The NHL season can be a long and grueling grind full of highs and lows. This is often complicated by extended time away from home. The Nashville Predators have finally returned home for three games after having played eight of the last 11 award from Bridgestone Arena and the timing couldn’t be any better.
The Predators are locked in a back-and-forth struggle with the Detroit Red Wings for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Now, with only three games remaining until the playoffs begin, the window to catch the Wings in closing.
Nashville is stuck at 98 points after losing 5-4 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. By virtue of a 2-1 win over Florida on Sunday Detroit has re-assumed command of the fourth seed in the Western Conference race. Chicago is tied in point with Nashville but has played one more game.
The Predators play their next two games at home before finishing at Colorado. Having a chance to finally sleep in their own beds may be just what they need to overcome Detroit and hold off the surging Blackhawks
After having completed four games against playoff-bound teams from their division and winning just two of them, the Predators schedule doesn’t get any easier. They play Minnesota on Tuesday before facing the Stars and Avalanche – the latter are both still alive in the playoff race and must win from this point out. This make for two very intense games with a playoff-like atmosphere.
The Predators have been passed the conference quarterfinals just once in their six previous playoff appearances. Earning home ice gives them the best chance to make that happen for the second time in their 13 year existence.
Nashville in 24-10-5 at the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena and just 21-16-3 while away. Despite the winning record on the road, starting off at home could mean the difference between another first-round exit or a real run at the Stanley Cup.
If the Predators win all three of their remaining contests, they could make that happen. If they lose just one they could be heading to the playoffs as the sixth seed and perhaps another disappointing postseason.
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