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Predators comfortable opening Western Conference Final on road

Will begin series at Oilers or Ducks, won Game 1 away from home in first two rounds

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators don't know their opponent in the Western Conference Final, only that they'll start the series on the road.

The Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks will play Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN). The winner will host the Predators in Games 1 and 2 of the conference final.

That isn't necessarily bad news for the Predators. They started their first two series of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road and won Game 1 each time. Nashville defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at United Center and won the series in four games, and won 4-3 against the St. Louis Blues in the second-round opener at Scottrade Center and won the series in six games.

The Predators' road success is in contrast to the way they felt in 2015, when they played Game 1 of the first round at home against the Blackhawks. They lost 4-3 in double overtime and were eliminated in six games.

Video: How the Predators match up with the Oilers and Ducks

"Going back to when we had Chicago when we had home ice two years ago, the pressure is on right away," Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "It really is. When you've got the home-ice games you've got to win right away. You've got to get those.

"When you start on the road, it's more of a, 'Hey, we've got two games here. If we pull one, it's great.' And that's just the mindset. You can get in there, you don't have to play fancy, you don't have to do anything. You really just have to play controlled, play within the system and try to pull one win out of there. From a pressure standpoint, I think it's a good thing."

The controlled style of play to begin a series has served the Predators well, as has their experience in big games on the road. They won Game 7 against the Ducks at Honda Center in the first round last year.

Nashville has scored the first goal in Game 1 in each of the first two rounds, and has scored the first goal in seven of its 10 playoff games.

Video: Preds oust Blues in six games, advance to first WCF

"We're just dialed in to get ready for the series," Predators forward Colin Wilson said. "I think we get focused and we're good in those intense situations, and Game 1 obviously is starting to set the tone."

The Predators had to face two different styles in the first two rounds against the Blackhawks and Blues, and they feel like that will help them against either the Oilers or Ducks.

"I've said this a lot of times before, I think our team is able to adjust to the type of opponent that we're playing," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think inside the Central Division there's challenges with that and the game that you need to play in order to try and be successful. Our team has done a pretty good job of recognizing the game that we need to play and then trying to execute that game."

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