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Give Me Victory, or Give Me... well, whatever you have, I guess...

Tonight brings another key Western Conference matchup for the Nashville Predators (21-19-4) as the Calgary Flames (22-16-8) come to town, leading Nashville by six points in the playoff race, though the Preds have two games in hand. Both squads are 5-3-2 in their last 10, and coming off recent losses; the Flames dropped a 2-1 decision in Edmonton Sunday, while the Preds lost in a shootout with Chicago.

Given the fact that making it to overtime ensures each team at least one point in the standings, it becomes critical in these intra-conference matchups to put away your opponent in regulation, and maximize your opportunity to jump in the standings. Nashville had to come from behind to send the game with Chicago to overtime on Sunday, but in Columbus Saturday night, an early shift to a "prevent defense" allowed the Blue Jackets to tie things up midway through the 3rd, en route to another shootout loss for Nashville.

The problem here is that Barry Trotz can point to these games and claim to have achieved at least some success (by making it to OT and earning a point), and then shrug his shoulders over the shootout loss, claiming that it is basically a toss-up over which he has little influence. After Sunday's loss to the Blackhawks, Trotz's line was, "They are what they are, a one-on-one skills competition. When you win, they are great. When you lose them, they are not so great."

That's an awfully cavalier attitude about something that could ultimately determine whether his team makes the playoffs or not. The problem here is that over the last two games we've seen very little desire to stay aggressive and go for victory; instead, the gameplan appears to be to limp into the overtime and hope for the best in a shootout.

Why else, in the Chicago game, would guys like Scott Nichol, Jerred Smithson and Jed Ortmeyer (who have combined for 10 goals this season) get shifts in the overtime period, but not Alexander Radulov? By way of comparison, Blackhawks rookie sensation Patrick Kane got 2:20 of ice time in that situation. When the OT started, due to coincidental minor penalties, the team's skated 3-on-3. Chicago put Robert Lang, Martin Havlat, and Duncan Keith out there (2 scoring forwards and a D). Nashville responded with David Legwand in front of Dan Hamhuis and Greg de Vries, clearly thinking defense first. Given all that room out there you'd think Martin Erat and/or Marek Zidlicky would have given the Preds a better chance to win.

Hanging on and hoping for the best is no way to make a run for the playoffs, and from a business point of view, it's a lousy way sell fans on the game. Worse yet, letting your opponent get the OTL point in the standings minimizes the benefits of victory, and given how tightly packed the Western Conference playoff race is, it's just as important to knock your opponent down as it is to lift yourself up.

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