New Predators have very sharp teeth

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

To the Nashville Predators it's all new ...

The view from high in the standings. The security of a playoff position. The expectations of winning.

Since their inaugural 28-47-7, 1998-99 season, the Preds have improved to the point where they are one of the top teams in the National Hockey League.

Prior to the lockout, the Predators managed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, edging out the Edmonton Oilers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

COMFORTABLY IN SECOND

The Predators are comfortably in second place behind the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division.

They are three wins from breaking a franchise record. And if the post-season started today, they'd have home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

"The expectations are a little different for us in Nashville, no question, but probably around the league also," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz.

"We got off to an unbelievable start. I kept saying I didn't think we played very well, but we were finding ways to win. Getting off to a great start gave us a good cushion and gave us that confidence that we can win games."

The attitude is different in the Predators locker-room these days. It has gone from attempting to compete to expecting to win.

"As an expansion franchise, the first two or three years, they were just happy to be in the league," said Paul Kariya. "But once you go through that, over time, you get better and you expect more."

Acquiring Kariya and Steve Sullivan adds to the expectations.

Expectations that to players like David Legwand - the Preds first pick (second overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft - are new.

"They said they were going to go with the young guys and that's exactly what we've done," Legwand said. "We have a ton of young guys here, and the older guys that they have brought in have been great for us helping the young guys come up.

GROWN LIKE A FAMILY

"But everyone that has been here and been around has really grown together like a family."

And as a family, the Predators went through their first playoff experience in 2004 together.

"I think there's a lot more calmness in our group for two reasons," said Trotz. "Making the playoffs for the first time two years ago and then playing a team like Detroit, who are sort of the New York Yankees of this decade, they are always in the mix."


Videos

Photos