Nashville Predators happy with home-heavy stretch run

James Neal had his sixth career hat trick, scoring all three goals for the Nashville Predators in their 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators are ready to sleep in their own beds and skate on their own ice after being away from home for two weeks.

And maybe, climb a bit higher in the Western Conference standings before the post-season.

They wrapped up a five-game road trip Monday night by going 3-1-1 with a 3-2 win over Edmonton, and now the Predators are back in Nashville where they will play eight of their final 12 games starting Thursday night hosting the New York Islanders trying to improve both their game and their position.

“I think everyone’s looking at the standings and where you are at this point in the season,” Predators centre Mike Fisher said Wednesday.

``But that doesn't take away the fact we know where we're at and what we have to do, especially at home the next little bit. We want to play better at home. We feel like we can, but overall, we feel like we've gotten better throughout the season and wanta to continue that.''

The Predators held the first wild-card berth with 83 points going into Wednesday night's games, giving Nashville an eight-point lead over Minnesota. Nashville is five points behind Chicago for third in the Central Division and has a game in hand trailing Dallas and St. Louis by eight points back.

Last season, Nashville started off strong and faded late before losing to Chicago in six games in the playoffs.

Now the Predators are 7-1-2 over their last 10 games and just wrapped up a 3-1-1 road trip capped by a 3-2 win Monday night at Edmonton. Vancouver snapped their franchise-record points streak ended at 14 games last week. Nashville is 13-2-4 against Canada this season, though they only have one game left against a Canadian team – Vancouver visits March 24.

``It's time to get back to our building in front of our fans and on home ice,'' Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ``Saying that, we have to keep things going the way we've been playing and take care of business at home.''

The Predators have lost six of their last 10 in Nashville and are 17-10-6 at home this season. After hosting the Islanders, they make a quick visit to Washington on Friday night. Then they play their next four games at home.

They got a hat trick from James Neal in Edmonton, and he has five goals and two assists over his last seven games. He said Nashville has settled down after an up and down season.

``Now we're really coming together here in the building and playing good hockey,'' Neal said. ``With good hockey, comes confidence. When you're playing at the top of your game with confidence, you feel like you can't be beat and you just want to keep that feeling alive into the playoffs.''

A key part of the Predators' recent success has been the improved play of goaltender Pekka Rinne. He has looked much more like the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist going 8-1-3 since Feb. 12 with only one loss in regulation.

Laviolette is trying to keep the Predators focused only on the next game ahead. The coach said he hasn't talked about the Central Division wanting only two points from each game to ensure they reach the post-season.

``I don't know if there's a right way or a wrong way to get there,'' Laviolette said. ``Right now we're getting some points and we're doing some good things.''

That's enough for March.