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Stanley Cup Final

Predators likely won't change strategy in Game 2

Nashville will rely on top two defensive pairs again vs. Penguins in Cup Final

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- One of the questions entering the Stanley Cup Final was how the Pittsburgh Penguins forwards would match up with the Nashville Predators defense, more specifically how Nashville's top two pairs would match up against Pittsburgh centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

If the Penguins 5-3 win in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series is any indication, it's not a very important factor to consider heading into Game 2 at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

The Predators top two defense pairs of Roman Josi with Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban with Mattias Eklholm played essentially equally against Crosby and Malkin in Game 1, and are expected to do likewise in Game 2.

 

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Playing on the road gives Pittsburgh the last change but it does not appear it is something Nashville cares too much about.

"At times, if we can get [a matchup] that we like, we get it," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said Wednesday. "Coaches do it differently, some coaches will pull players off the ice all the time to get matchups, I guess it depends on the philosophy that you're looking to play with. I think we have a game plan on what we're trying to do, but we also have trust in all of our lines and all of our [defensemen] to go out there and execute and do the job."

The Predators third defense pairing of Yannick Weber (7:40 of ice time) and Matt Irwin (9:04) had the played the least in Game 1, their lowest ice time in 17 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There were a number of factors for that, but the matchup against Crosby and Malkin was one of them.

Video: Talking about the Predators' defensive line

"Matt and I didn't play that much just because of the matchups, and special teams were a big part of the game too," Weber said. "We try to get the matchups as much as possible, but they changed the lines around a lot, plus they have the last change so sometimes it's tough and sometimes you have to face different lines. Plus, we were down 3-0, so we had to push the pace and play the top-four [defensemen] a little bit more."

Crosby had two assists in Game 1 and Malkin scored a goal, though it was on a 5-on-3 power play, so the challenge for the Predators top two defense pairs is to change that in Game 2.

"I think they're different kind of styles," Josi said. "Crosby is, well, he's the best player in the world. So he does everything well. He's always dangerous, he always makes great passes, he's hard to defend down low with his cut backs and he's really fast and really strong on his skates. Same with Malkin, he's a big guy, he's strong, really skilled and he can beat you one on one."

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