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At 20-Game Mark, Preds Like Where They Are, Where They're Headed

Nashville Has Plenty More to Give as Season Continues On

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

Twenty games, 12 wins and 26 points. Those aren't bad totals to have entering the Thanksgiving holiday for an NHL hockey club, and more than half of the League's teams would prefer to be in the spot the Predators currently hold.

Third place in the Central Division - and tied for seventh overall in the NHL entering Tuesday's action - Nashville has found ways to get it done more often than not. Winning seven of your last eight outings will do that for you.

There's a lot to like - the seemingly limitless abilities of goaltender Pekka Rinne, contributions at both ends of the ice from the defensive corps and a forward unit starting to find the scoresheet with regularity. Five-straight games with at least four goals or more will spell that out quite clearly, but perhaps most encouraging of all is what the Preds still feel they are capable of as the season continues.

There are things they'd like to clean up - hunkering down late in games and limiting the amount of penalties they commit - and one should probably expect things aren't going to be perfect with 62 games remaining in the regular-season slate.

"I think we're progressing," Preds forward Craig Smith, who has four goals in his last seven games, said. "We're trending in the direction of playing our best hockey."

The offensive outbursts have plenty to do with that, and after going through a stretch that saw them score no more than two goals per game in six-straight contests, Nashville has now found the back of the net at least three times in each of their past eight games, with four of those occurrences including five goals or more.

"There was a lot of talk in the beginning of the year because we weren't scoring goals," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "There's always something to coach up in the locker room and address with the players, and you hope for a good response. Sometimes, you just get in a funk with something, and it's not working. At the beginning of the year, it was the goals, or output, or the 5-on-5 goals and production. Those things usually work themselves out if you can keep to the process and keep doing things the right way. We played well offensively, and at times we've really been humming in the offensive zone. I thought we've done some good things."

Every single skater who has logged ice time for the Predators this season has recorded at least one point, even Rinne. Ten different players have at least three goals on the campaign, and in those past eight games that have seen at least three goals each, not a single contest has seen a player with multiple tallies.

Easy translation? Goals are coming from just about everywhere.

"No matter what time of the year, you need 20 men out there playing the right way and doing the right things for the team to be successful," center Ryan Johansen said. "It's been very encouraging to see the way guys have stepped up and playing with some absences."

With more than four months to go, the toughest days may still be ahead of the Predators, as the ebbs and flows of the season are always unpredictable. But as the turkey is set to be served at this point of the journey, there's lots to be thankful for, and even more to look forward to.

"I think we've done some good things, and we have things that we still need to improve on and where we can take a step with our team," Johansen said. "As a group, we're starting to feel very comfortable… We're still trying to improve our team game each, and every day as we're going along here and getting to where we feel like we're going to be unbeatable."

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