Hang on to your hats Predators fans as the 2010-11 season continues to be one of many ups and downs.
The boys from Smashville arrived back home after there second west coast trip of the season and promptly swept the California trio with wins in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.
A very good showing considering the Preds last voyage to the west coast back in early November, losing to Detroit, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Anaheim before pulling out a nail biter against the St.Louis Blues to end the losing streak.
In fact the Preds could very well be the poster boys for the NHL where streaks are concerned.
Following along this season, the Preds have become victims of two different five game losing streaks while also being lucky enough to have two five game winning streaks.
In the their last 15 games, the Preds have won their first five games, lost their next five and you guess it... won their next five games.
During their current five game winning streak they are out scoring the opposition by a combined 19 to 6 margin despite injuries to Martin Erat and Steve Sullivan. The club is also with out the services of Jordin Tootoo for the foreseeable future.
Add to the this the lose of breakout center Cal O'Reilly with a broken fibla and recently injured center Nick Spaling— who was finally getting key ice-time and the Preds are testing their depth chart.
Linus Klasen was recalled from Milwaukee (AHL) and since has been re-assigned in favor of Andreas Thuresson. Both have been pressed into action after being recalled at different times over the last few days.
The roster make-up of the Predators sees newly signed free agents Marek Svatos and Chris Mueller filling in the line-up along with depth player Wade Belak— who was a regular "healthy scratch" for head coach Barry Trotz.
The continuing progression of Sergei Kostitsyn along with line mate and center Marcel Goc keep the Preds offence rolling. Coach Barry Trotz placed Patric Hornqvist with this duo after Erat was injured.
New assignments and increased ice-time to Colin Wilson is also paying off handsomely as is the return of veteran center David Legwand.
While Nashville is still nine points behind division leader Detroit, the Preds are sitting in a three-way tie for fourth in the Western Conference standings with Colorado and Anaheim at 50 points. Preds have games in hand on both clubs (Colorado two and Anaheim four). Not bad for a club that has seen only six players play in all 41 games so far this season.
Defenceman and Captain Shea Weber, Colin Wilson, Joel Ward, J-P Dumont (although benched at times this season), Jerred Smithson and Shane O'Brien have appeared in 41 games thus far and two other players Francis Bouillon and Kevin Klein have seen action in 40 out of the teams first 41 games.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne continues to hold the fort along with rookie Andres Lindback. Both goalies are helping the Preds to stymie the opposition as they have allowed the fewest goals against in the Western Conference and only trail the Boston Bruins overall.
Along with the Preds and Bruins, only Vancouver and Montreal have allowed under 100 goals so far this season. All teams have played either 41 or 42 games. So the Preds are getting some great goaltending when they need it the most.
Knowing the schedule maker didn't so the Preds any favors this month, the Preds are on a four game winning streak for the month of January and will entertain Colorado later in the month and Western Conference rivals Chicago and Phoenix who are just one point behind.
The fight continues as the current 12th place Blues are only four points behind the tied for 4th place Preds.
Predators are home for two for the next three games before another six game western road trip, this time starting in Chicago with stops in Phoenix, Colorado, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
Like I mentioned before, the Preds post-season aspirations could be determined by the end of the month— but there is still plenty of hockey remaining. It certainly will be exciting to watch.
Coach Barry Trotz moved past legendary Montreal Canadiens coach Dick Irvin with his 432nd win .vs Los Angeles on Thursday January 6th. Trotz is now fourth all-time in wins with one NHL club. Glen Sather sits third all-time with 464 wins with the Edmonton Oilers.
Mike MacDonald is a Featured Columnist and covers the Nashville Predators and the NHL
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