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Central Intelligence: Predators Rolling in November

After slow start, hot goaltending paces Nashville

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

There's an old saying about hockey that says you don't know what you have in a team until Thanksgiving.

In the case of the Nashville Predators, coach Peter Laviolette might need until Christmas to get a firm handle exactly what he has.

If October was any indication, Nashville looked to be one of the NHL's biggest disappointments. Selected by several prognosticators as a trendy Stanley Cup selection, the Predators got out of the gate slow and found themselves near the bottom of the Central Division.

But Nashville has caught fire since the calendar turned to November, seeing a number of its splits completely reverse course.

Case in point, it's special teams.

In October, the Predators had the NHL's best power play, one that converted at almost 36 percent, but had the second worst penalty kill, allowing a goal more than 33 percent of the time.

However, in November, those numbers have flipped, with Nashville's once explosive power play converting just six times this month while its formerly leaky kill has allowed just one power-play goal among 35 tries.

Among other changing trends: The play of goaltender Pekka Rinne. 

After enduring a nightmare month of October, in which he went 1-4-1 with a .906 save percentage and 3.22 goals against, Rinne has been one of the League's best goalies this month, going 7-1-2 with a .952 save percentage and 1.39 goals against. 

A stretch of four straight games against Central Division foes began Thursday when the Predators defeated Dallas 5-2 in Nashville. It's the Preds' longest stretch of consecutive division clashes this season and could go a long ways toward predicting how December goes in the Music City.

"Anytime you have a chance to play against Central Division teams, those really are four-point games," Rinne told The Tennessean. "These games are huge. Come February, March, you don't want to look back having this opportunity in November to play four games in a row against Central teams ... and say that we should've been ready, we should've done something differently in those games."

Get Shorty

One interesting nugget from Chicago: The Blackhawks allowed a short-handed goal against the San Jose Sharks in a 2-1 loss on the West Coast Wednesday night.

It was already their fifth short-handed goal allowed since the season began; Chicago allowed three shorties all of last season.

Home Cookin'

One of the big reasons why Chicago and St. Louis have jumped out to an early lead in the Central Division standings has been their performance on home ice this season.

The Blackhawks are 8-1-2 at the United Center, while the Blues have posted the same record at Scottrade Center.

Minnesota, which started the season by winning its first three games at Xcel Energy Center, is 6-3-0 at home. Nashville, one point behind the Wild in the standings, has also been fantastic at its own barn, posting a 7-1-1 mark at Bridgestone Arena.

FYI: Dallas (5-3-2 at American Airlines Center) and Winnipeg (6-4-0 at MTS Centre) also have winning records at home. Colorado, which has a 4-5-0 mark at Pepsi Center, is the only team in the Central and one of just two in the Western Conference (Calgary) to have a losing record in its own building.

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