Home cooking ending for Preds

Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 11:40pm
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The Nashville Predators are not exactly a well-rested team. Then again, they’re not well-traveled either — not recently, at least.

Monday’s game against Calgary (7 p.m., Sommet Center) will be Nashville’s fifth in a span of eight days and the first of four in six days this week. It also will be the seventh at home out of the last eight.

The Predators have used that extended stay in their own rink to move up in the standings. Following Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Florida they were sixth in the Western Conference, second in the Central Division, and their recent seven-game win streak (one short of the franchise record) included five triumphs at home.

“It’s kind of strange — we’ve played a lot of games,” forward J.P. Dumont said. “We don’t have a lot of chance to practice. We just try to get our energy into it, and it was a big two points (Saturday) night.”

With nine victories (in 13 games) Nashville is one short of the league lead for the most at home this season. Three teams have won 10 times in their own building.

Some of those recent triumphs have been against some of the NHL’s top road teams.

There was a 3-2 victory over New Jersey (10-2-1). That was two days after the Predators topped San Jose (10-5-2). Even Florida, 13th in the Eastern Conference, had seven of its 10 wins on the road.

Nashville’s only loss at home since Oct. 15 was Friday night against St. Louis, which is 5-1-3 outside of its own building.

“When we are at home we have to be able to dictate the game,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “(Friday) night we just didn’t have it together, but we did battle hard.”

Things don’t get any easier when Calgary comes to town for the Predators’ third game in four days. The Flames are 9-1-3 on the road. Only San Jose has more road points thus far.

“The three teams we face (beginning Friday), they’re good road teams,” coach Barry Trotz said. “For whatever reason, they seem to put their game together on the road. We need to be really good at home. We’re a good home team. (Friday) we weren’t as good as we needed to be.”

More often that not, though, they’ve been good enough.

Nashville won three straight one-goal games at home from Nov. 17-21. Only two of the last seven visiting teams have outshot the Predators and only one got off more than 31 shots.

At their current pace, they will win 28 times at home this season, which would match the second-highest total in franchise history.

“I think we played smart,” defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. “We’ve played a lot of games lately. We’re probably fatigued but we battled through it and made the smart plays. That makes the game a lot easier for us.”