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5 Keys: Predators at Sharks, Game 7

San Jose, Nashville players need to stay composed, embrace the moment

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

SAN JOSE -- The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play Game 7 of their Western Conference Second Round series at SAP Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports). The series is tied 3-3 and the winner advances to the Western Conference Final to play the St. Louis Blues.

Here are 5 keys for Game 7:

1. BE BETTER

It may seem simple, but it is not. Most players say the key to Game 7 success is to win the individual battles.

Each player on both teams must commit to being better in each 50/50 battle that makes up a hockey game.

The only problem is that the other team is making that same commitment to being better, so the effort required to get the upper hand rises exponentially.

Still, that is where the bar must be set for Game 7.

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm5: Pavelski one-times Thornton's nice feed

"You just have to do everything better than they do," San Jose center Joe Thornton said. "You have to win the faceoff battle, the hit battle, the takeaway battle, the special-teams battle, the 5-on-5 [battle]. If you do all those things I like your chances."

2. NO ORDINARY JOES

While San Jose can talk about depth all it wants, its top line has carried the weight through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But the line of Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl was not at its best in the 4-3 overtime loss Monday in Game 6. The goals for San Jose came from fourth-line forward Chris Tierney, who scored twice, and second-line center Logan Couture. Not only did the first line not score, but each player had one shot on goal.

In Game 7, the Sharks will have the last change and for the most part can dictate who the Thornton line plays against.

"We can skate a little better for sure," Pavelski said. "We can support the puck. I think the biggest thing is just execution. There's a couple times we had some breaks where, not only breaking out but we had 3-on-2 rushes where guys were kind of falling over, losing the puck, however it happened. That's just the way the night went. We weren't good enough by any means. Execute a little better and just worry about yourselves and worry about compete."

3. PANIC ATTACK

If things don't go right at the start, neither team can panic. This series has been too close and there have been too many comebacks to allow a bad shift, or even a string of bad shifts, to doom the game plan installed during the past two days.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Wilson evens game on tic-tac-toe play

By their own admission, the Sharks weren't good in Game 6 yet took a 2-0 lead in the first period on Tierney's goals. But the Predators never buckled and clawed their way back into the game before winning in overtime.

"I don't know how the first shift is going to go or the first couple of shifts, but we need a 60-minute effort," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "I'm not putting a lot of stock in the first shift or the first couple of shifts. We're looking for a 60-minute effort to play our game and we'll let the chips fall where they may."

4. EMBRACE THE MOMENT

Game 7 of a series is supposed to be fun. There is a tendency to overthink things, but essentially this is what everyone involved in the game has dreamed about since they were little kids.

San Jose defenseman Paul Martin talked about how he dreamed of scoring the winning goal in Game 7 countless times when he was a young hockey player. And that dream hasn't died. He said he likely will think about a few game-winning goal scenarios as he lies down for his pre-game nap.

Those same dreams are being harbored by the Predators.

"We have [dreamed about it]," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "We're not the only ones dreaming about it; I think San Jose has dreamed about it too, so that makes it a game up for grabs."

5. HERO TIME

Anybody can play the hero. That is what makes the playoffs in general, and Game 7s in particular, such an amazing time. Resumes are not vetted before shots are taken and everyone from the biggest superstar to the fourth-line forward and third-pair defenseman has a chance to enter playoff lore.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Arvidsson's backhander wins it in OT

Tierney, who had one goal in his first 10 playoff games, scored two goals in Game 6. Nashville right wing Viktor Arvidsson was promoted from the third line to the first line and scored the winner in overtime Monday. It was his first goal of the postseason.

The only prerequisite to being the hero is a belief that you can be the player to win the game when the puck is on your stick.

"It's that time of year; you look at the Pittsburgh series, it's not [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby that are the difference," DeBoer said. "Essentially it's depth. We've talked about that all year. I think the guys understand that and I think every guy in our room feels they can make a difference tonight."

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