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While the NHL seems to be getting younger and faster everyday, it is the veterans who have lead the way so far in the playoffs.
USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE — 

At famed Jack’s Bar-B-Que on Broadway, where grub is served cafeteria-style, a worker in the food assembly line is focused on her job until she sees the patron at the front of her line is rocking a gold Nashville Predators’ shirt.

“Go Preds,” she says, nodding before pushing across his tray of smoked chicken and potato salad.

Just blocks from the team’s Bridgestone Arena, the new tallest building in the city is under construction and workers have a hung a Predators flag at its highest point.

And at the Fifth Third Bank, a Predators’ corporate sponsor, “Every branch looks like a high school gym at homecoming now,” Predators CEO and President Sean Henry said. “Blue and Gold everywhere. The drive-in windows are all soaped up with real engagements: ‘Sign up for a checking account and get a team jersey.’”

With the Predators in the Western Conference final for the first time and only two wins from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, Predators fever is an epidemic in the city.

“There was a time where it wasn’t a foolish thing to say, ‘I don’t pay attention to hockey,’” said Willy Daunic, the Predators’ television broadcaster and talk show host at 102.5 The Game. “If you put that out there today, you don’t sound like you are with it. You are not ‘cool’ if you say that.”

Predators defenseman Matt Irwin said, “You can feel the buzz in the city.”

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A Nashville playoff game has become a marquee event. “I come down and get off the elevator and Nicole Kidman is standing there,” Predators general manager David Poile said.

Kidman is married to country star Keith Urban who sang the national anthem for Game 3 of the series with the Anaheim…