Predators look to gain ground with lengthy stay on their own turf

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 8:53pm

Nobody in the NHL’s Western Conference has been better in road games thus far than the Nashville Predators. Good thing too, given the number of times they have played away from home through the first six weeks of the season.

They’d like to be even better in their own building. For now, they’ll settle for being better than they have been at Bridgestone Arena.

“I always say that if you’re going to make the playoffs, you have to get 20 wins on the road and you have to be almost .667 [in terms of points percentage] at home,” coach Barry Trotz said. “If you do that, you’re hovering around 100 points.

“If we can do that and can do something at home in [this] stretch here … they’re all going to add up at the end of the year.”

‘This stretch’ is a run of five straight, which — when it's finished — will double the number of home games played. The halfway point is Thursday’s contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs, an infrequent visitor to Middle Tennessee.

It began Saturday against Montreal. Prior to that one Nashville was 2-2-1 at home for five out of a possible 10 points. They maintained that .500 pace with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Canadiens but improved their ratio of points to games when they rallied for a 3-1 victory Tuesday against Washington.

The Capitals took a 1-0 lead with fewer than five minutes to play, but Nashville answered 28 seconds later and then scored twice in the final minute.

“It was important for us, this homestand, to bounce back and show that resiliency that we’ve been known to have — even last year, how many times we came back,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “We never seem to get that panic or any of that stuff anymore. That’s a good sign. We just kept going at it and got those two quick goals.”

As of the start of play Wednesday, the Predators were 6-3-1 in road games. That was tied with Colorado, among Western Conference franchises, for the most victories and points and second only to Vancouver (5-6-0) in games played.

They average 2.42 goals at home and 2.90 on the road.

“There’s parts of our game we still need to improve,” center Mike Fisher said. “… We have a big week here. We need to win these ones at home. The next couple games will be huge.”

Following Toronto, one of seven Eastern Conference teams with at least five road victories, the Predators will host Edmonton (Saturday) and Columbus (Tuesday). The Oilers have been near-perfect (6-1-1) at home but have won fewer than half their eight road games. The Blue Jackets were at Boston on Wednesday and were the only NHL team without a point on the road.

“Our schedule was really front-loaded with a lot of road games, and we were really able to navigate through that and end up with a pretty good record after 10 games on the road,” Trotz said. “We were .500 at home and now we’re a little over .500.”

There’s no doubt which direction they’d like to go from there.