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Preds atop the Western Conference with win over Flames…

Don’t adjust your computer monitors. The Predators – yes, the Nashville Predators – are sitting on top of the Western Conference at this very moment.

And no, Music City doesn’t care that their team has four neighbors at the top. They’re just thrilled to be there.

Marcel Goc and Martin Erat both had three points today (each had one goal and two assists) as the Predators downed the Calgary Flames in Alberta this afternoon. David Legwand bagged a goal, rookie defenseman Cody Franson netted the game winner and Dave Scatchard sank the empty netter to round out Nashville’s scoring. Goaltender Dan Ellis made 29 saves in the 5-3 win.

But the story isn’t so much the win, as it is what the win accomplishes.

After an abysmal October, the Preds have stormed back to not only tie Chicago for the best record in the Central, but also win seven of their last 10, including only one of those three losses in regulation. That’s 16 of a possible 20 points.

So here they are: planting their flag on the top of Everest.

(Okay, so it’s not quite Everest. After all, the season’s not even half over. Mt. Shasta. How’s that? They’re planting their flag on top of Mt. Shasta. There… that sounds better.)

Considering where they were (and where they looked like they’d end up) back on October 24, having climbed all the way up the Western Conference ladder is quite an achievement. Let’s face it, they were left for dead. Not only by the national media in the pre-season, but also by fans, bloggers and local media here in Nashville toward the end of October. Predators fans have gone from screaming “Fire Barry Trotz!” to proclaiming “He’s the Coach of the Year!” Quite a 180 over the past 56 days.

So while the Blackhawks are technically in first place because they have two games in hand, and while San Jose may have more superstars, and while Los Angeles has seemingly come out of nowhere to compete for the Pacific Division title, the Predators have joined them looking down on all of the other teams.

The Preds will end their pre-Christmas run in Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday night. If they win, they’ll have 49 points heading into the holiday break. The Blackhawks have three games between now and Christmas. Two against Detroit and one against San Jose.

Then, almost as if it was planned, Chicago and Nashville will face-off on back-to-back nights in a home-and-home series that’ll potentially decide the mid-season Central Division favorite going into the new year.

So congratulations to Barry Trotz, David Poile and the Nashville Predators. You’ve weathered the storm, persevered and forced the Canadian media to consider you as a playoff team.