Predators need to find a way to win on the road in playoffs

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 4:59pm

It is not hard to understand why the Nashville Predators have not won an NHL playoff series in four tries.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that they have not won a single postseason contest outside of their building. They are 0-10 all time and have been outscored by a whopping 33-15 in six visits to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and four to HP Pavilion in San Jose.

In order to advance beyond their Western Conference quarterfinal series with Chicago, which commences Friday (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee), that must change.

The Blackhawks are the No. 2 seed in the West and the Predators are the No. 7 seed. That means four of the scheduled seven games will take place at the United Center, a building with a capacity of 20,500 that is one of the most challenging places in the league.

“You go in there and they’re sold out every night,” Predators’ coach Barry Trotz said. “ … You’ll need some earplugs in there because it will be loud. … I think it’s going to be a real good environment.”

He also believes it’s a place his team will be able to win.

The Predators matched the franchise record for road wins (23) and points (49) during the recently completed regular season. They won in 17 different venues other than Bridgestone Arena, including once at Chicago.

Only three teams – Washington, San Jose and Los Angeles – won more often outside their own building.

“This is a different team than the other teams,” Trotz said. “We’ve proven we’re one of the best road teams in the league. So, in the past that might be something you could dwell on. This team, they’re not really affected by where we play so I think that’s a real positive for us.”

It sounds nice, but this season’s road record (23-15-3) was identical to that of 2006-07 as were the number of goals Nashville scored in road games (117).

That team lost twice in its only two postseason road games – 3-1 and 3-2 – and was eliminated in five by San Jose for the second straight year.

The performance was much more consistent with the team’s history in the playoffs rather than in that particular regular season.

The Predators have been limited to one goal in seven of their 10 all-time postseason road games. Only once have they scored more than two.

“I don’t say that this is our most skilled team, but it might be our best team to be successful in the playoffs just because of the way it’s made up,” general manager David Poile said. “ … It seems like we’ve got a good balance in our team. We’ve got a good work ethic. Certainly, we didn’t fold in the pressure of the playoff (chase), we excelled.”

That they did. They won 12 of their final 17 overall, including six of eight on the road.

Still, it was not enough to get them home-ice advantage for the opening round.

“If you finish seventh, you can’t win a series unless you win a road game,” Trotz said. “That’s obviously going to be one of or missions – to win a road game as a franchise, and especially this year.”

Briefly

The Predators signed Michael Latta, a 2009 third-round draft pick (72nd overall), to a three-year entry level contract Wednesday.

Latta, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound center, recently completed his season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. He had 33 goals, 40 assists and 157 penalty minutes in 58 contests, which made him the only player in the league who finished among the top 25 in goals, points and penalty minutes.

The 18-year-old was assigned to Milwaukee, which began the American Hockey League playoffs Wednesday evening.