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Ducks get second shot at a win in Nashville

by David Kalan

(Nashville leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)


Big Story:
Anaheim was one of the hottest teams in the League heading into the postseason, but after three games against Nashville the Ducks are down 2-1 in the series and at risk of being in a 3-1 hole when they head back to Honda Center for Game 5. The season won't end if the Ducks can't hold off the Predators on Wednesday night, but for Anaheim, it would be close.

Team Scope:

Ducks: Anaheim is already facing an uphill battle with a 2-1 series deficit after three games. Not only did the Predators wrest home ice away from the Ducks in this series with a 4-1 win in Game 1, but without a victory in Game 4 Anaheim will face a win-or-go-home showdown Friday night at Honda Center. The Ducks need to take a game in Nashville at some point to win this series.

The order for Game 4 is tall, particularly with Bobby Ryan finishing the two-game suspension he incurred as a result of an incident in Game 2. News Tuesday that Jonas Hiller's vertigo symptoms haven't regressed and that the All-Star goalie was sent back to Anaheim give the Ducks even more reason to be discouraged. For Anaheim to pull itself back into the series, it won't just require a productive night on the scoreboard -- it'll require some mental fortitude as well.

Nashville is just one home win away from putting its higher-seeded opponent on the brink, but a 2-1 series lead is no guarantee, a truth these Predators know all too well. It was just a year ago that Nashville had a 2-1 edge on the division-rival Blackhawks before seeing Chicago reel off three straight wins to advance to the second round and win an eventual Stanley Cup title. As the Preds look to win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history, it will be a pivotal step for them to grab Game 4 and put a stranglehold on a team that could be poised to break out offensively at home when Ryan returns for Game 5.

To this point, the Preds have done a better-than-average job of keeping pace with Anaheim offensively. Nashville has scored 11 goals in the first three games of the series, in large part thanks to Mike Fisher, who is tied with Daniel Sedin, Pavel Datsyuk and Corey Perry for the League scoring lead this postseason. Fisher was brought in midseason from Ottawa not just for his scoring, but his postseason experience -- he was a member of the 2007 Eastern Conference champs that lost to the Ducks in the Stanley Cup Final. If he channels that experience it could pay off enormously for the Preds. Any player who was on the squad a season ago knows just how enormous that payoff could be.

Who's Hot:
Fisher's accomplishments so far this series are unmatched by the rest of Nashville's roster, but Martin Erat has come close lately, tallying 1 goal and 2 assists over the last two games. … Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne have continued the hot streaks they carried through the season's final month, combining for 13 points so far this postseason.

Injury Report:
While Hiller has not yet played in this series, his continued absence looms large for the Ducks as they try to get stability between the pipes.

Stat Pack: Pekka Rinne was one of the toughest goalies to score on this season, compiling a 2.12 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage, good for third and second best in the League, respectively. In the first three games of the playoffs he hasn't quite lived up to that billing, crafting a 2.70 GAA and .887 save percentage. This might be more frightening than reassuring for the Ducks, however. According to the law of averages, the towering Finn might be due.

Puck Drop: The Ducks will still have life if they lose Wednesday night, but with just one game sitting between them and the offseason, that life would be pretty desperate. Expect Anaheim to come out with all guns blazing early in an attempt to set both a physical and offensive tone. How Nashville responds to that early surge could determine where this series goes. And if the Preds respond well, they'll be one win away from a franchise first.

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