Predators stuck in standings logjam that shows no signs of easing

Monday, February 21, 2011 at 8:18pm

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne feels the nature of the Western Conference standings helps put his mind at ease.

With so many teams separated by so few points in pursuit of the majority of playoff berths, there is not a lot to consider. It is just important to win as many games and collect as many points as possible.

For Shane O’Brien, on the other hand, looking at the standings makes his head hurt.

“I hate looking at them,” the Predators defenseman said. “I tell you, it’s kind of disheartening some days when you look at them. We’ve worked so hard and we’re in a pretty good situation, but we’re still within one or two points of not even being in the dance.”

The difference between fifth place, where Nashville was, and 10th place at the start of play Monday was two points. The Predators fell from fourth to fifth on Sunday, one day after a 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

In the previous five days, four different teams held the eighth and final spot. The most volatile franchise at the moment is Calgary, which was in 10th place prior to its victory Sunday over Montreal in the Heritage Classic outdoor game. The two points the Flames earned for winning that contest vaulted them all the way to sixth.

“It’s crazy,” Rinne said. “We’ve played 50-some games and still it’s like this. It’s unbelievable. There’s no separation.”

After Tuesday’s game at Columbus, the Predators play Thursday at home against Chicago and then Saturday at Dallas. Both the Blackhawks and Stars are among the nine teams battling for the last six spots behind Vancouver and Detroit.

Between now and the end of the regular season, Nashville will face seven of the other eight at least once. Saturday’s game with Phoenix was the last in the season series between those teams.

The Predators also will face the first-place Canucks three times and second-place Red Wings twice.

“I think that just makes the preparation and everything a little easier going into games,” Rinne said. “When you know that you can’t let down, you just have to push and keep going and do your thing. I think it just makes things a little easier when it’s tight and there’s so much on the table every night.”

A day-by-day look at the heart of the Western Conference playoff chase from Thursday through Monday (all prior to that day’s games):

THURSDAY
3. Phoenix – 69 points
4. Nashville – 68 points
5. San Jose – 68 points
6. Anaheim – 68 points
7. Dallas – 68 points
8. Calgary – 68 points
9. Los Angeles – 67 points
10. Minnesota – 65 points
11. Chicago – 64 points

FRIDAY
3. Phoenix – 71 points
4. Nashville – 70 points
5. San Jose – 70 points
6. Anaheim – 68 points
7. Dallas – 68 points
8. Los Angeles – 68 points
9. Calgary – 68 points
10. Minnesota – 65 points
11. Chicago – 64 points

SATURDAY
3. Phoenix – 71 points
4. Nashville – 70 points
5. San Jose – 70 points
6. Anaheim – 68 points
7. Dallas – 68 points
8. Los Angeles – 68 points
9. Calgary – 68 points
10. Minnesota – 67 points
11. Chicago – 64 points

SUNDAY
3. Phoenix – 73 points
4. San Jose – 72 points
5. Nashville – 70 points
6. Dallas – 68 points
7. Los Angeles – 68 points
8. Anaheim – 68 points
9. Calgary – 68 points
10. Minnesota – 67 points
11. Chicago – 64 points

MONDAY
3. Phoenix – 73 points
4. San Jose – 72 points
5. Nashville – 70 points
6. Calgary – 70 points
7. Minnesota – 68 points
8. Dallas – 68 points
9. Los Angeles – 68 points
10. Anaheim – 68 points
11. Chicago – 66 points