t found their true identity this late in the season.

You have a team in Ottawa entering tonight’s game with nothing to lose facing a team that seemingly has everything to lose in Nashville. Let’s see how each team handles different kinds of pressure.

Keys to the game

The Predators obviously have the immensely more talented roster on paper. The Senators are retooling for next season, while the Predators kept their roster intact and didn’t trade off any pending unrestricted free agents, aside from Irwin.

The pure talent of the Predators just has to show up and avoid sloppy mistakes and mental lapses. Easier said than done for this team, but maybe they can finally be locked in now that the uncertainty of the trade deadline is gone.

The Predators are as close to 100 percent healthy as you can hope for this time of year. They’ve got Ryan Ellis back in the lineup finally, and all of their top players are available.

Pekka Rinne did miss practice yesterday due to illness, joining Mikael Granlund who had a “maintenance”  day.

This certainly raised eyebrows leading up to the deadline yesterday, but Granlund is expected to play tonight according to Head Coach John Hynes.

You win this game if everyone plays a complete 60 minutes and sticks to the gameplan. This isn’t a game that should scare you assuming the team comes in focused and doesn’t overlook the opposition.

This is also a game where you need the two points. You can’t settle for a single point against a team you’re vastly better than when comparing the rosters.


Juuse Saros

in net tonight as he’s really taken charge in the second half of the season. He’s gradually catching up to Rinne in starts for the season, and has steadily risen his save percentage up to .904 after a horrendous start.

We’ll have to wait and see the official projected lineup from the team site, but I expect Holzer to be slotted in on the third pairing with Dan Hamhuis or Yannick Weber.

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These two teams will drop the puck at 7 P.M. CDT from Bridgestone Arena, and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Tennessee and on 102.5 The Game.