NASHVILLE -- It's going to be intense, it's going to be emotional and it's going to be nerve wracking. But despite everything that comes with a do-or-die scenario - in this case, Game 6 of the Western Conference Final - there will be a man who will show unwavering poise in the face of adversity: Randy Carlyle.
Anaheim's head coach has been through this before, and he says it's times like these when he and his assistant coaches need to lead by example.
"With experience, there are certain things I think that are the responsibilities of the coaching staff to provide, and one of them is leadership in these situations," he said to reporters at Bridgestone Arena today. "To have a direct path and a plan put in place, and support the plan. It's about making sure your players are focused. It's not about the results, it's about the process. How you achieved it. Do what you do to the highest of your level."
Maybe his resolute demeanor behind the bench really has rubbed off on his players. The Ducks have showed tremendous poise throughout the postseason even when it seemed like all was lost. They've pulled off dramatic comebacks and brought themselves back into two series (including their second-round matchup against Edmonton) with confidence and a dedication to sticking to the game plan.
Now, more than ever, they'll need to collectively raise their game to the highest level. There won't be a second chance if they don't come out of Bridgestone Arena with a win tonight.
"We've faced elimination once in these playoffs," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, referencing Game 7 vs. Edmonton. "The fact we've been there, you learn from mistakes. You learn from winning. You learn how to do it. It's a matter of going out and executing the way we can."
Adversity, of course, is nothing new to the Ducks, who will be without the services of Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves tonight. The two combined for 65 goals in the regular season (33 for Rakell, 32 for Eaves - including 11 as a Duck), and the 24-year-old Rakell had seven goals and 13 points in 15 games during this postseason run before suffering a lower-body injury in Game 4.
"The last three months, we've been responding to things properly," said Getzlaf. "I expect nothing [less] from our group tonight. They're not going to let us just come in here and take it. We're going to have to go out, play hard and do the things we do well."
After leaving Game 5 with a lower-body injury, it appears John Gibson will be an option in goal tonight. He was one of two goalies on the ice for the optional morning skate (also Jonathan Bernier), and Carlyle says he'll consult with the club's training staff on Gibson's availability.
As for the Predators, reports from their morning skate weren't promising regarding their captain, Mike Fisher. The 36-year-old center was injured in Game 4, didn't play in Game 5 and wasn't on the ice today.
The Preds might get Craig Smith back into the lineup tonight, reports suggest. Smith, who hasn't played since May 7 against St. Louis, was on the ice taking drills and went to locker room early - usually a good indication of a player's availability. Smith has one assist in four games this postseason.
Potential Line Combinations
Video: The Ducks on their mindset for a do-or-die Game 6