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Preds Ready for Chance to Clinch Division in Regular-Season Finale

Nashville Win Over Chicago on Saturday Will Give Predators Consecutive Central Division Titles

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

It all comes down to this.

The Nashville Predators already know they'll be one of 16 participants when the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway next week, but what is still unclear, however, is the opponent who will be standing on the other side of the ice when the puck drops for Game 1. They don't yet know where it will drop, either.

The scenario on Saturday night, the final game of the 2018-19 regular season, is quite simple - defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in any fashion and the Preds will become Central Division Champions for the second-consecutive season.

The playoffs haven't arrived just yet, but in the first week of April, this is about as close as it gets.

"We have one division banner, and we'd love to add another," Preds Associate Captain Ryan Ellis said. "It's essentially Game 1 of the playoffs. We've really been treating these last couple games as playoff-style game, because we knew we had to win. We knew the other teams would do their job, and we're going to have to do ours. We need to win it."

Those other clubs, the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, are also still very much in the running for a Central Division crown.

Nashville sits in the first spot with 98 points, while both the Blues and Jets sit one point behind. All three are inactive on Friday night, but Saturday brings about the final game of the season for each with massive divisional and postseason implications on the line.

Any of the three could end up facing off against one another in Round One, but for the Preds, the scenario is quite simple.

Beat the Blackhawks, and the Preds will face the owner of the first Wild Card spot in the West, likely to be the Dallas Stars. But of course, anything can happen.

"Anyone can be anywhere from first to third, so for us, you want to be in a position where you can control your own destiny," Preds defenseman P.K. Subban said. "There's a lot of teams tonight that'll be watching games and have no control over their destiny and where they end up, but we have that control. For everything that we've fought hard for all year, we have an opportunity to really salvage it tomorrow on home ice."

Winning streaks and losing streaks, inconsistencies and jubilation, this season has had just about everything. Yet, for all the highs and lows that have come over the past seven months, the Predators still find themselves with a chance for another banner on the final night of the regular season.

Perhaps Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said it best after Thursday's 3-2 comeback win over the Vancouver Canucks to reclaim that top spot.

"There's no question that when you're playing for something, it's a better habit than when you're not playing for something," Laviolette said. "When you don't play for something, as much as you can say the right things and do the right things, you can tell somebody to be desperate and then you can have somebody who's actually desperate and it's two different things. Our guys played like they were trying to accomplish something, and the work's not done yet."

For this team in this moment, is there a better situation than hosting a night with these implications in game No. 82? The Predators can't envision one, and if there was ever a proper tune-up for what's to come, this is it.

Buckle up, Smashville.  

"With the amount of injuries and different things and adversity that we've gone through this year, to still be in a position where we can capture our division, it's something that we are very proud of and something we should be very excited about," Subban said. "It's a Saturday night in our barn against Chicago. It doesn't get much better than that."

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