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Five keys for Predators at Ducks, Game 7

Pressure is on Anaheim as Nashville aims for upset

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators finish their Western Conference First Round series Wednesday at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET: NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, FS-W, FS-TN). The winner plays the San Jose Sharks in the second round.

Here are five keys for Game 7:

Act first: The Ducks are the team facing the most pressure; they are favored, they are at home, they held a 3-2 series lead and they have lost a Game 7 in each of the past three postseasons.

They can find comfort by getting to their game plan first. It hinges on pressure on the forecheck and a five-man, tight defensive posture that seals the slot.

"I think it's that we do the little things well," forward Jamie McGinn said when asked about what the Ducks' ideal game looks like. "We make their [defensemen] turn, we play physical and we get some zone time. 

"When we are five guys tight in our end, the [Predators] seem to play on the outside and we break out clean."

Win the individual battles: Sure, game plans are nice, but in a winner-take-all game, things often turn on the smallest of plays.

Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler said the Ducks have to be prepared to win the majority of the 50-50 pucks through sheer effort.

"Both teams want it equally as bad," Fowler said. "It's who executes their game plan the best and who wins the little battles. At the end of the night, those little battles add up to victory a lot of the times."

However, the battles have to be fought intelligently.

"Sometimes, I think you get out of the right frame of mind by trying to do too much," Fowler said, "which is one thing that we don't want to do."

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Getzlaf nets rebound to open scoring

Match game: The Ducks have the nuclear option of placing top forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the same line, but they use it sparingly.

"We play the game and we see how it is going," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If it is necessary, we do it; if it is not necessary, we don't do it. If we have 20 players playing as good as they can play then it is not necessary."

The Ducks put the two together while trailing 2-1 in the latter stages of Game 6. There is likely going to be a point in Game 7 when it will be appealing.

The Predators can't worry about it. They have not been overly concerned with matchups yet and they can't start now. 

Numbers game: The Predators have six players with Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 experience, but Nashville's relative inexperience is not necessarily bad.

Coach Peter Laviolette said the Predators should treat it like they did Game 6 on Monday, a 3-1 victory at Bridgestone Arena. "An elimination game is an elimination game," he said Wednesday morning. 

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Ekholm fires wrister past Andersen

Stay in the moment: Each team has an opportunity to create a new legacy. The Ducks can shed their reputation for Game 7 failures. The Predators can win their first Game 7 and pull off an upset.

But it does no good to think about the what-ifs. Instead, the near-universal message from both dressing rooms centered around playing the best possible game and having no regrets.

"There's no point in making too much of it," Nashville defenseman Shea Weber said. "You put too much pressure on yourself and you don't perform. You have to come with your best effort. 

"It's another game, it's a big game. You don't want to paralyze yourself by overthinking too much in situations. You have to do what you have done to this point to be successful."

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