As the Preds head into the final week of the regular season there are certainties --- the Preds will be playing in the post-season --- there are question marks --- who will be their first round opponent --- and a host of items worth keeping an eye on.
Yes, we are 79 games into the season, but the final three hold plenty of intrigue and drama.
Take a look at the three "keys" to the final week of the season...1. Health.
The playoff gauntlet tests a team's depth, so going into the playoffs with a healthy roster is a key. Perhaps more so than momentum. Momentum can swing with a quick Game 1 win. Health isn't as easy to create within a series. If Nashville has its complete roster available, Coach Trotz has a ton of options to throw at counterpart -- both with lineup decisions game-to-game and with match-ups shift-to-shift.2. Detailed Game.
The coaches talk about the team's "detail" in its game as a big key to the Preds success this season; the compilation of the little plays within the bigger picture of the game that put the team in situations to succeed. Often the coaches focus on the one-on-one battles along the boards, the decision making with the puck, and the positional play without the puck, especially angles and routes on the forecheck. When Nashville pays attention to the detail in its game it usually leads to long stretches of success. This week will be as much about the Preds refining the details in their game as the actual results of this week's games.3. Working Josi Back Into The Lineup.
Nashville is a different team with a healthy Roman Josi
in the lineup; the Preds have posted a 31-15-3 mark in the 49 games Josi has played, compared to a 14-11-5 mark when he hasn't played. Josi returned to the Preds lineup last Friday at Detroit. The three games this week will be key for Josi to get his timing back and settle in to "game pace" as the Preds get ready for next week's playoff series. With Josi healthy, the Preds defensive pairings seem to fit together well -- Suter/Weber as the top pairing, Bouillon/Klein have a history of success together over the past three seasons, and Gill/Josi have been very effective when paired together. The Preds are a team built from defense out, so the more the defensive pairings are in sync heading into the post-season, the better Nashville's chances for playoff success.