NHL on NBCSN: Where will Predators finish in Central Division?

Joey Alfieri
NBC Sports

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday night’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Predators are currently second in the Central Division, but they’re far from locked in to that spot. Of course, beating the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night would’ve cut the gap between themselves and the division crown to just two points, but that didn’t happen (they lost 5-0). So now, they’re four points back of the Jets but Winnipeg has a game in hand.

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Unless Winnipeg falls apart down the stretch (unlikely), it appears as though the Preds will have to settle for having home-ice advantage in the first round. But that’s not a guarantee either. You see, Nashville is only two points up on the St. Louis Blues, who are third in the Central (the Blues have a game in hand, too). Unlike the Predators, who have dropped back-to-back games, the Blues have rattled off three wins in a row. St. Louis has also picked up at least one point in five consecutive games.

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“It’s disappointing,” Predators defender Roman Josi said after Saturday’s loss to Winnipeg. “Biggest game of the year up to this point, and they were just better than us. It’s disappointing… That’s a really good team over there. They’re in our division, and it was a big game for first in the Central. We have to find a way to play better than what we did tonight.”

The Preds can’t allow this slump to continue too long. They also need to find a way to start putting the puck in the back of the net in a hurry, as they’ve scored just once in their last two contests.

After tonight’s game against the Wild, Nashville will enjoy three full days off until they take on the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Getting quality practice time at this time of year is rare, so they’ll take it, but this week still won’t be an easy one. All three teams they’ll face over the next week have something to play for. Minnesota if fighting for their playoff lives, the Penguins are battling for seeding and the Blue Jackets are scratching and clawing for every single point right now.

Once they get through this week, they’ll have the “benefit” of playing three teams that will all likely miss the playoffs this season (the Sabres, Canucks and Blackhawks).

Finishing the season strong will be incredibly important. It seems likely that the Predators and Blues will face off in the opening round of the playoffs, but getting home ice in that series will be critical. There’s no denying Nashville is one of the better teams in the NHL, but the Blues have been terrific over the last few months. The difference between going home after the first round and advancing to second might just be that extra game at home.

Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jones and Patrick Sharp.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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