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5 Keys: Sharks at Predators, Game 6

Nashville to feed off home crowd facing elimination; San Jose will continue to pressure opponent's defense

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play Game 6 of their Western Conference Second Round series at Bridgestone Arena on Monday (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2). San Jose leads the best-of-7 series 3-2.

Here are 5 Keys for Game 6:


Nashville has struggled on the power play during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs (4 of 44) and is 2-for-17 in the series against the Sharks.

The Predators were 19.7 percent in the regular season.

Nashville has started putting some bigger bodies on the power play hoping for traffic in front of the net. Center Paul Gaustad (6-foot-5) is one of those bigger bodies and his impact has been two-fold. Not only does he get to the net for traffic, but he is Nashville's top faceoff man.

"It's about possession, if you lose a faceoff, you are losing 15 or 20 seconds when they dump it down," Predators defenseman Shea Weber said. "You win the faceoff, you are setting yourself up and hopefully it leads to more zone time."

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The Predators scored five goals in the past two games. The line of center Mike Fisher, left wing James Neal and right wing Colin Wilson have scored all of them. Fisher has three, and Wilson and Neal have one each.

Nashville needs more scoring, particularly from its top line of left wing Filip Forsberg, center Ryan Johansen and right wing Craig Smith. Johansen has two goals, but none since Game 2. Forsberg has one goal.

"We need a balanced attack," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think that, again, in Games 1 and 5, we need more attack and more of a game that's going in a direction that's in their end as opposed to in our end. Right from the start [in Game 5], they came out, they were in our end, they were putting the puck behind us and we played too much defense. 

"Again, in my opinion of Games 2, 3 and 4, it switched. It went the other way, and we were able to play down in their end and establish the game plan and inside of that, there were a lot of looks and a lot of attempts, scoring chances and zone chances that we're looking for that came from other lines than Fisher's line."


The home team has won each of the five games in this series.

Obviously, the ability of the home team to get the matchups it wants has played a huge part, but so too has the crowd bringing energy to the home team, particularly in Nashville.

The Predators know they have one of the best atmospheres in the NHL and know they will need to feed off it to find the energy needed at the start of Game 6. 

"We've done a good job at home as of late," Wilson said. "We're going to draw off the crowd. It's been amazing to be here during playoffs. It's been a lot of fun so far, a lot of attention, and it's fun to see the city come behind our team."

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The Predators learned in the first round it does them no good to think too far down the road when facing elimination.

It may sound trite, but you can't win a Game 7 without winning a Game 6. Nashville knows it must take care of business Monday to have a chance to play again Thursday in San Jose.

They focused all their energy on Game 6 in the previous round against the Anaheim Ducks and it paid off with a season-extending victory. Now, they must do the same this round.

"There's not much that needs to be said," Neal said. "I think there's a belief in this room to focus on one game, win one game and then we will focus on the next one. 

"We can take the confidence that the last time we were in that situation, we showed a lot of resiliency and a lot of desperation and came out with a big win our building, and I expect we'll bounce back with a big game after [Game 5] in San Jose."


Sharks center Dainius Zubrus was inserted into the lineup for Game 5 and responded with six hits in 11:25 of ice time. The Sharks had 40 hits in Game 5, one more than they had in the three-overtime Game 4 loss and two less than their top output in this series in Game 1.

The Sharks believe the Predators are tired after playing 13 games in 27 days and flying back and absorbing close to 15,000 air miles in the past month. A physical game, focusing on being hard on the puck carrier, will fuel their success late in the series. The fact that the Predators rely so heavily on a four-man rotation on defense, makes it paramount that the Sharks play a hard game against Weber, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis whenever they have the puck.

"It's the playoffs, so you try to finish [checks]," Zubrus said. "You know how much the top four [defensemen] play, how many minutes, so it doesn't really matter against who, but when the opportunity is there you want to do that."

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