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Pregame: Flexibility Gives Carlyle Options vs. Preds

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

Returning to the site where they once had familiar relations, the Ducks will close out their three-game road trip tonight against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Not since Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round have the Ducks stepped foot inside this arena, which will surely be filled with a sea of "gold." Keep an eye out for a catfish soaring through the air before the puck drops, too.

Tonight represents the bookend of the trip that has seen the Ducks go 1-0-1 thus far. They managed to squeak out a point in a 3-2 overtime loss on Wednesday night in Columbus after erasing a 2-0 deficit with goals in the second and third periods. Anaheim responded with a 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes the following night that included a career-tying four-point performance from Jakob Silfverberg (2g/2a), a multi-goal effort from Ryan Kesler and a franchise-setting assist from Ryan Getzlaf, who surpassed Teemu Selanne (531) as the all-time leader in assists.

Don't expect much changeover in terms of line combinations for Anaheim. Head coach Randy Carlyle says he wants the forward groupings to continue building chemistry, but with a twist.

"We made a statement about five games ago that we were going to put our groups together and give them time," Carlyle said today. "The addition of Rickard Rakell gives us flexibility. We've moved him in the last two games up with Getzlaf halfway through the game and moved Nick Ritchie with Antoine Vermette. Some of those situations have worked in our favor."

The flexibility Carlyle is referring to is Rakell's ability to play all three forward positions, sometimes within the same game. He'll likely begin the game tonight as a right wing, but he'll flank his off-wing with Getzlaf and Perry if Carlyle feels the need to switch things up.

"Ricky likes to play the left side," said Carlyle. "Putting him with Getzlaf and Perry, they've been able to create offense. It hasn't hurt the production of Joseph Cramarossa, Vermette and Ritchie as a line. Realistically, I think I'd be crazy to break up the Kesler-Silfverberg-Cogliano unit. They've played very strong hockey as a group."

Your expected starter for the Ducks is John Gibson, who enters the game with a 5-4-3 record, 2.47 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 12 appearances. Pekka Rinne will bring a 4-4-3 record, 2.33 GAA and .924 SV% into tonight's game for Nashville.

Predators defenseman P.K. Subban didn't take part in the team's morning skate, but reports out of Nashville suggest the charismatic blueliner is playing tonight.

The Ducks and Preds enter tonight's game with respective point streaks. Anaheim owns points in four straight games (3-0-1, 7 pts.), five of the past six (4-1-1, 9 pts.) and nine of the past 11 games (7-2-2, 16 pts.), whereas Nashville comes in with points in five consecutive games (3-0-2, 8 pts.).  

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette praised his club for its ability to finish off the St. Louis Blues in Thursday's 3-1 victory with three unanswered goals including two in the third period.

"It was nice to see them pull a game in the third period," he said. "We had a couple of those opportunities earlier in the year and didn't get it done. Our consistency can be a little better. It has to be against a team like Anaheim. They're a veteran team off to a great start, so we'll have to be ready to play."

Potential Line Combinations







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