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Battle of the Best in the West

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Woohoo! I've scored access to a suite for tonight's Anaheim Ducks/Nashville Predators tilt at the GEC. Injuries dominate the story here, as Tomas Vokoun is expected to return to action for Nashville, while Anaheim misses J.S. Giguere and Chris Pronger, among others. Although struggling some lately, the Ducks did top Detroit 4-2 at home on Sunday, and having also won 5 of their last 6 against the Preds, Anaheim should be confident coming in.

Frankly, I think this game just means a lot more to the Predators at this point. Despite an admirable record, Nashville is merely .500 against the top 10 teams in the NHL, suggesting that they're still earning a place among the elite of the league, and the pressure on this team to succeed is mounting. With the NFL season finally over here in the Music City, the Predators have their best chance yet at capturing the hearts and minds of sports fans in Middle Tennessee. Much has been written about disappointing attendance figures in certain NHL markets, and Nashville is usually cited as a city that probably doesn't deserve an NHL team. Yes, they did have to threaten a TV blackout during the playoffs last year in a desperate attempt to sell the building out, and the numbers so far this year have been less than spectacular. However, this is really the first season that local fans have had reason to believe in a legitimate contender, rather than a "little engine that could"-type of team that merely hopes to make the playoffs.

In order to make good on that potential, however, the Predators need to win the Central Division, and make a strong showing in the playoffs. There's no better way for this team to start building momentum than to beat the Ducks tonight, and make a run at Western Conference supremacy over the next couple weeks.