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With Trotz guiding way, Predators back in playoffs

by Dave Lozo
For the seventh time in eight seasons, the Nashville Predators find themselves in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Barring something unforeseen, they will eclipse the 100-point mark for the fourth time in franchise history.

Here are six reasons why the Preds are back in the postseason:

1. Barry Trotz -- In his 13th season behind the bench, Trotz may have put forth his most masterful job. He didn't allow the contract situations of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to affect a team that lost several key veterans during the offseason. The Predators boast one of the youngest rosters in the League, but Trotz once again has his team in the playoffs. He likely will once again be passed over for the Jack Adams Award, but he deserves some type of recognition for the job he's done in Nashville.

Pekka Rinne
Goalie - NSH
RECORD: 41-16-8
GAA: 2.41 | SVP: 0.922
2. Pekka Rinne -- Of course, an all-world goaltender can go a long way toward making a coach look like a genius. The 29-year-old signed a seven-year, $49 million deal in November and it did nothing to deter his game. He's 41-16-8 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. His 68 starts are one back of League leader Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks.

3. The Preds can score -- Sure, their hallmark remains defense and goaltending, but the Predators are on pace to score their most goals in a season since 2006-07. The Predators rank eighth offensively, and that was before bringing back Alexander Radulov last week. If Martin Erat is healthy down the stretch, he could become the first Predator to eclipse the 60-point barrier since J-P Dumont in 2008-09. No one is mistaking the 2011-12 Predators for the 1980s Edmonton Oilers, but scoring isn't the problem it's been in the past.

4. Shea Weber/Ryan Suter -- It'd be foolish to not give these two All-Star defensemen their own credit for not letting their pending RFA (Weber) and UFA (Suter) status mess with their games. Weber is stringing together an offensive season almost identical to last season's, but his plus-19 is far and away a career best. Suter isn't far off his career-high in points while logging the third most ice-time per game (26:37) in the NHL. Weber (26:19) is fifth in that category and could be in line for a Norris Trophy.

Patric Hornqvist
Right Wing - NSH
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 40
SOG: 201 | +/-: 5
5. The Preds can score (on the power play) -- Last season, the Predators finished 26th (15.2 percent) with the extra man; this season, they are the best in the NHL at 21.8 percent. Nine of Weber's 16 goals have come during the power play, and Patric Hornqvist has 8 of his team-leading 25 goals on the power play. The Preds are also making the most of their chances -- they're 21st in power-play opportunities but tied for fourth in power-play goals.

6. Little things add up -- The Preds have trailed after two periods 25 times and have rallied to win seven of those games, the second-best mark in the League. Only one team has missed the net less frequently than the Predators. Nashville ranks fourth in takeaways. The PK is in the middle of the pack, but the Predators have put themselves shorthanded the sixth-fewest times in the NHL. When the Preds score first, they are 31-3-4, the third-best mark in the League. It all comes together to make the Predators a very dangerous team.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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