The Nashville Predators are one of five NHL teams to win at least 40 games in each of the last five seasons.
The Predators, though, are still trying to win their first postseason series.
Looking to move past a heartbreaking playoff defeat in 2009-10, Nashville opens its season at home on Saturday night against an Anaheim Ducks team trying to rebound from a fourth straight season-opening loss.
With a chance to take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals versus Chicago, the visiting Predators allowed a short-handed goal with 13.6 seconds left in regulation before falling 5-4 in overtime. The series ended with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks posting a 5-3 victory in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville has been eliminated in all five of its postseason appearances on home ice.
“Definitely that’s an experience we’re going to have to learn from,” said Shea Weber(notes), named the franchise’s fifth captain in July after Jason Arnott(notes) was traded to New Jersey in June. “And hopefully, it’ll drive us that much further this year.”
The Predators are hoping for improved offensive production after ranking 24th last season in power-play percentage at 16.4 percent. Nashville converted just once in 27 opportunities with the man-advantage during the postseason.
“I don’t know if you can go from 24th to first, but we want to jump up I would say at least 10 or 12 spots. That’s what I’d like to do,” said coach Barry Trotz, who begins his 12th season on the Predators’ bench.
While Steven Sullivan looks to build on a solid 2009-10 (17 goals, team-high 34 assists), the club would like to see improvements from forwards David Legwand(notes) (11 goals), Martin Erat(notes) (21) and J.P. Dumont(notes), who has 33 combined goals over the last two seasons after finding the back of the net a career-high 29 times in 2007-08.
With goaltender Dan Ellis(notes) dealt to Montreal in the Kostitsyn deal, and 22-year-old backup Anders Lindback(notes) never having appeared in an NHL game, Pekka Rinne(notes) is expected to log heavy minutes for Nashville in 2010-11. Rinne, 2-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average in four career home starts versus Anaheim, will have plenty of talent in front of the net with Weber and Ryan Suter(notes) anchoring the defense.
While the Predators look to open on a positive note, the Ducks wish they would have after falling 4-0 at Detroit on Friday. Anaheim has been outscored 16-3 while losing its last four season-openers.
Hiller, 1-2-0 with a 2.69 GAA in three career starts at Bridgestone Arena, could be in for a busy season with 18-year-old defenseman Cam Fowler(notes) forced into action with Scott Niedermayer(notes) retiring.
“You’re not going to replace that,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “Fowler is going to be a good player, but he’s just a kid.”
Fowler was picked 12th overall in the 2010 draft.
The Ducks, who begin the season with three road games in four days, split four matchups with Nashville last season, with each club winning once on the other’s home ice.