Nashville, which had 38 wins and made its first playoff appearance in franchise history as a No. 8 seed in 2003-04, has outscored its opponents 11-3 during its streak. Former Coyote Mike Sillinger scored two goals, and Scottie Upshall had three assists in a 4-2 victory Thursday over the Minnesota Wild.
“It’s nice to have two goals, but home ice is nicer,” said the 34-year-old Sillinger, who has career highs with 31 goals and 31 assists.
Chris Mason, thrust into the starting goaltender’s role due to the injury to Tomas Vokoun, made 28 saves and has won all four games during the winning streak. Vokoun will miss the rest of the season due to pelvic thrombophlebitis, a rare blood condition that created a multitude of blood clots.
“That was really important for us. We really wanted it … It’s so important for us to go into the playoffs playing like this,” said Mason, who is 10-5-1 and had just 10 career NHL starts before this season.
Nashville’s last four wins have come against non-playoff teams, but the Predators will host the conference-leading Detroit Red Wings in their regular-season finale Tuesday. The Red Wings eliminated the Predators in six games in the Western Conference quarterfinals in 2004.
“It’s the evolution of our team, trying to go to that next level,” said Predators captain Greg Johnson, who became the first player in franchise history to play 500 games with the team. “It’s a natural progression, and our next goal is win a series and go from there.”
Phoenix snapped a five-game losing streak Thursday, but learned that coach Wayne Gretzky may not return next season. Gretzky’s announcement came after owners Jerry Moyes and Steve Ellman revealed they are splitting their partnership in the parent company of the Coyotes. After the Coyotes end their season Sunday at St. Louis, Gretzky plans to play in a charity golf tournament and attend the International Azalea Festival April 24-30 in Norfolk, Va., where his daughter, Paulina, will be the queen.
“I’ll make a decision some time after that,” Gretzky said. “Sooner is better for everybody. It’s better for me, it’s better for the organization.”
Curtis Joseph, who also may not return to Phoenix next season, had 32 saves for his 46th career shutout as the Coyotes beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 on Thursday. Joseph lowered his goals-against average to 2.96, giving him a chance to finish with a GAA below 3.00 for the ninth straight season. Derek Morris, Keith Ballard and Fredrik Sjostrom scored for Phoenix, which snapped a five-game losing streak (0-4-1).