The New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators are two teams that never should be counted out. Every year it seems like pundits bury these two clubs because they are often struggling financially, lack offense and play in difficult divisions. And every year they are both playoff teams that seemingly nobody wants to play.
Make no mistake: I was one of those pundits. I thought the Devils were going to struggle without Zach Parise because they have a financial albatross on their payroll (Ilya Kovalchuk) and are always in financial dire straits.
Like the Devils, the Predators are currently a No. 4 seed that lost a superstar to free agency, Ryan Suter, and are known for their defensive philosophy. Like New Jersey, I expected them to clamp down defensively and get run over by the more talented Blackhawks, Blues and Red Wings in the Central.
This is what makes it so difficult for these teams. New Jersey has to compete with a Rangers team that has stacked its roster via trade/free agency and player development, a Penguins team that has two of the best players in the world and has already won a championship and the always-pesky Flyers.
How do these two underappreciated teams stack up against the rest of the league this week? Click ahead to find out.