NASHVILLE - Regardless of the fact they're adding a talented forward to their lineup, the Nashville Predators are heading down the stretch and into the NHL playoffs a confident team.
The club's first-round victory over the Anaheim Ducks last year and their pushing of the Vancouver Canucks in the second, has the Predators thinking about a deep post-season run.
Getting Alexander Radulov back from the KHL should help in that regard.
"We are, we're very confident in who we are as a team, we've had a good year and we want to keep going," said Predators centre Mike Fisher. "We think we're ready to contend. There are so many good teams our there, but we feel like we've beaten some good teams this year. Adding some experience at the deadline really helped and I think we're ready."
The Predators were buyers at this year's deadline, acquiring depth and experience while at the same time keeping their two star defencemen, despite the fact they'll both be free agents next season.
Shea Weber will be a restricted free agent, while Ryan Suter will become an unrestricted one.
"We are a little more experienced this year," Fisher said. "Most of our guys hadn't see the playoffs at all before last year. We're a much more experienced team. We added a good face-off guy and a good, experienced defenceman in Hal Gill and we also have some good, young guys. We feel like we're definitely a better team than last year."
Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff is curious as to how Radulov will fit in with the Predators.
This is a player who, after all, turned his back on the organization and returned to play in Russia with a year left on his contract.
"He's a good player," Horcoff said. "Obviously they're adding a lot of skill, but at this time in the year, you want to make sure chemistry is there, it's such an important thing and you never know how it's going to go, just like a deadline deal. That's probably how you look at this.
"It'll be interesting. You'll have to wait and see. I think the big thing will be that he'll be comfortable here, that's important and that's a big step. He'll have a sense of familiarity and that's important. "
Horcoff knows about adding players to a team just before the playoff. The Oilers added four just prior to going on their run to the Stanley Cup final in 2006.
"It was huge, all the guys that we added, that year," Horcoff said. "All those four of those guys played key roles in our run. They all fit in. They filled holes we had in our lineup. You never know how it's going to be, you never know how it's going to turn out, but we'll find out soon enough."
The Oilers did not skate Monday after arriving in Nashville, instead deciding to engage in a little flag football in a field in front of their downtown hotel.
"We've had a tough schedule lately and after getting off long flight, it was good team bonding to get out there and throw the football around a bit," said Horcoff. "Like anything else, it starts out relaxed, but once you get out there it gets a little competitive. But us veterans were able to pull it out in the end."
The manner of the veteran's win was in some dispute the next day as the team returned to the ice.
"I think it was, well I don't want to say (B.S.), but it was," said Jordan Eberle. "The game was to three and we actually won, then they wanted to play up to five. What happened, was their quarterback got sacked on the last play of the game and by then they claimed he touched him with one hand instead of two, which it was two. Then they threw it to a wide open guy in the end zone because everyone had quit on the play.
"I guess you can say, the veterans used their savvy to beat us."
STICKING IT TO FORMER CLUB
Not that needs added motivation, but for Ryan Jones, it's always exciting for him to play in Nashville.
The former Predators winger was waived by the club before being claimed by the Oilers.
"There always is a little extra motivation," Jones said. "You want to prove to the team that let you go that you can play in the NHL. It would be nice to stick it to them a little bit."
Jones did stick it to his team, scoring a power-play goal in the second period. He went into the game playing on a line with Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
"It's been fun, those guys are special hockey players," Jones said. "The things they do out on the ice are things I usually don't see when I'm out on the ice."