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5 Keys: Sharks at Predators, Game 3

Nashville looking short-term; San Jose focused on puck-handling

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

NASHVILLE -- The San Jose Sharks and the Nashville Predators play Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; USA, SN360, TVA Sports 2). San Jose leads the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Here are 5 Keys for Game 3:

1. SMALL PICTURE

The Nashville Predators can't get wrapped up in the long-term process of surviving in this series.

The concept of winning four of the next five games to erase the 2-0 hole they find themselves in is too daunting.

The only thought should be winning Game 3 and giving the Sharks something to think about before Game 4.

"We need to win a game," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.

The Predators will lean on the experience they gained from coming back from a 3-2 series deficit against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.

Video: Pavelski, Jones lead Sharks to take 2-0 series lead

2. TRAFFIC JAM

The Predators liked what they accomplished in Game 2, specifically the volume of shots (39) they had against Sharks goalie Martin Jones.

Now they want to get more bodies to the front of the net and make Jones work harder for the initial save and force him to be better with his rebound control.

The third-period goal Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm scored can be used as the blueprint for their success going forward.

"It was a really good offensive-zone shift for us," Ekholm said. "We were cycling the puck and they got it to me on the point and I had two of our guys and two of their guys in front of the net so [Jones] can't see anything and I managed to get the puck through. But that is the challenge for us, to get the puck through, because they are very good at blocking shots."

3. MATCH GAME

For the first time in the series Nashville will have the last line change after stoppages, an advantage afforded to the home team.

San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said he expects Laviolette to use that advantage to dictate some of the matchups in Game 3.

Most likely center Paul Gaustad and his line will play against San Jose's top line, centered by Joe Thornton. That also allows Nashville to get away from the head-to-head top-line showdown that saw the Ryan Johansen line forced to play more against the Thornton line than Nashville would have liked in the first two games.

"I think they are paying a lot more attention to matchups than we are," DeBoer said. "It's not as big an issue on my plate."

Video: Postgame 5/2: DeBoer

4. LINEUP LOOK

Nashville right wing Craig Smith did not skate Tuesday after playing Game 2 on Sunday.

Smith missed Game 1 because of a lower-body injury; it's the third game he's missed during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nashville is a different team with Smith in the lineup. His presence allows the lower lines to fall into place.

If Smith can't play, Laviolette has a few options. Eric Nystrom played in Smith's place in Game 2, but the left wing Pontus Aberg also is available. Aberg, who was called up from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League at the start of the second round, had 25 goals in 74 AHL games. Left wing Austin Watson also is a possibility.

5. PUCK POISE

Part of the reason Nashville was better in the offensive zone in Game 2 was because San Jose was worse with the puck than it was in Game 1.

At least that is what the Sharks believe. They say they turned the puck over too much in the neutral zone and made some poor decisions while trying to transition from their zone.

"It's something that we've usually been pretty good at all year; just a few more mistakes last game than we usually have during the season," Sharks right wing Joel Ward said. "For us, [it's] just having the mindset of being sound, detailed, strong on sticks and get pucks out when you can."

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