The Nashville Predators are going in the wrong direction right now after another lopsided loss, this time at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers who have now won 16 games in a row and one away from tying the NHL record set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.
On Thursday it was a feisty battle between two Central Division rivals on Thursday with the Predators coming out victorious over the Minnesota Wild in a game important to the crowded wildcard race.
With their 26th win of 2023-24 on Thursday, the Predators retained their wildcard spot that they've held for a while now. They are tied with the Los Angeles Kings who also have 53 points, but lose the tiebreaker scenario because the Kings have played three fewer games.
There are a lot of teams in the wildcard mix right now, including the St. Louis Blues who have won four-straight games and just one point behind both Nashville and Los Angeles. They have two games in hand over Nashville as well.
Let's stack up the Nashville Predators against the other teams in the Western Conference wildcard run and what their chances are of beating out those teams in the standings when it's all said and done.
Minnesota Wild: 47 PTS, 48 Games Played, 1-1-0 vs. Nashville
The Wild just lost a back and forth battle with Nashville earlier this week. The two teams are pretty evenly-matched and I'm not ready to completely remove the Wild from the conversation.
A lot of people probably think it's time for the Wild to be sellers at the trade deadline and start thinking long-term future past this season. This team is nowhere near good enough to go deep in the playoffs, if they were to somehow get it, so expectation is this team will slowly fade away in the coming weeks.
The Wild have some favorable matchups over the next few games, including their next two against the Ducks and Blackhawks.
Calgary Flames: 49 PTS, 49 Games Played, 2-1-0 vs. Nashville
The Flames are a really hard team to figure out. They should be better than where they are in the standings, and they're likely going to be one of the biggest sellers at the trade deadline with trade pieces like Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanafin.
The longer the Flames hang around in the wildcard race, the harder it's going to be for them to commit to selling. They're 5-5-0 in their last 10 games and just ended a four-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
I give the Flames a better chance than the Wild to stick around in the wildcard race longer. I like their overall roster much more than the Wild's. However, if the Flames fall too much further back in the standings, they'll rip everything apart and be nothing but spoilers in the final 20 games or so.
Arizona Coyotes: 49 PTS, 48 Games Played, 2-0-0 vs. Nashville
I remain pretty confident in the Coyotes claiming one of the wildcard spots. It was my preseason prediction and I'm not abandoning it now, even though this team has struggled as of late going 4-5-1 in their last 10.
Head-to-head with the Predators, the Coyotes looked like the much more dominant team. They frustrated the Predators' ability to manufacture offense in the most recent meeting, while the first meeting was a track meet with the Predators blowing multi-goal leads twice.
The Coyotes will meet the Predators for the third time this season quickly after the return from the All-Star break on February 10. That game will have huge implications for the wildcard race and the Predators will need to not only win this one, but their last regular season meeting with the Coyotes on March 28 to split the four-game season series.
Seattle Kraken: 50 PTS, 48 Games Played, 1-1-0 vs. Nashville
The Kraken really stumbled badly out of the gate, then went on a nine-game winning streak to climb back into wildcard contention, only to then lose five of their next six.
If you're listing off teams that have been major disappointments in the first half of the season, the Kraken would be a strong candidate. But it's definitely not too late for them to rectify their issues to sneak into the playoffs and be a tough out for their first round opponent.
The Kraken are actually fortunate to not be much futher back in the wildcard race. They've managed to at least salvage points in many of their losses with 10, which is tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the most overtime losses in the NHL.
The Predators have split two games with the Kraken but haven't faced each other since November 2. They'll face off one more time on March 16 in Seattle. Will both of these teams still be relevant in the playoff race by then?
St. Louis Blues: 52 PTS, 47 Games Played, 0-1-0 vs. Nashville
Some unfinished business remains between these two division rivals. The Blues and Predators have only faced off once so far this season, a dominant 8-3 win for Nashville in late November.
Since then the Blues have somewhat surprisingly hung around in the wildcard picture. They're just one point behind Nashville and Los Angeles and could leap frog the Predators today with a win over the Kings.
If the Blues beat the Kings in regulation on Sunday, they'll not only jump over the Predators but they'll also move to the top wildcard spot ahead of the Kings.
The Blues have managed to find success lately thanks to an offense that has scored four goals in three-straight games, two of them being overtime wins against Vancouver and Seattle.
Perhaps we counted out the Blues way too soon? They don't particularly excel at any major category and aren't loaded with superstars, but they're doing just enough to keep winning.
Los Angeles Kings: 53 PTS, 46 Games Played, 0-1-0 vs. Nashville
Much like the Kraken, the Kings have been major letdowns as well. They have ony won two games since the calendar flipped to 2024, and yet they still are in the driver's seat for the wildcard race. Especially with three games in hand over the Predators.
This is the game of the day against the Blues. The Kings are in danger of going from a legitimate Stanley Cup contender to completely falling out of the playoff race if they can't get back on track fast.
Ultimately I can't see a team so loaded with talent to keep fading like this. I'm looking for them to make a statement on Sunday to seize back control of the wildcard race and even try to give chase to the Edmonton Oilers in third place of the Pacific Division.
So after laying out where are all of the teams in the wildcard race are and how they're trending, the Predators days seem numbered on staying in one of the wildcard spots.
Ultimately I think the Kings get back on track and get one of the wildcards spots, and I'm still not ready to count them out of catching back up to the Oilers for third place. So take your pick between the Kings or Oilers, but one of those two teams will get one of the wildcard spots.
The final spot will come down to probably the final week of the season. The Predators will remain mathematically alive up until close to the end, but I'm going to stick with the Coyotes to get the final wildcard spot by narrowly edging out the Kraken.