With an 11-13-6 record and sitting in 13th place in the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators need a boost of some sort to right the ship and put themselves back in playoff contention. With only 18 games remaining in the regular season, that boost may in fact come by way of the schedule.
Nashville will play 12 of their final 18 games at home, starting tonight against the Calgary Flames. The Predators have struggled mightily on the road as of late, posting a 1-9-1 record in their last 11 road games. They’ve been better at home, however. Nashville has posted a 6-2-4 record at Bridgestone Arena this season, collecting 16 of a possible 24 points on home ice.
“That’s huge. Obviously, we’ve been on the road a lot. That’s not an excuse for our record, but we definitely love being at home in front of our home fans. They’re great. They get us going, and we’re excited to start it off tonight,” said Predators forward Brandon Yip.
The last week for the Predators has been almost a nightmare. They’ve lost games in a variety of ways on the road, and now have a chance to come back home. Nashville has looked like a completely different team on home ice this season, and that sort of home ice success could be the catalyst for a playoff berth this season.
“It’s a big confidence boost, especially at a time like this when we’re in a little bit of a skid here and we have a chance to come back home and start fresh,” Yip said.
“In the position we’re in, it’s definitely better to be at home than on the road, especially with the way we play at home. We have the potential to get extremely hot and set ourselves up for a playoff position,” said Predators forward Rich Clune. “At the end of the day, we’re in the position we’re in because of inconsistency.”
Over the last few weeks, the Predators have not been getting off to a good start in games. They have been playing from behind a lot, and that makes it hard to execute the game plan. Nashville is a team that thrives off playing with the lead. Their starts have to improve in order to do that.
“I think our key tonight especially is just the start. We’ve got to come out like how we finish games. We’ve been kind of coming back late. We can’t wait until two minutes in the third period to get pissed off. We’ve got to come out right away. I’m pretty confident we’ll do that tonight, especially in front of our home fans,” Yip said.
Nashville got blasted by the Flames by a 6-3 score last Friday night in Calgary. The Flames generated a lot of offense by hitting the blue-line with a lot of speed. That created chances off the rush, and that’s something the Predators are going to have to correct tonight.
“We’ve got to skate with them, and we can skate with them. We were flat. I speak for myself. I was flat. We need to come out, match their intensity, and exceed it,” Clune said.
“We changed our neutral zone, and I’m sure we’ll go with the same look we did when we adjusted there and we had a little bit more success because they were building a lot of speed coming into our zone. We’ve got to shut that down. We’ll adjust from that last game and go forward tonight,” Yip said.
The Predators have an uphill battle to climb to make the playoffs. Having 12 of 18 games at home should really help this Nashville team, but they’re going to have to find a way to dig deep and play to a level they haven’t played so far this season. That all starts with effort and belief.
“The last couple years we’ve been in a good position, if you will, going down the back stretch. Obviously you have to play well, but we were in a good position,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. “This is more like when we were trying to make the playoffs and it went down to game 81 and we’d get in and go on in play in the playoffs. Those were fun times, too. They were different. They were hard, but they were fun. At the end of the rainbow, if you will, there was an excitement that you achieved something because you stayed with it and you battled through it.”
“I’ve played hockey long enough where if guys believe, then it can happen. That’s what we have to do. Just believe in ourselves,” Clune said. “We’ve got to work. We’ve just got to work hard and the skill will come out.”