The Nashville Predators' playoff hopes are faint, but certainly alive, and as the NHL resumes the 2013-14 regular season this week, there's no time to waste shaking off rust or getting back up to game speed. The Preds need wins, and they especially need them against the other teams jostling alongside them for playoff position.
Thursday vs Tampa Bay Lightning
The Predators are pitching Thursday night's game as a "re-launch" to the season, with activities and bonuses for the fans that are intended to make it feeling like Opening Night, Part 2. The doors at Bridgestone Arena will open at 5:00 p.m. (30 minutes earlier than normal), and an assortment of free food items will be available to season ticket holders from 5:00-6:00, so get there early if you can.
With regards to that evening's opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the big story is whether or not star forward Steven Stamkos will make his return to action after suffering a broken leg three months ago. We may receive word as soon as Monday on Stamkos' availability, as he is scheduled for an X-Ray according to Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times.
Back in December, the Lightning beat the Predators in Tampa by a 4-2 score as Colin Wilson watched from the dog house and former Pred Anders Lindback earned the victory.
Saturday vs Winnipeg Jets
The major reason why Nashville's playoff hopes are so faint isn't the gap between them and the final playoff spot currently held by Dallas (4 points), but rather the number of teams which they have to compete with, and Saturday's matinee (2:00 p.m. Central start) looms especially large. In order to make the playoffs the Predators will have to muscle past four other teams, and face-to-faces matches like this provide that opportunity.
Time has long since passed for any excuses or moral victories, what is needed in the games against Dallas, Phoenix, Vancouver & Winnipeg are victories in regulation time; two points for the Predators, and none for their opponent.
So far this season, the Preds are 2-1-0 against the Jets, with their most recent meeting a 4-3 win by Nashville at Winnipeg on January 28th.
|St. Louis Blues||57||39-12-6||84|
|San Jose Sharks||59||37-16-6||80|
|Los Angeles Kings||59||31-22-6||68|
So what are your thoughts on the Predators' chances to get off to a strong post-Olympic start and give us meaningful hockey to watch over the next several weeks?