Now that the distraction of football season is finally behind us, we can get back to the important stuff, the stretch drive for the Stanley Cup playoffs!
The upcoming schedule for the Nashville Predators doesn't get any easier, as they prepare to battle two division-leading teams, along with perhaps the biggest surprise team in the NHL. Can they make up ground on the Central Division-leading Detroit Red Wings, who lead the Preds by 4 points as of right now?
Follow after the jump for a look at the upcoming challenge...
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Tuesday vs. Vancouver Canucks (7:00 p.m. on FS-TN)
As expected, the Vancouver Canucks are running away with the Northwest Division, but the Preds have a 1-1 record so far this season against Vancouver, including that wild game back on December 1, when Nashville coughed up a 3-1 lead, fell behind 5-3, then came back to win it 6-5 thanks to a strong relief performance by Anders Lindback.
Of course, the job of taking on the Canucks will begin with slowing down the man who currently stands #4 on the NHL scoring list:
#33 / Center / Vancouver Canucks
Sep 26, 1980
|2011 - Henrik Sedin||52||11||44||55||15||38||7||0||4||75||14.6|
Thursday at Ottawa Senators (6:30 p.m. on FS-TN)
The Senators were widely thought to be in for a long-term rebuild under new coach Paul MacLean, but instead they find themselves in 7th spot in the Eastern Conference. While they've played a couple more games than most of their competition for one of the final playoff berths, the attitude in Canada's capital is an optimistic one, bolstered in good part by their unlikely Norris Trophy candidate:
#65 / Defenseman / Ottawa Senators
May 31, 1990
|2011 - Erik Karlsson||54||8||40||48||7||28||1||0||1||179||4.4|
Saturday at Boston Bruins (noon on FS-TN)
It's another matinee feature for the Preds as they take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, who lead the Northeast Division by a healthy 7-point margin, and boast an absurd +69 goal differential, far and away the best such figure in the league. Even though they have the top offensive team in the NHL, their leading scorer is ranked 26th overall, speaking to the Bruins' depth.
#37 / Center / Boston Bruins
Jul 24, 1985
|2011 - Patrice Bergeron||51||15||31||46||27||18||3||0||2||123||12.1|
So what are your expectations for the week ahead? None of these three opponents represent real competition for the Predators' playoff positioning (Vancouver is pretty much locked into that #3 spot), so can they bring the same urgency we've seen against rivals like Detroit and Minnesota of late?