Monday, March 5, 2012

Preds boast deep blueline heading toward playoffs

One of the most common traits in Stanley Cup winning teams of years past has been the depth on the blueline. There is a lot that can happen during the two-month push toward the Stanley Cup. The teams that have depth on defense put themselves in a better position to win hockey's ultimate prize.

"You need to have everyone going into the playoffs. The playoffs, and the lead up to it, is a long road. It's a long season, and when you tack on a good run, you're playing a lot of hockey. You need those guys to pull you through, and that's why you have to have that depth," said Nashville Predators defenseman Hal Gill.

With the acquisition of Gill before the trading deadline, along with the additions of Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad, the Predators now have a deep hockey team. With all of the injuries that Nashville experienced last season, they know how important that depth can be.

"Depth is huge. Last year, we felt we had really good depth. We made the trade for Mike Fisher, and that same game that Mike played his first game, Marcel Goc went out and was out for the season," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. "Can you imagine if we didn't make the trade for Mike Fisher last year? All of the sudden our center ice would have been quite weak."

"What (Gill) does is give us that depth. Right now, Kevin Klein has been out. Having that depth, you still have that size, you have experience and you have eight defensemen that can play in the league right here. You can take a hit or two and still be able to...I don't want to say not miss a beat, but you won't miss as big a beat," Trotz said.

For the most part, the Predators have been pretty fortunate when it comes to injuries so far this year. However, hockey is a violent game, and that luck could change at any time.

That makes the addition of Gill even more important for the Predators. The added depth that he brings could prove to be huge for them down the stretch if they have the misfortune of losing a player to a long-term injury. However, the Predators hope they won't have to test that depth.

"You hope you don't need it, but it's a tough sport. If you ever do need it, it's really nice to have a couple extra guys that can jump right in. We have depth in all positions. You hope nobody gets hurt, but if something does happen it's nice to have," said Predators defenseman Jack Hillen.

With only five weeks remaining in the regular season, Nashville is looking to lock up a playoff berth and get the highest possible seed that they can. The Predators have the makeup of a special team. They appear to have the depth that it takes to put together a lengthy playoff run. Now, they just have to do it.

"The pieces are in place," Trotz said. "It's up to us now."

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

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