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5 Keys: Predators at Blues, Game 1

St. Louis counting on experience in second round; Nashville could get boost from return of forward Colin Wilson

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

PREDATORS at BLUES

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

Western Conference Second Round Game 1

 

ST. LOUIS -- The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues will face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time ever in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round at Scottrade Center on Wednesday.

The Predators, the second wild card into the playoffs from the West, advanced by sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks and haven't played a game since April 20.

The Blues, the third seed from the Central Division, advanced by defeating the second-seeded Minnesota Wild in five games.

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:

 

1. Thriving on past playoff experience

The Blues have won 14 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons, and as teams advance, experience plays a big factor.

In all, St. Louis has played 25 playoff games during the past two seasons.

"Experience matters," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "I think it really does. Last year we knew playing against Chicago, we let them back into it, same with [the Dallas Stars]. We played those extra games and went to seven games. It seems like this year we have a little more jump, especially in that Game 5 [against Minnesota] to close things out and not extend it longer than we had to."

 

2. Colin Wilson's return

Predators left wing Colin Wilson could return to the lineup after missing the first-round series against the Blackhawks with a lower-body injury. He would provide more scoring depth for Nashville.

"He's a big forward (6-foot-1, 221 pounds)," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's had a good year for us. He's big and strong, he protects the puck, he skates well, he's capable of playing offense and a 200-foot game.

Video: NSH@ANA: Wilson controls Neal's pass, buries backhand

 

3. Vladimir Tarasenko being a factor

Blues right wing and leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko has 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 24 games against the Predators, more than any other opponent in the League. He had three points (one goal, two assists) in five games against the Wild but needs to be more of a factor against Nashville.

"We always need to be better, especially now," Tarasenko said. "It's always nice when you have space to grow and that's what we want to do as a team, every one of us. So we will try to do it in the second round."

Video: STL@MIN, Gm5: Tarasenko tallies after crafty footwork

 

4. Top line setting the tone

The Predators need to continue to get production from their top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, who combined for 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) against the Blackhawks. Johansen led the line with six points (one goal, five assists).

"Obviously we've been in physical games against the Blues, and in the playoffs, it feels like the intensity ramps up a little bit more," Forsberg said. "Going forward, we'll most likely see something like that in the playoffs as well."

Video: NSH@CHI, Gm1: Arvidsson tips in Forsberg's dish

 

5. Continue to get great goaltending

Pekka Rinne of the Predators (0.70 goals-against average, .976 save percentage) and Jake Allen of the Blues (1.47 GAA and .956 save percentage) were Nos. 1 and 2 among starting goalies in each statistical category in the first round, and will be counted on to be the backbone for their respective teams.

Video: CHI@NSH, Gm4: Rinne keeps puck out through scramble

 

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Kevin Fiala -- Calle Jarnkrok -- James Neal

Colin Wilson -- Colton Sissons -- PA Parenteau

Cody McLeod -- Mike Fisher -- Austin Watson

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Anthony Bitetto, Vernon Fiddler, Brad Hunt, Miikka Salomaki, Pontus Aberg, Harry Zolnierczyk

Injured: Craig Smith (lower body)

 

Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Paul Stastny -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen -- Patrik Berglund -- David Perron

Vladimir Sobotka -- Jori Lehtera -- Magnus Paajarvi

Scottie Upshall -- Kyle Brodziak -- Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson -- Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson -- Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, Dmitrij Jaskin, Petteri Lindbohm

Injured: Robby Fabbri (knee), Nail Yakupov (lower body)

 

Status report

McLeod is expected to make his 2017 playoff debut. Parenteau is expected to play in place of Smith, who missed Game 4 against the Blackhawks. They'll take the place of Aberg and Zolnierczyk. ... The Blues recalled Lindbohm, a defenseman, and assigned defenseman Thomas Vannelli to Chicago of the American Hockey League. St. Louis will dress the same lineup it used in Game 5 at Minnesota.

 

Who's hot

Ellis has four points (one goal, three assists) in the past three games. Johansen (one goal, five assists) and Forsberg (two goals, three assists) each are on a four-game point streak. ... Schwartz had at least a point (two goals, three assists) in four of five games against Minnesota. 

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