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With Playoffs Clinched, Preds Confidence Growing

A Spot in the Postseason Secured, Nashville Focused on Preparation as Regular Season Concludes

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

Filip Forsberg was watching a movie. Peter Laviolette had already gone to bed for the evening.

Not all the members of the Predators organization were glued to their screens shortly after the clock struck midnight and the Arizona Coyotes defeated the Los Angeles Kings on the West Coast.

Some wanted to unwind after having played earlier that day. Others simply didn't want to watch.

"I'm glad I didn't," Laviolette quipped on Monday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. "I heard the shots were 25-7 [in favor of Los Angeles] through the final two periods, so that would've just tortured me more."

But a text message in the middle of the night alerted Nashville's head coach to the good news - he and his club were headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive season. An Arizona victory in Los Angeles mathematically eliminated the Kings from postseason contention, and although the Predators needed a bit of help to clinch the final spot in the Western Conference, that doesn't change the mood whatsoever.

When training camp begins, the first goal is to qualify for the postseason. Now, the Preds can pursue the subsequent challenges.

"If you make the playoffs, I think that's the goal," Forsberg said. "It doesn't matter if you end up first or 16th. As long as you're in the playoffs, you can win."

The Predators will try to do just that when the playoffs officially begin next week. But there are still three games remaining in the regular season - the final date at home on Tuesday against the Islanders, and then a last trip to Dallas and Winnipeg to close things out.

Video: Laviolette talks about Preds clinching playoff berth

Those three contests will afford Laviolette and his group not only the opportunity to continue to fine tune elements of their game - a majority of which they've liked as of late - but also perhaps the chance to see some familiar faces re-enter the lineup before the postseason.

A name mentioned by the bench boss was that of winger Miikka Salomaki. Injured in Chicago in the second game of the season before dealing with yet another setback on an assignment to Milwaukee later in the season, Salomaki has played just two games for the Preds since Opening Night. But Laviolette said Monday that he'd like to see the rugged Finn in the lineup sometime this week before the regular season is out.

"He was a big part of our team and he had a tough year with injuries," Laviolette said. "You have to get [to the playoffs] before you win it. You have to get there. So the priority was to keep putting - what we felt was - the best lineup with regard to health, conditioning and timing on the ice to try to be successful. [This last week] might give me an opportunity to look at player or two to see if they can have an impact as the playoffs approach."

Since returning from his own injury earlier this season, defenseman P.K. Subban has made an impact in the Nashville lineup and will soon get to experience his first playoff series as a member of the Preds, something he can't help but ponder. Subban says the team has overcome their share of adversity and held each other accountable within the locker room, two key factors in ultimately clinching a spot.

Video: Josi and Subban discuss Preds clinching playoff spot

"Peter Laviolette and [General Manager] David Poile, the coaching staff and everybody has created this atmosphere that everybody just needs to come to the rink and do their job," Subban said. "[They make] it fun for us every day. There hasn't been a day where I've come to the rink and have felt like I didn't want to be here. It's a fun place to play, and I'm just happy that we all have the opportunity to play for the Cup, because we deserve that. There are good people in this organization, and I'm just really excited about the opportunity now to do some damage in the playoffs."

So while the postseason appearance is no longer in doubt, the eventual opponent is. The Preds could end up facing Chicago or Minnesota in the First Round, or they could head west to take on Edmonton, Anaheim or San Jose. No matter who the Predators draw, however, there's a confidence in the locker room right now that is likely to grow in the coming days.

"I've said it before - I've said it through wins and I've said it through some of the losses - we're playing a competitive, tight game right now," Laviolette said. "I like that. I think that's the way we need to play as we get into the playoffs.

"We'll be ready, whoever we play."

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