No longer purusing playoffs, Predators play for positioning

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at 12:45am

For weeks, the Nashville Predators remained focused simply on trying to get into the NHL playoffs. With that out of the way, they have allowed themselves to glance forward – at least a little.

“It’s important for us to continue to win games because we want to try to get the best seeding possible,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That could effect which team you play in the second round.”

His perspective is accurate, albeit a bit bold.

After all, the Predators failed to reach the second round in any of their four previous playoff appearances. In fact, they have not yet even extended a series to its full seven games.

The fact is, however, that the NHL reseeds after each round of the playoffs. That means any of the top six teams in each conference potentially could have home-ice advantage for the second round.

With two games remaining, the Predators still can finish as high as fourth place, which would mean home-ice advantage in the opening round. In order to do so, they must win their remaining contests – the first of those is 9 p.m. Wednesday at Phoenix (Fox Sports-Tennessee) – and have some other teams lose.

Through Tuesday night’s games, the Coyotes were fourth and the Predators were fifth, respectively, in the Western Conference standings.

If Nashville wins out and Phoenix loses its remaining three (all in regulation) those teams would finish with identical records, meaning they would be equal on the first two criteria for determining standings – points and wins. Next would be head-to-head and the Predators who have gone 1-1-1 against the Coyotes would get the nod.

Even if the current conference standings hold, a victory in the season series with Phoenix – it would be the third straight year – ought to be worth something to Nashville.

“I don’t think about sending a message,” Trotz said. “We want to keep playing well and finish as high as we can. We have a chance to keep Detroit behind us, and Los Angeles still has a chance to catch us if we don’t win.”