Predators-Avalanche Preview

The Associated Press

The Nashville Predators are on the verge of clinching home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, and they may get it without doing anything by the time they take the ice Saturday night.

If there's work left to do, though, they shouldn't be too concerned.

The Predators will need - at most - one point to clinch the Western Conference's fourth seed in their regular-season finale at the Pepsi Center as they look for a ninth consecutive victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Nashville (47-26-8) trailed Detroit by one point for home ice in the first round heading into Thursday's action, but when the Red Wings slipped up with a 2-1 home loss to New Jersey, the Predators took advantage. After two scoreless periods against Dallas, Francis Bouillon got Nashville on the board and Patric Hornqvist scored his team-leading 26th goal with two minutes left to seal a 2-0 victory.

"We were just worried about winning the game and see if they could put it back in our court,'' coach Barry Trotz said. "We knew, as a coach, obviously we knew (Detroit) had a real hard game in St. Louis (on Wednesday). We were just hoping New Jersey would give us the honors of giving us a chance to be home ice, so we've got to go in there and see if we can get it.''

The Red Wings host Chicago in a Saturday matinee that will determine which team Nashville will face in the first round. Detroit would clinch at least the fifth seed by earning one point, while a Chicago regulation win would lock it into the No. 5 spot.

Should the Red Wings lose in any fashion, the Predators will lock up home-ice advantage. A Detroit win means Nashville will have to win or lose beyond regulation to open its series with the Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena.

"The Saturday night game is going to be huge for us,'' Hornqvist said. "We were great at home and have been all year. I'm looking forward to Saturday night and I hope we can get a big win and start at home.''

While the Predators might prefer facing Chicago - they were 4-1-1 against the Blackhawks and 3-3-0 against the Red Wings - they should certainly feel confident in their ability to pick up points Saturday. Nashville has outscored Colorado 33-16 in winning eight straight games in this series.

Along with that skid against the Predators, it wouldn't be surprising if the Avalanche (41-34-6) had a hard time getting enthused for this game. Colorado was officially eliminated from playoff contention with Thursday's 5-2 home loss to league-worst Columbus.

"We knew what was at stake,'' rookie Gabriel Landeskog said. "We squeezed our sticks too tight tonight.''

Many opponents have done the same lately against Nashville, which hasn't surrendered more than one goal in its past six victories. Pekka Rinne is 4-2-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average in his last six starts overall, and he's posted a 2.00 GAA while starting between the pipes for the eight straight wins versus Colorado.

Martin Erat, meanwhile, has led the way offensively in the series. He has five goals and five assists in his last six games against the Avalanche.

For Colorado to have a chance, it'll probably need to strike first - but even that may not help. Nashville is a West-best 34-3-4 when scoring the game's first goal, though it's won the last two against the Avs after falling behind 1-0.

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