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5 Keys: Predators at Ducks, Game 1

Anaheim needs Ryan Kesler to take charge; Nashville hoping for more strong play from Pekka Rinne

by Dan Arritt / NHL.com Correspondent

PREDATORS at DUCKS

9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Western Conference Final Game 1

 

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive year beginning with Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Honda Center on Friday.

The Predators eliminated the Ducks in seven games in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. They advanced to their first conference final this season with a four-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and a six-game win against the St. Louis Blues in the second round.

The Ducks swept the Calgary Flames in the first round and then defeated the Edmonton Oilers in seven games in the second round.

Here are 5 keys to Game 1:

 

1. Rewriting history

The Ducks got over one hump by defeating the Oilers in Game 7 of the second round Wednesday, ending a streak of four consecutive Game 7 losses at Honda Center. They face another against the Predators, who have won their two previous playoff series against the Ducks without home-ice advantage.

In addition to their win last year, when they won Games 1, 2 and 7 at Honda Center, they eliminated the Ducks in six games in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals. The swing victory in that series came in Game 5 in Anaheim, when defenseman Shea Weber tied the game with 36 seconds left in the third period and forward Jerred Smithson scored in overtime.

"This is a brand new year, a brand new series," Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour said. "Guys aren't thinking about that."

 

2. Solving Pekka Rinne

The hottest goalie in the playoffs also was in net for Nashville's previous postseason victories against Anaheim.

Rinne has a 1.37 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage in 10 playoff games. He had a 1.26 GAA and .955 save percentage in the final four games of the second round against the Blues.

In three regular-season games against the Ducks, Rinne was 1-1-1 with a 2.63 GAA, a .919 save percentage and one shutout. In 24 career games against them, he has a 2.33 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

"He's a very active goaltender," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

Video: STL@NSH, Gm6: Rinne closes pads to deny Brodziak

 

3. Igniting Viktor Arvidsson and Mike Fisher

Arvidsson tied for the Predators lead with 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) during the regular season, and Fisher was fifth with 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists).

Neither has had much of an offensive impact during the playoffs.

Arvidsson had four points (two goals, two assists) against the Blackhawks in the first round but had one assist in six games against the Blues. Fisher has no points in 10 playoff games, his longest point drought since going 12 games March 1-24, 2011.

"Whoever wins the series gets to play for the Cup," Fisher said. "So that's probably the only motivation you need."

Video: NYI@NSH: Fisher slams home a nice dish from Wilson

 

4. Anaheim penalty-killing struggles

The Ducks have allowed 13 power-play goals in the playoffs, most in the NHL, six more than any other playoff team and 10 more than the Predators.

Their opponents, the Oilers (fifth, 22.9 percent) and Flames (10th, 20.2 percent), each had a better power play during the regular season than the Predators, who were 16th (18.9 percent). But Nashville was 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) in the second round against the Blues.

"If we're not better on our penalty-killing, then we're going to be susceptible to their strengths," Carlyle said.

 

5. Ryan Kesler's defense

Kesler has seven points (one goal, six assists) in the playoffs. He sacrificed offense to closely defend Calgary forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan in the first round, and Edmonton center Connor McDavid in the second round.

Kesler likely will see plenty of Nashville's top center, Ryan Johansen, who has nine points (two goals, seven assists), tying him for the Predators lead.

Although checking the Predators' top line likely will be Kesler's primary role, the Ducks will need him to generate offense for himself and linemates Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano. Kesler was second on the Ducks during the regular season with 58 points (22 goals, 36 assists).

"We're all playing for the same thing, and right now it's about getting four wins before they do," Kesler said.

Video: ANA@EDM, Gm3: Kesler bangs home puck at the doorstep

 

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Colton Sissons -- Mike Fisher -- Craig Smith

Colin Wilson -- Calle Jarnkrok -- James Neal

Cody McLeod -- Vernon Fiddler -- Austin Watson

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Brad Hunt, Miikka Salomaki, Anthony Bitetto, Pontus Aberg, Marek Mazanec, PA Parenteau, Harry Zolnierczyk

Injured: Kevin Fiala (lower body) 

 

Ducks projected lineup

Rickard Rakell -- Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry

Andrew Cogliano -- Ryan Kesler -- Jakob Silfverberg

Nick Ritchie -- Antoine Vermette -- Ondrej Kase

Chris Wagner -- Nate Thompson -- Jared Boll

Cam Fowler -- Sami Vatanen

Hampus Lindholm -- Brandon Montour

Shea Theodore -- Josh Manson

John Gibson

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, Sam Carrick

Injured: Kevin Bieksa (lower body), Patrick Eaves (lower body), Logan Shaw (lower body)

 

Status report

The Ducks recalled Carrick from San Diego of the American Hockey League on Friday. He had been recalled Tuesday but was sent back to the AHL prior to Game 7 against the Oilers when Boll was inserted into the lineup for the second time in the postseason.

 

Who's hot

Josi has four points (two goals, two assists) in the past four games. Forsberg has two assists and a plus-5 rating in his past four games. ... Getzlaf has eight points (four goals, four assists) in his past five games. Silfverberg has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his past seven games. Rakell has five points (four goals, one assist) and a plus-6 rating in his past five games. Perry has six points (one goal, five assists) in his past four games.

 

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