After being in a constant dog fight with rivals, trying to keep pace in the tightly bunched Western Conference race, the Nashville Predators will take on teams for the East for the next three games starting with tonight's game with the Philadelphia Flyers at Bridgestone Arena.
The Preds will then travel to New York for games with the Islanders on Monday (noon) and with the Rangers on Tuesday (6:30 p.m.). This will be the second time this year that they have played three Eastern opponents in a row after Montreal, Washington, and Toronto visited in November with the Preds picking up five of six points.
The Preds are 4-2-2 against the East this year including 4-1-1 at home. The Preds and Flyers will play again in Philadelphia on February 2. Nashville is 5-6-(3)-0 all time against the Flyers and 2-2-2 on home ice.
More than ever, the Predators need points in every game they play as the West is incredibly competitive. On Thursday night, every Western Conference team in the top 12, except Minnesota, picked up at least a point when there were five three point games and a couple of regulation wins.
After Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over Colorado, David Legwand explained the team's frustration. "You look at the standings every day and everyone in the west seems to be winning every night and if they are not winning they are going to overtime so points are huge every night."
Legwand continued when asked if there is added pressure created with four of the top six teams in the Central Division being in the top six. "Yes it does. Obviously we have to play those teams and be good against them so it is something we have to strive on."
Matt Halischuk also commented on how tough the Western Conference is again this season. "Every game is important, especially in the division or conference. We are just looking to get as many points as we can. We try to reset every night and go out and play hard."
"It's a long year and you are going to win some and lose some and you have to not get frustrated and stay with it and collect a few points. It keeps us on our toes not just against the top guys because we have to play hard every night."
With a set of games against the East, we will probably see a different focus from the team at the beginning of the games. Barry Trotz usually likes to take a conservative approach to games against teams that they rarely play. "It's a feeling out process and since we are unfamiliar with the other team we try to focus on playing our game, not make mistakes, and win the individual battles."
It will be a return to the city where their careers began for Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen who were fan favorites before heading to the Flyers.
Pekka Rinne should be in his usual spot between the pipes while Sarah Baicker of CSN Philly indicated that she would expect to see Sergei Bobrovsky in net for the Flyers when she appeared on Friday's Smashville on the Glass radio show.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. and limited tickets are still available.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass