Predators’ Ryan Ellis on Central Division rivalries: ‘Each game’s a war’

Ryan Ellis joins Sportsnet's Starting Lineup after re-signing with the Nashville Predators to discuss the Western Conference and embracing deep playoff runs.

Iron sharpens iron and if you’re seeking proof of this in the hockey world look no further than the NHL’s most competitive division.

The seven Central Division teams combined for 689 points in the standings in 2017-18, an average of approximately 98.4 points per team. By comparison, Metropolitan teams averaged 92.1 points, the Pacific 89.1 and the Atlantic 87.4.

“The West and especially our Central Division, each game’s a war and you have a little bit of a rivalry with every team,” Nashville Predators defenceman Ryan Ellis told Sportsnet 590 Wednesday. “You can’t guarantee yourself a playoff spot. You really have to go out every night and compete and the divisional matchups are even more key from there.”

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The Predators and Winnipeg Jets finished with the best records in the league with 117 and 114 points, respectively, with the Minnesota Wild also breaking the 100-point barrier and the Colorado Avalanche getting back into the playoffs, finishing just ahead of the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars. When the Chicago Blackhawks in a down year are by far the worst team in the division, it speaks to just how stacked the Central is.

“At the end of the day, we love the challenge,” Ellis said. “It’s a great league to play in, it’s a great division and every night you’ve got to be up for it. We look forward to the challenge this year again.”

The Predators were among the Stanley Cup favourites this past season following a run to the Cup final the year prior and they’ll be expected to go on a deep playoff run again in 2018-19. One reason the Predators have been so successful in recent years is the fact they are anchored by perhaps the best blue line in the NHL.

Ellis is an integral part of Nashville’s back end and he was rewarded with a lucrative eight-year contract extension Tuesday.

“Our team has really taken some steps in the right direction,” he added. “We went from zero banners in our arena a couple years ago to having a couple up there from the division and Presidents’ Trophy and then making the Stanley Cup Final. The organization itself is headed in a great direction and I wanted to be a part of that for a long time.”

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