Nashville Predators' Brutal Janaury Schedule Could Leave Season in the Balance

Mike MacDonaldCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 01: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators deflects a shot over the net during his game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Nationwide Arena on December 1, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Predators were able to end 2010 on a winning note with a 4-1 win in Minnesota on New Year's Eve.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak that had sent the upward-bound Preds tumbling down the Western Conference standings.

The Smashville gang currently resides in 11th place, just two points out of eighth and 11 points behind division leading Detroit.

The NHL schedule won't make things easy this month for the Preds as they will only have three games at Bridgestone Arena for the month of January.

The Preds' three home games include the Columbus Blue Jackets today, followed by the Minnesota Wild on January 11 and finishing up with the Chicago Blackhawks on January 15.

What gives?!

Of the 13 games scheduled for January, only one game—January 13 vs. Florida in south Florida—is against a Eastern Conference opponent.

After today's game, the Preds head to California for three games in four nights, starting on Wednesday January 6 vs. the Anaheim Ducks.

They will tackle the Ducks, Kings and Sharks before coming home to play the Wild on January 11.

A quick trip to south Florida to play the Panthers on January 13, and the Preds are back home to face the Blackhawks on Saturday January 15.

Starting January 16, the Predators will travel to Chicago in the second game of a home-and-home series.

On January 18, they'll continue their travels to Phoenix, Denver, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver to finish out the month—a six-game road swing.

The opportunity is there for the taking, the problem is that this club is banged up and heading out on two trips that will see the team play nine games against Western Conference teams.

February sees the Preds staying home and eating a lot of home cooking. They will have nine home games, including four in a row out of the 13 games they'll play.

They'll have to get through January first...Hopefully, they can build on the win in Minnesota on New Year's Eve.

Nashville will get an opportunity to play games against seven teams that are currently ahead of them in the Western Conference standings as well as four that are behind them.

Currently, the Preds are one point ahead of 12th place Phoenix and only two ahead of 13th place Minnesota and Calgary, who are tied with 39 points.

Anaheim has played four more games than Nashville, while all other teams the Preds will meet during the month have roughly played the same number of games as them.

Mike MacDonald is a Featured Columnist covering the Nashville Predators and the NHL.