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5 Keys: Blackhawks at Predators, Game 4

Nashville looking for sweep; Chicago could use seven defensemen in quest to extend series

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com Correspondent

BLACKHAWKS at PREDATORS

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports 3, SN360, FS-TN, CSN-CH

Nashville leads best-of-7 series 3-0

 

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators can sweep a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time when they play the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

The Predators have allowed two goals in three games and have scored nine.

Chicago will try to avoid being swept in a series for the first time since the 1993 Norris Division Semifinals against the St. Louis Blues.

Here are 5 keys for Game 4:

 

1. Killer instinct

The Predators have been aggressive throughout the series and will try to continue that approach during Game 4. They are focusing on the importance of trying to close out the Blackhawks as soon as possible and not give them a chance to keep hope alive with a win.

"It's a huge game for us, definitely," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "They have a lot of experience over there. They're a great team so they're going to come out with their [best] effort, and we need to do the same thing."

 

2. One at a time

The Blackhawks realize they can't win four games in a row if they don't start with one. Four teams in NHL history (1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, 2014 Los Angeles Kings) have come back to win a series after trailing 3-0.

"We've just got to put it all on the line," Blackhawks forward Ryan Hartman said. "We're in a do-or-die situation. Our backs are against the wall. That's when we play our best. When things are on the line, big players step up. We know it's a big game. We're not looking too far ahead. We're just looking for a good start tonight and a good all-around 60-minute game."

 

3. Top-line dominance

Nashville's first line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson has been dominant through the first three games of the series, combining for 11 points (four goals, seven assists).

Johansen leads the Predators with five points (one goal, four assists) and largely has been matched against Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews' line. 

"He's been great," Josi said of Johansen. "He's been great offensively, chipping in when we've needed him. He's been great defensively too. He's playing against a lot of top guys and he's doing a great job playing them hard. He's definitely been a big piece for our success lately."

Video: NSH@CHI, Gm1: Arvidsson tips in Forsberg's dish

 

4. Weather the storm

Getting through the first 10 minutes of the game will be key for the Blackhawks. The Predators have home-ice advantage and a raucous crowd on their side. The Blackhawks want to navigate through that and focus on winning each shift.

"We talk about we don't want to look backwards at all, but we also don't want to look too far ahead," Hartman said. "We just want to take it shift by shift. When your line is out there, win your shift and we should be fine."

 

5. Foot on the pedal

The Blackhawks had a 2-0 lead in Game 3 before they allowed two goals in the third period to force overtime, and forward Kevin Fiala scored to win it for the Predators. If the Blackhawks are able to grab the lead again, they want to continue to stay on the attack offensively.

"You can talk all you want," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We need action to get it done, or actions to speak for ourselves and build off that."

 

Blackhawks projected lineup

Nick Schmaltz -- Jonathan Toews -- Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin -- Artem Anisimov -- Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen -- Marcus Kruger -- Richard Panik

Ryan Hartman -- Tanner Kero

Duncan Keith -- Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny -- Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Johnny Oduya

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Gustav Forsling, Jeff Glass, John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco, Jordin Tootoo

Injured: Andrew Desjardins (lower body), Michal Rozsival (facial bone)

 

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Kevin Fiala -- Calle Jarnkrok -- James Neal

Pontus Aberg -- Colton Sissons -- Craig Smith

Harry Zolnierczyk -- Mike Fisher -- Austin Watson

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Anthony Bitetto, Vernon Fiddler, Brad Hunt, Cody McLeod, PA Parenteau, Miikka Salomaki

Injured: Colin Wilson (lower body)

 

Status report

The Blackhawks held an optional morning skate. Quenneville said they could play seven defensemen. … Smith was on the ice to start the Predators' optional morning skate but left early. He sustained an undisclosed injury during overtime in Game 3. If he can't play, Parenteau could make his series debut.

 

Who's hot

Kane scored in Game 3 and had nine shots on goal, the most he has ever had in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. … Forsberg and Fiala are tied for the series lead with two goals.

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