Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz has said that almost as soon as his team was eliminated in the second round of last year's playoffs, he realized how close his team was.
The Predators scored 11 goals in the series; Vancouver scored 13 on Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne a two-goal differential over six games between advancing and elimination. Vancouver, of course, went on as far as Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, finishing as runner-up to Boston.
On Thursday, the Preds clinched a playoff berth for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, giving them another opportunity this spring, only this time with a fortified lineup that includes three late-season acquisitions: defenseman Hal Gill, checking center Paul Gaustad and scoring wing Andrei Kostitsyn.
Yet the most notable one is wing Alexander Radulov. He is the wildcard, the game-breaker that the Predators hope, along with the numerous other moves they have made, can make the difference this season.
"I think there...