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Hurricanes will play Predators in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

Have never met in postseason, Carolina will have home-ice advantage

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

The Carolina Hurricanes will play the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Carolina (36-11-8) will finish first in the Discover Central Division and have home-ice advantage against fourth-place Nashville (30-23-2) in the best-of-7 series.

The Predators clinched a playoff berth with a 3-1 win against the Hurricanes on Saturday.

The Hurricanes are 6-1-0 against the Predators this season; the teams finish their regular-season schedule against each other Monday.

"We were talking about it before, it could be almost a best out of nine series," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "They're big games. I mean you saw it tonight, it was a really physical game. Both teams wanted to make a statement. Obviously for us it was to get into the playoffs."

Game 1 has not been scheduled. The playoffs start Saturday.

"You always want to play at home," Carolina forward Jesper Fast said. "If you look at our record this year, we had a really good record at home (20-3-5), so of course that's an advantage for us. Of course it shows what a great accomplishment we've done so far this year, but at the end of the day you want to be the last team standing and that's what we're focused on right now. It's going to hopefully be a good journey here when the playoffs start."

Forwards Sebastian Aho (five goals, three assists) and Vincent Trocheck (three goals, five assists) lead the Hurricanes with eight points each against the Predators, and forward Andrei Svechnikov (three goals, four assists) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton (one goal, six assists) has each scored seven points.

James Reimer is 3-0-0 (1.67 goals-against average, .952 save percentage), Alex Nedeljkovic is 2-1-0 (1.64 GAA, .938 save percentage), and Petr Mrazek made 19 saves in a 4-1 win on April 15.

"I mean we know what they're doing," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "They've made a little adjustment on a couple of things we've noticed. I don't think there's a lot of secrets. We're hopeful we'll get healthy and get a few guys back, which will be good. I think the process is what it is. We've got to get their first, get through that next game and then crank it up."

Defenseman Mattias Ekholm (one goal, three assists) has scored four points against the Hurricanes this season. Defenseman Dante Fabbro (three assists) and forward Erik Haula (two goals, one assist) has each scored three points. Nashville has scored 12 goals from 10 players in the season series.

Juuse Saros is 1-2-0 with a 2.73 GAA and .917 save percentage, and Pekka Rinne is 0-3-1 with a 3.76 GAA and .878 save percentage.

The teams have never played each other in the playoffs.

"They're a heck of a hockey team," Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "They work. They have skill. I can't speak enough about them. They're a great hockey team. I think we're somewhat similar. Both teams bury their head and work and work and work. It's going to be a fun series. I think tonight was hopefully what you'll get out of this team, out of us, because we want it and we work for it."

Aho leads the Hurricanes with 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists). Four others have scored at least 40 points; Trocheck, 43; Svechnikov, 42; Hamilton, 42; and forward Martin Necas, 41. Reimer is 15-5-2 with a 2.66 GAA and .906 save percentage in 22 games (21 starts). Nedeljkovic is 15-5-3 with a 1.90 GAA, .932 save percentage and three shutouts in 23 games. Mrazek is 6-1-3 with a 1.77 GAA, .934 save percentage and three shutouts in 11 games.

Nashville is led by Josi (33 points; eight goals, 25 assists) and forwards Filip Forsberg (31 points; 12 goals, 19 assists) and Calle Jarnkrok (28 points; 13 goals, 15 assists). Forwards Mikael Granlund (13 goals), Eeli Tolvanen (11) and Viktor Arvidsson (10 goals) are the other Predators with at least 10 goals.

Saros is 21-11-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and three shutouts in 36 games (35 starts). Rinne is 9-12-1 with a 2.97 GAA and .902 save percentage in 23 games (20 starts).

Carolina defeated the New York Rangers in three games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season before losing to the Boston Bruins in five games in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Nashville was defeated by the Arizona Coyotes in four games in the qualifiers. independent correspondent Robby Stanley contributed to this report

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