Skip to main content

Headlines

playoffs

5 Keys: Predators at Sharks, Game 5

Lineup tweaks, fighting fatigue among factors to watch

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director, Editorial

SAN JOSE -- The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play Game 5 of their Western Conference Second Round series at SAP Center on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The best-of-7 series is even at 2-2.

Here are 5 keys for Game 5:

1. FATIGUE LEVELS

The Predators and Sharks played 111:12 of hockey on Thursday night and then endured cross-country flights to San Jose on Friday.

Neither team skated Friday. Each, for the most part, stayed away from the ice Saturday morning as well. The Predators did not skate at all and the Sharks had an optional at their practice facility, although a surprising number of players took the ice for at least a few minutes.

It will be interesting to see which team can get to its game first and force the other to consistently defend, as that tends to be the more tiring activity.

"Pro hockey players are in pretty good shape," San Jose center Logan Couture said. "Guys play a lot of minutes and their top guys have played a lot of minutes. So have ours. We have to play smart hockey to make them tired, make them play in their [defensive] zone."

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm4: Rinne shrugs off Pavelski's high shot

2. SOLVING RINNE

The Sharks believe they played well in Game 4, especially as the game progressed, but they couldn't manage a goal after defenseman Brent Burns scored on the power play at 6:48 of the third period. Rinne stopped all 24 shots he faced in overtime.

In the series, he has stopped 115 of 124 shots.

Every Predator credited Rinne for his part in the game 4 win; his two stops on Tomas Hertl during the overtime periods were among his game-savers.

San Jose would like to get to Rinne early in Game 5 to cast aside some of his growing confidence.

3. LINEUP CHANGES

San Jose definitely is changing its lineup; Nashville may do the same.

Veteran center Dainius Zubrus is in for the Sharks, replacing Tommy Wingels on San Jose's fourth line.

Coach Peter DeBoer likes that Zubrus plays a north-south game and likes to get inside the defensemen on the attack and crowd the goalie. He believe the Sharks need to challenge more in that area. DeBoer also likes that Zubrus did not play Thursday night and has fresh legs.

It will be the first lineup change for San Jose in 10 playoff games this spring.

It will be interesting to see what Predators coach Peter Laviolette does with his forwards.

Rookie Pontus Aberg played in Games 3 and 4, but his ice time was severely limited. He played 4:59 in Game 4 and never saw the ice after the second period.

Does Laviolette go back to veteran center Mike Ribeiro in Game 5 after making him a healthy scratch the past two games? It will be hard to hide his defensive-zone liabilities and faceoff struggles during a game in which the Sharks are afforded the last change.

"We have some lineup decisions to make," Laviolette said Saturday during his briefing at the team hotel.

Video: Predators sink Sharks on Fisher's goal in 3OT

4. ON THE REBOUND

Three of Nashville's four goals on Thursday came off of rebounds.

On the winning goal, Fisher was able to beat San Jose's Chris Tierney and Paul Martin to the unclaimed puck after a shot from teammate Mattias Ekholm and deposit it past a scrambling Martin Jones, the Sharks goaltender.

"I think every single line on every team you see at this stage now is throwing everything they can toward the net," Predators first-line center Ryan Johansen said, "and trying to get those second and third opportunities, create those scrums in front of the goaltender, because every goalie we see now with the way they are playing, it is so hard to beat them with a first shot."

"That Fisher line was tremendous for us the other night playing that simple, smart game. It's something for the rest of our group to take a page out of their book and do what they did."

5. GO FISH

The Sharks need to find a way to contain the reconstituted Mike Fisher line, which also features right wing Colin Wilson and left wing James Neal.

They are aided by the fact that they have last change during each stoppage at SAP Center. As a result, DeBoer can dictate to a degree which line he puts against the Fisher line.

He can use his top line head-to-head in that battle or he can deploy a more defensive-minded unit.

DeBoer was not giving away anything about his plans during the morning skate, but he has said throughout that the Predators are more concerned with matchups than the Sharks are.

"I don't spend a lot of time on that," DeBoer said. "Obviously that line has been effective, obviously we have to pay attention to it; but I don't spend a lot of time on what they are doing. This is about us and our game. I know that if we are in the right spot and playing our game, the results will take care of themselves."

View More