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Predators look for offensive jolt from top line against Stars in Game 5

Forsberg, Johansen, Arvidsson try to solve Dallas checking, help gain series lead

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators hope to get some much-needed production from their top line when they play the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS).

The Predators' No. 1 line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, which combined for 162 points (76 goals, 86 assists) during the regular season, has one goal and one assist against the Stars.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.


[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Stars series coverage]


Nashville's top line in each of the past three seasons has not been the offensive difference-maker against Dallas; a breakout Saturday would play a huge role in taking the series lead.

"In the first two games, I thought we were generating a decent amount of chances, playing hard defensively," Forsberg said Friday. "It's a 200-foot game in the playoffs, so we're trying to take care of everything. The last two games I think we've been kind of like the team, a little slower."

It is unlikely that Predators coach Peter Laviolette will make any changes to that top line because of their history of production when together. Arvidsson set a Nashville record with 34 goals in the regular season, and Johansen became the second player in Predators history to have 50 assists in a season (Paul Kariya, 2005-06, 2006-07). 

Video: CHI@NSH: Arvidsson sets Predators record with PPG

Laviolette said the potential for an offensive jolt from Johansen's line is always there.

"I think just the team defense from Dallas that we're going up against has been pretty stingy with what we're trying to do and what we're trying to create," Laviolette said. "But there's no question this has been a really good line for us and a solid line just with their speed and attack and ability to create. 

"I've got a lot of confidence in that group. That line has been together for a few years now and has provided a lot of offense for us, so there's a lot of confidence from me that, not only that line, but others as well will be able to find a way to contribute. 

"I would think that they would agree that it hasn't gone the way that they've wanted so far. But knowing these three guys tells me that they will get it going and they will figure it out. They've been a real positive line for us for a long time."

The Stars tried to match up against the Johansen line with Radek Faksa, Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau when they were at home in Game 3 and Game 4.

"Well, give credit to Faksa's line," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "They were probably more dangerous when we were in Nashville, we get last change and we can put them out there. Faksa, Cogliano and Comeau, along with the defensemen who are out there, are doing a great job of not giving them time and space, not allowing them to gain a lot of momentum."

Faksa's line has been particularly effective at making it difficult for Johansen's line to get plays started because of their pressure and ability to play a stifling defensive style in the neutral zone.

"I would say the thing that makes them so good is how they forecheck and make it hard for [the Predators] to have any speed through the neutral zone because of how hard they work on the puck and away from the puck," Montgomery said. "Offensive players, they want time and space and want to be able to carry the puck into your end to be creative. 

"And we're not giving Nashville, in general, a lot of those opportunities, but in particular, [Faksa's line] and the [defensemen] who are out there against the Johansen line have done a terrific job of that."

Johansen's line likely will need to lead the way offensively if Nashville is going to win the series. The unit needs to find a way to pick apart Dallas' defensive strategy against them and spend more time in the offensive zone for the Predators, who have scored eight goals in the four games.

"We looked at a bunch of stuff this morning so we've got some ideas here and some things that we're going to go out and try and execute better," Johansen said. "Hopefully that'll lead to some success."

The Predators have been in their defensive end for much of the past two games at Dallas and have not generated a high number of quality attempts. They expect the intensity to continue to rise as the series progresses.

"You want to come out with an edge and do your best to dominate the play," Johansen said. "We talk about hockey being a game of aggression, and you've got to be ready for a war. So we're definitely coming in with that mindset."


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