The Nashville Predators know for certain now that they will be involved when the 2010 NHL playoffs open next week.
The way they see it, though, they’ve been playing playoff hockey for most of the last month.
“We talked before the (St. Louis) game (last Thursday) that we want to play playoff hockey right down to the end,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That prepares us for the playoffs. … We (said) if you’re going to play playoff hockey the involvement and intensity have to be there. Commitment has to be there and emotion has to be there.”
Nashville clinched its fifth playoff appearance with Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory  over the Red Wings in Detroit.
It was the Predators’ 11th one-goal game in their last 15 outings. They were 11-3-1 overall in that stretch – 10-0-1 in contests decided by a single goal.
“Those (playoff) games are going to be like that,” Trotz said. “…It’s a little like trench warfare where you’re not going to have much time and space, you’re really going to have to fight to get in on the forecheck, you’re going to have to fight to get to the front of the net, you’re going to have to fight to get back, you’re going to have to do all those things.
“It’s not a real easy game to play. It’s a determined game that you have to play. You have to play hard and you have to step up, show up and compete.”
Nashville has played a total 22 postseason contests in its first four appearances in the playoffs. Nine of those have been one-goal affairs, and the Predators’ record in those nine (2-7) helps explain why they have yet to win a series.
No one expects this year to be any different, except that they’d like the outcome to change.
“They’re going to be physical; they’re going to be hard,” Trotz said. “We’ve had a few of them in March. … We’ve responded well to that, and we’ll continue to respond well. Some of our more physical guys … they’ve really stepped it up physically, in terms of going to the net and winning battles.
“That has to translate to everyone on the roster – all 23 – because that’s the way the game is going to be played right now.”
Two games remain for Nashville, which currently is in fifth place in the Western Conference , and players and coaches insist they are not content just to ride out the remainder of the regular season.
“We want to keep the ‘win two out of every three’ mentality that we’ve had all year,” forward Steve Sullivan said. “It’s been a while now that we’ve just been worrying about our own game, worrying about getting our game going and getting into the playoffs.
“We want to make sure that we are playing our best hockey going into the playoffs. A quick, first-round exit (is) not what we want.”