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Injuries aren’t “excuses” as Predators drop fourth game in a row


Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

After taking the lead against Chicago on Sunday night during third period, only to give up two goals in less than a minute to lose the game 4-3, Nashville direly needed a win against the St. Louis Blues to have even a slim chance at keeping their playoff dreams alive.

A second period goal by Alex Steen and a 15-save shutout by Brian Elliott has nearly ended Nashville’s mathematical chances of earning a Western Conference playoff spot.

It was an odd affair in Bridgestone Arena, as both the Predators and Blues skated to a scoreless first period. In the three other meetings  this season, there hasn’t been a scoreless period between the two teams. Although, with Nashville decimated by injuries over the past couple of weeks, it’s was hard this evening for them to gain much traction at all against a defensively-sound Blues team.

Speaking with the players in the locker room after tonight’s game, all players noted the same thing on if injuries were a factor in their recent challenges: it’s just another excuse. They were very quick to downplay the growing number of walking wounded among the team, with Shea Weber specifically calling out the lack of offensive production being one of the key problems.

“It’s just excuses. We’ve got guys in here that are playing and we have to do a better job. We have to have some sense of production one way or another,” said Predators captain Shea Weber. “We can’t sustain any offense and it is tough to get any shots. Everything we’ve got had been from the outside and we really didn’t have very many good scoring chances.”

As the season comes to a close this month and the Predators chances towards an eighth playoff birth dwindle down into a realistic foreboding of a postseason with no hockey, it’s a tough and bitter pill to swallow. Striding forward with seven games remaining, though, is the only thing left to do.

“It is what it is, we just gotta take it one game at a time and not worry about the end result,” said Predators defenseman Victor Bartley.

Nashville’s troubles can’t be faulted by goaltending either, as Pekka Rinne has been one of the lone bright spots of the team this season. Over his last seven games, Rinne has a 1-4-2 record, but his stats are tremendous: 1.85 GAA and a .942 Save Percentage. Four of his six losses were of one goal or less, the only exceptions being a 3-1 loss to Columbus and Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Chicago.

“Pekka is very proud. From his standpoint, he can be the difference maker and wants to be. I talked to him and I told him, ‘play hard and don’t worry about the outcome’ because he can’t always control the outcome,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “Play hard, play with joy, and compete to show the way for the young guys. He shows that.”

With Dallas and Detroit coming in Nashville this weekend, the Predators should not only look to snapping the four-game skid they are currently on, but attempting to play spoiler towards those teams that are also searching for a playoff spot here over the next two weeks.

“Everybody’s realistic. Everyone has to be. I think the thing we have to hang our hat on right now is trying to win some hockey games,” said Trotz. “To win we have to play extremely hard; we have to play within the system an be committed. We don’t want quit from anybody. It’s not a part of our culture.”

Nashville’s current home stand ends this upcoming Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Afterwards, the Predators will head out for three of the final four games with the last home game coming on April 23rd against the Calgary Flames and the end of the regular season on April 27th against the Columbus Blue Jackets.