Being at home for extended period has Predators on the move

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 10:02pm

The Nashville Predators have come a long way by staying at home.

Two weeks ago, when they completed a four-game road trip through California and Western Canada, the Preds were 10th in the Western Conference standings yet had reason for optimism. They had 15 games to play — 12 of them at home.

Halfway through those 12 home games, Nashville was up to sixth. While a playoff berth still was anything but assured, it had reached a point that it was as far from fourth place (three points) as it was from ninth.

“Five [wins] and one [loss] for six games so far is a big thing,” center David Legwand said. “I think anytime you can be above 70 percent at home, it’s a positive thing. That’s what we’ve done.

“We’ve thrived at home in the past and we’re doing the same thing now.”

They look to continue to do so Thursday when they host the Anaheim Ducks (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena) in another critical contest. After that, it’s Dallas on Saturday.

Nashville has just eight regulation losses at home, which is tied for the fewest in the league with Vancouver and Washington, the runaway leaders in the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively.

Not only that, but the Predators have allowed just 71 goals in 35 home games, which is the fewest in the league by a wide margin. Boston is second with 80 goals against but that is in 34 games.

They easily will finish with their lowest total of goals allowed at home in the past five seasons, and the only way they won’t set a franchise record for the fewest is if they allow an average of more than three per contest over the remaining six.

Nashville allowed just 90 at home in 2002-03.

“For us the home advantage is pretty big,” left wing Martin Erat said. “Every home game we’ve played pretty well, and we’ve played so many games on the road so it’s actually good for us to get these last games at home.

“We hope it’s going to play to our advantage and get us to the playoffs.”

Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Edmonton was the third straight and sixth in the last seven on home ice. It was the eighth time in the last 12 at Bridgestone Arena that the Predators scored three or more.

Their total of 91 goals scored in their own building only ranks 26th in the league, but their goal differential (plus-20) is second in the Western Conference only to Vancouver (plus-40). Chicago is next at plus-19.

“We’ve got Anaheim and Dallas, where we’re staring at each other in the standings,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve had so many hard games.”

Lately, though, they’ve also had so many home games. That’s the good news.

Briefly


• David Poile was one of seven NHL general managers named the USA Hockey men’s national team advisory group, and Paul Fenton was named associate general manager of the 2011 men’s national team.

Those two Predators’ officials, therefore, will be part of the group that selects the team that will compete at this year’s IIHF World Championships (April 29-May 15 in Slovakia).

“We're grateful to the members of our advisory group and the NHL for their continued assistance and support of the world championship,” Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director for hockey operations, said. “It will also be a great benefit to have [Fenton] in his role and utilize his knowledge of the American player pool.”