With one piece of bad news, the Nashville Predators have gone from one of the West's favorites to a No. 5 team everyone wants to play in the first round of the playoffs.
With Tomas Vokoun out, the Predators have lost the backbone of their team. Coach Barry Trotz knew he'd get great goaltending every night from Vokoun. Now, the coach is going to have to do his best Dr. Phil impersonation to keep this team focused.
Trotz will have to rally his team and come up with reasons the Predators can still win. Trotz can remind his team of other goaltenders who have come into the picture late and have found playoff success. (Remember Ken Dryden? He was called up from Montreal's farm club in the spring of 1971, and the rookie went on to help the Canadiens win a Stanley Cup.)
Chris Mason is no Dryden or Vokoun, but Trotz has to get the Predators to believe in Mason and get Mason to believe in himself. Mason is 8-6-1 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. Trotz will tell Mason he can get the job done and tell the team "we still expect to win."
But Mason still has to come out and finish the regular season strong. With four games left (against St. Louis, Minnesota, Phoenix and Detroit), it is imperative that Mason plays well. It will give him and the team confidence. If Mason struggles, it will give everyone a lot of doubt.
Barry Melrose, a former NHL defenseman and coach, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.