Impact of last two victories impossible for Predators to ignore

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 11:05pm

It would be foolish to try to downplay the significance of the Nashville Predators’ last two victories.

Perhaps that’s why coach Barry Trotz and his players did not even try.

“Arguably, these past two games have been the biggest games of the year,” Trotz said. “They’ve given us a little breathing room, but we’ve got to win some more games.”

With regulation victories over Anaheim (5-4 on Thursday) and Dallas (4-2 on Saturday), the Preds put themselves in position to talk about how high they can finish in the Western Conference standings rather than whether or not they simply can make the top eight.

“We’ve put a good stretch together there, but you can’t be satisfied,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We’ve talked about that before. If you’re satisfied, we shouldn’t be Stanley Cup champions. So we can’t be satisfied. Every game is so important and we have to keep going.”

At this point — six games remaining — fourth place is not out of the question. Ninth-place is not out of sight but it has faded significantly from the Predators’ view. That spot currently belongs to Calgary, which is five points back and has played one more contest than Nashville.

The Predators have 92 points, which is more than their final total in two of their three previous playoff seasons. Anaheim is seventh, three points behind, and Dallas starts the week all the way back in 10th place.

“It’s probably, so far, the two biggest games of the year,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. We did an outstanding job getting four points. For sure, [we] couldn’t be happier right now.”

The victories over the Ducks and Stars extended the current win streak to six games, which matches the third-longest stretch in franchise history.

Plus, with an 8-1-1 record since March 8, Nashville has been better in its last 10 games than every team in the league except Vancouver (9-1-0).

“I give a lot of credit right through the lineup,” Trotz said. “Everybody’s contributing. Go back through the six games — every line has contributed over this stretch. … Our big guys are playing big, and our role guys are playing their roles. Everybody’s doing the right things.”

On the strength of that streak, the Predators have won nine games (out of 13) this month, which already makes it their second-most successful March in history. They went 11-5-1 last March, the winningest month in franchise history.

With two more games before April — Tuesday against Vancouver and Thursday at Colorado — they have the opportunity to match that mark. Nashville is a combined 5-1-0 thus far against its next two opponents.

That comes on the heels of a February in which they went 5-6-2, their only losing month of the last four.

“Of course, this week was huge for us,” forward Patric Hornqvist said. “We beat two teams that were just behind us in the standings. We still have to keep working hard every night. We cannot sit back now that we’ve won six in a row. We have to keep winning the next games and play like the game we’re playing is the last of the season.”

Briefly

• With a 2-1 victory Sunday, the Milwaukee Admirals became the first team in American Hockey League history to record 40 wins and 90 points or more in eight consecutive seasons.

Teemu Laakso and Andreas Thuresson scored goals and Jeremy Smith made 29 saves and improved to 14-6-2 for the season. All three players are Nashville draft picks.

The Admirals have been the Predators’ AHL affiliate throughout the history of the franchise.