NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Ask any coach what the most important game is and they’ll all say the same thing: the next one.

For the Nashville Predators, head coach John Hynes would be correct.

Chicago is nipping on Nashville’s heels in the standings following two-straight losses to Carolina and a Blackhawks win over the Red Wings on Saturday. As these two Central Division foes begin a three-game series on Monday, just two points separate them in the standings.

“Obviously it’s a big week for us. We know where they’re at, we know where we’re at. We need the points obviously,” said Predators defenceman Mattias Ekholm.

Nashville is currently holding the fourth and final playoff spot with 49 points, while Chicago sits a game back with 47.

“It’s an exciting week,” said Hynes. “It’s what we’ve talked about. The excitement and the importance of playing meaningful games where there’s a lot on the line, and we got to be ready to go and firing on all cylinders tonight.”

Ekholm said this feeling of must-win hockey isn’t new to the 2021 season. After a slow start, every game for the past few weeks has felt like playoff hockey for the Preds.

“A month and a half ago I don’t think anyone thought we would be playing these kinds of meaningful games, so I’m just embracing it and am really excited about it,” said Ekholm.

The puck drops Monday night at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. These two teams will also meet Wednesday and Friday.

Additionally, Bridgestone Arena will have an increased capacity as announced last week while the team was on the road. On Monday, Smashville will welcome a 33 percent capacity or 5,700 fans. That figure is up from 21 percent and 4,200 fans.