Preds hope time is right for turnaround

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 2:32am

As with many things in life success on the ice in the NHL often depends on timing.

Scoring a key goal at the right time or making the big stop can make the difference between two points and no points in a game. The Nashville Predators have often been the victims of those timing issues this season.

“We have outplayed teams, but we make one mistake and it turns a game around,” said Predators associate coach Brent Peterson. “Sometimes we have three or four guys who don’t play well in a game.

“We can’t have that. Every player on this team has to be ready to play well in every game. I know that doesn’t sound possible, but we have to find a way to consistently play well. That starts with solid goaltending, taking advantage of scoring opportunities and playing good defense.”

Competing in the Western Conference makes life even tougher for the Predators to find that consistency.

“We won six-of-nine and we didn’t gain any ground because everyone else in the conference ahead of us was winning,” Peterson said.

The Predators are determined not to live up to preseason predictions that counted them out of the playoffs this season after a three-year run.

“We realize we have dug ourselves a hole,” said Predators coach Barry Trotz. “We have to dig ourselves out of it. We have to keep going forward. I look at the number of teams that are fighting for a playoff spot this season and it might be 15.

The Predators are off until Saturday night when they travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets. They start a three-game homestand Sunday night at 7 when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Sommet Center.

“We have to get back in this playoff race,” Trotz said. “Everyone’s ego has to go to the wayside.”

Trotz has stressed that the Predators are not going to make up all the lost ground and earn a playoff spot overnight. Goaltender Dan Ellis, who ended a four-game winning streak with a 5-2 loss at Anaheim Monday night, thinks the team is gaining momentum in bits and pieces.

“We are improving,” Ellis said. “We are gaining little bits of momentum. You go through your ups and downs throughout the course of a season and you try to find yourself. I think our team is a team to count on right now. We have really turned our whole game around.”

Time to heal: The three days between games will give several Predators players the chance to heal from a variety of bumps and bruises. Right winger Jordin Tootoo missed the Los Angeles game with a sore leg muscle.

Ticket changes: The new ownership group is working on various ways to increase attendance. The sellout against Minnesota on Saturday night was a motivator.

Some of the changes include a “Family 4 Pack” which includes four game tickets, four food vouchers and four ice skating passes for $99. The package can be upgraded to club level seats for $122.

The announcement over the weekend that the “Premium Pricing Program: has been scrapped was also a popular move. Three games were included in the program — the Feb. 12 game with Detroit, the March 20 game with Detroit and the April 3 game, the final home game of the season, with St. Louis.

Under the premium pricing policy a lower level seat would have been $120 for each of those three games. Those seats will now sell for $89. Upper level seats under the premium pricing policy would have sold for $45. They will be priced at $35.

Anyone who has already purchased a ticket for one of the three games will receive an additional ticket to a designated upcoming game for every ticket purchased at the premium price level.

“Our ownership group is committed to filling the Sommet Center on a regular basis,” said Ed Lang, president of Business Operations for the Predators. “While we recognize the need to increase our revenues, we want to do everything possible to have a sold-out building for the most desirable games. And making tickets to those games more affordable helps us accomplish our goals.”

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