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Five keys for Predators vs. Ducks, Game 1

Top lines, secondary scoring vital when Nashville visits Anaheim

by Abbey Mastraccco / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators play Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series at Honda Center on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, FS-TN, PRIME, TVA Sports).

Here are five keys for Game 1:

1. Contain the top two lines: The Predators have a 30-goal scorer on each of the top two lines: James Neal and Filip Forsberg. Forsberg plays with Mike Ribeiro, who has had much success against Anaheim (56 points, plus-25 rating in 53 games against the Ducks).

"I think [Ryan Kesler] will play against one of those lines for sure. And then we have an option of putting (Ryan) Getzlaf against the other centerman," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's tough to counter two good scoring lines, but hopefully we can contain them a little bit."

The Ducks' top two lines are equally dangerous. With Getzlaf on the top line with two big bodies (Perron and Chris Stewart) and Corey Perry (34 goals) on the second line with speedy forwards Rickard Rakell and Jamie McGinn, Anaheim's top lines should match Nashville's.

"For [Getzlaf and Perry], whether they're together or they're separate, they're still dangerous no matter what," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "They're two all-star players with big bodies who love to have the puck and love to compete. The best you can do is take away their time and space, limit the time they have with the puck, as you do with all great players."

Video: ANA@WSH: Perry opens scoring on wrap-around

2. Wear down the Kesler line: If you don't wear down Kesler's line, he'll wear you down. His hard-checking line typically draws the most difficult defensive assignments and kills penalties.

Kesler, Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg can shut down most scoring threats and provide offense. Silfverberg scored 20 goals this season, 14 after the All-Star break. He was second on the Ducks with 18 points in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Getzlaf, 20).

"I'm supremely confident when they're on the ice," Boudreau said. "I think bad things aren't going to happen."

3. Secondary scoring: With the top two lines battling it out, secondary scoring is crucial. Forward Colin Wilson has provided the Predators with a boost in past postseasons (three goals in six games last season), but there are questions whether he can do the same after a season full of offensive struggles (six goals, 18 assists in 64 games).

"There's peaks and valleys from year to year and peaks and valleys inside of a season, but Colin is a guy that we know and we've seen play a big part for our team," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "I do think he's played well down the stretch. He seems to have found a place on that line and settled in and been able to contribute offensively. Certainly, it's not out of the question for him to find his way in the playoffs and become a big player for us."

4. Stay disciplined: The Ducks led the NHL in power-play and penalty-kill percentage. They allowed a one power-play goal over the final nine games and revitalized a power play that was once a glaring weakness.

The penalty kill is a particular point of pride. The Ducks utilize a variety of players who can neutralize a variety of threats.

"You need three really strong units," Kesler said. "I think bringing in [Shawn] Horcoff, that helped a lot. The way he can have a second or third pairing with a guy who has that kind of experience and the way he competes, it helps a lot. And having Getzlaf come on in the second part of the year really helps too, it gives you a couple options at center, and then getting [Nate] Thompson back, we really just have so many guys who can play on the PK on this team and really, no matter who takes the penalty, we're going out there and killing it."

Video: First Round Preview: Ducks vs Predators

5. Take that first hit: At least two, possibly three key players are expected to return for Anaheim. Perron (shoulder) and Rakell (appendix) will return, and defenseman Kevin Bieksa (upper body) might.

Perron said it's important he's not afraid to take that first hit in order to test his shoulder and get himself back in the game.

"I think the first game, that's definitely one thing that I'll have to go through," he said. "When I have the puck, that's kind of in my wheelhouse and it's in the perfect position to shoot, I feel pretty good. But it's the other stuff I still need to work on."

With Perron and Bieksa returning after lengthy absences, there's some concern whether they'll have some lingering rust, but it's not enough to keep them out of the lineup. All three players have been medically cleared and have been participating in full practice drills all week, all that's left to do is get up to game speed.

"Not (concern) with Ricky because he missed only four games. That's not too much," Boudreau said. "Kevin has missed more games and Perron has missed more games, so there's always that 'Are they ready?' worry in your heart, but you can never tell until you get them to play and see how it goes."

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