The Predators close out the home portion of the regular season schedule against the Blues tonight at 7 in the Sommet Center. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Captain Jason Arnott and the rest of the Predators know that a win tonight could clinch the No. 8 spot.
A sellout crowd is expected for the “Fangtastic Finale.”
“Nerves are setting in,” Arnott said. “It is an exciting time. The confidence is high that we have a shot at it. It is in our hands now. All we have to do is go out and win. If everyone comes ready to play, relaxes a little bit and has fun with it good things will happen.
“St. Louis will want to come back and try to get us back. To lose after being up 3-0 is tough to handle. We have to be ready because they are a quick starting team.”
Arnott said he thinks the home fans will be a factor in the game.
“Our fans have supported us through the ups and downs,” Arnott said. “We haven’t played all that well at home in front of them. I know they are going to be loud. They have been loud for the past month for us.”
GOALTENDING THE KEY: In hockey the man in the mask is usually the center of attention, be it good or bad.
Such has been the case for the Nashville Predators this season as goaltenders Dan Ellis and Chris Mason have been both praised and criticized for their individual performances. Ellis has been the driving force behind the Predators’ last ditch surge to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. But Tuesday night at St. Louis, Mason provided the relief and picked up the win in a 4-3 overtime decision.
“Dan has handled the notoriety and attention well,” said Predators goaltenders coach Mitch Korn. “He has been very subdued during it.
“Goaltending is an individual game within a team game. You are never going to get around that. Those that have entered the position of goaltending like that part of it. They love to make a significant difference. They love to be ‘the guy.’ That’s why they play that position.”
Mason didn’t face many shots, but he came off the bench with a solid effort. Like Ellis in the previous four games, Mason was the stopper in net while the third- and fourth-line players came through with the scoring.
“That was more a matter of the third- and fourth-line guys coming to the rescue,” Mason said. “It was tough to come in. With Elly playing so well I didn’t think it would happen. I went in their cold, but that is the situation I am in right now. It was nice to be able to hold the fort.”
Korn credits Mason’s mental approach as the main reason he could come into a game like that and make a difference.
“For Mase his attitude is so good,” Korn said. “He just wants to get in. He is a pro. He has worked hard in practice to stay ready. He has done the things he has needed to do to be ready for those moments.”
Arnott knows that the Predators cannot spot the Blues another 3-0 lead and expect to come back like they did Tuesday night.
“We are going to need great goaltending to win, no question,” said Arnott. “I don’t think we want to get down 3-0 and think we are going to come back again. We have to learn from that experience and come out with a better effort in the first period.”
No one is saying if Ellis will be back to start against the Blues or if Mason will return to the net.
Korn stressed he couldn’t really fault the performance by Ellis against the Blues when he gave up three goals on seven shots.
Like everyone else, he has found it difficult to explain the four-game run that Ellis made prior to the St. Louis game. Korn, however, was not surprised by what he saw.
“Ellis was inspired by a couple of inopportune goals that he gave up and by the recall of Pekka Rinne,” Korn said. “All season he has come back after losses and won. He has elevated his game, but I am not sure that it is significantly different.
“I’ve been in this 17 years and nothing surprises me. I’m happy for Ellis and the way he responded after the turmoil. When something doesn’t go your way emotion is good and the way you manage that emotion is really what determines how you come out of that situation.”
Korn also is quick to point that both Ellis and Mason have stepped up when the team needed them the most.
“There have been difficulties and streaks, but you have to give both of them high marks for elevating their games when it counted,” Korn said. “What Ellis has done has been well-documented, but let’s not overlook how important Mason’s saves were against St. Louis, especially with a second-and-a-half to go.”