After clinching the franchise’s sixth playoff berth in seven seasons, the Nashville Predators want more.
The Predators can gain the Western Conference’s No. 4 seed with a non-shootout victory on the road Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues.
Nashville (44-26-11) defeated lowly Columbus 4-1 on Friday to clinch a playoff spot. Thanks to other fortuitous results, the Predators now have a clear path to gain home-ice advantage in the first round.
“We said we want to go as high as we can, and if we can get two more points (Saturday) night that’d be huge for us as a team and an organization,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You’re talking about maybe the possibility of home ice. Home ice has been an advantage for us this past month. We’ll take it right now.”
The Predators and Phoenix are tied with 99 points, but Nashville owns the tiebreaker based on goal differential. That means a win in either regulation or overtime over St. Louis (37-33-11) will be enough to secure the No. 4 seed.
A regulation loss could drop Nashville all the way to seventh.
Rinne made 44 saves Friday, improving to 10-2-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average in his last 13 starts.
“To me, he’s our MVP without a doubt,” Trotz said. “I would say he’s probably the best goaltender in the National Hockey League. You have to talk about who’s the most valuable player to his team, which is what the Hart Trophy’s about. Pekka’s got to be in the top three for me.”
The Predators may not have an easy time against the Blues after going 2-2-1 in the first five meetings of the season. Jaroslav Halak(notes) started all of those games for St. Louis, posting a 1.36 goals-against average with two shutouts.
Rinne is 5-2-0 with a 1.97 GAA in seven career starts at Scottrade Center. He’s 1-2-1 with a 1.68 GAA against the Blues this season.
Cal O’Reilly(notes), currently out with a broken leg, has four points in the season series to lead Nashville. Kostitsyn has none against St. Louis and Martin Erat(notes) has no points in two games, missing the other three meetings due to injury.
The Blues were very competitive in a 4-3 overtime loss at Chicago on Wednesday, blowing a two-goal lead before rallying to force the extra session.
“We wanted to come in here and play a solid game,” Conklin said. “We know what their situation is. I don’t think we’re trying to knock them out more than anyone else would.”