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Tennessean: Predators do enough to compete for playoffs

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Analysis by John Glennon • THE TENNESSEAN • January 5, 2010

(republished with consent of The Tennessean) First Half Look-Back
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Mid-Season Position-by-Position: Forwards | Defense | Goaltenders
More than halfway through the season, the Preds are one of just five teams in the league without a 30-point scorer, and the team's power-play and penalty-kill units are among the worst in the league. Yet Nashville is in sixth place out of 15 teams in the Western Conference, on pace to total more than 100 points and return to the playoffs. Just how are the Predators doing it? Here are 10 reasons for Nashville's success thus far:

1. Surprise production
The Predators' signings of players like Marcel Goc and Francis Bouillon over the summer didn't grab many headlines or cause many ripples league-wide. But Goc already has tied a career-high with eight goals and Bouillon is averaging 20:13 ice time, fourth-highest on the team.

2. Youngsters developing
Forward Patric Hornqvist scored just twice in 28 games last season, but already has 13 goals in 41 games. Rookie defenseman Cody Franson already has 11 points in 31 games. Youngsters like Andreas Thuresson and Nick Spaling aren't producing many points, but both have been effective two-way players.

3. Even-strength play
ThePredators have had all kinds of difficulty scoring on the power play, but the team has had no such problems when it comes to even-strength goals. Nashville's 86 even-strength scores ranked seventh in the league prior to Monday's games. The Preds have scored 36 of their last 38 goals at even strength.

4. Two good goalies
Some NHL teams use a second goalie only out of desperation, crossing their fingers and saying their prayers as a result. The Preds have no such worries, as both Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne have held the starter's role. Prior to Monday's games, the Preds were the only team in the league featuring two goalies with at least 19 appearances this season.

5. Discipline
What's the best way to avoid power-play goals when you don't have a good penalty kill? Stay out of the box. The Preds have given opponents the fourth-fewest power plays in the league this season, eliminating opposition scoring chances and keeping legs fresh.

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