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Playoff Buzz: Predators eyeing first trip to conference final

Nashville needs win vs. Blues to reach third round; Oilers confident going on road against Ducks

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Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. The playoffs continue Friday with one game. NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news, including the site of the two games. Here is the playoff news for Friday:

 

4:30 p.m.
Blues need win to extend series

The St. Louis Blues hope home ice gives them the advantage they desperately need against the Nashville Predators, who have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Anaheim Ducks look to make it three straight wins against the Edmonton Oilers with their series tied 2-2.

Here's the latest news surrounding the two playoff games Friday:

Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) -- The Blues are looking to overcome a 3-1 series deficit for the third time in their history (1991, Division Semifinals vs. Detroit Red Wings; 1999 Conference Quarterfinals vs. Phoenix Coyotes). The Predators can become the first team to advance to the conference final. Correspondent Louie Korac has projected lines for Game 5. Senior managing editor Arpon Basu reports how the Blues and Predators are joining forces in flood relief efforts in the St. Louis area.

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) -- The Elias Sports Bureau tells us when teams are tied 2-2 in a playoff series, the winner of Game 5 holds a series record of 196-54 (78.7 percent), including 3-0 in 2017. The road team has won every game so far in this series. Correspondent Dan Arritt reports that Anaheim forwards Patrick Eaves (lower body) and Ondrej Kase (lower body) are out and forward Nicolas Kerdiles was recalled from San Diego of the American Hockey League. NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes explains in his Friday Four how the Oilers must utilize their speed to regain the series lead.

 

3:00 p.m.
Crosby uncertain for Game 5

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby returned to practice Friday for the first time since sustaining a concussion in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals on Monday. Crosby was a full participant in practice at the Penguins facility in Cranberry, Pa. and did not rule out returning for Game 5 against the Capitals at Verizon Center on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Penguins have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series and can close it out with one more win.

Correspondent Wes Crosby has the details on Crosby's day and an update on Conor Sheary, who also is a possibility to play in Game 5 after sustaining a concussion Monday. Columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika discusses the process Crosby has been through since he left Game 3 and the responsibility for everyone involved to be certain Crosby is healthy before he plays.

The big news at Capitals practice in Arlington, Va. was left wing Alex Ovechkin skating on the third line with Lars Eller and Tom Wilson while Andre Burakovsky took Ovechkin's spot on the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he wanted to get Ovechkin some practice reps on that line in case he decided to double shift him there Saturday.

Correspondent Katie Brown has more on that story here. With the Capitals one loss away from being eliminated by the Penguins in the second round for the second straight season, staff writer Tom Gulitti goes deeper into the need for more from Ovechkin and Trotz's desperate search for more offense.

 

2:50 p.m.
Ottawa regroups after Rangers even series

The New York Rangers had an optional practice Friday before traveling to Ottawa. Ten of the players expected to dress for Game 5, including starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist and backup Antti Raanta, were on the ice. The Rangers like how they played to even the series with two wins at Madison Square Garden, but they're not talking or acting like a cocky team in control. NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen explains why and details what has gone well in his dispatch from Greenburgh, N.Y.

The Senators are staying positive after losing 4-1 in Games 3 and 4 this week. Their 2-0 lead in the series is gone, but as coach Guy Boucher said, they have to feel good about being tied 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Second Round with Game 5 set for Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Momentum doesn't exist now for the Senators because it doesn't fit their story arc in the series. Staff writer Amalie Benjamin has more on Ottawa's mindset.

 

2:20 p.m.
Blues hope to extend series

The Nashville Predators have a chance to eliminate the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round on Friday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

With a win, the Predators would advance to their first Western Conference Final. Correspondent Louie Korac has 5 keys to Game 5, including what St. Louis must do to extend the series.

Off the ice, the Blues and Predators have joined forces to raise money for relief efforts in St. Louis. The area has had significant flooding in the past week and continues to deal with the effects of abundant rain in the region.

 

11:38 a.m.
Predators look to advance to Western Conference Final

The Nashville Predators are one win away from reaching the Western Conference Final for the first time. They play Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues with a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Second Round.

In the other Game 5 Friday, the Edmonton Oilers play at the Anaheim Ducks with the series 2-2.

Here's a look at the playoff schedule Friday:

Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN) -- Nashville won 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena in Game 4 when defenseman Ryan Ellis and forward James Neal scored in the third period on Tuesday. Blues coach Mike Yeo is expected to make some lineup adjustments, according to correspondent Louie Korac. The Predators, who have made the playoffs 10 times since entering the NHL in 1998-99, never have advanced beyond the second round. They are 7-1 so far in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will look to finish the Blues as quickly as possible, according to correspondent Robby Stanley. 

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NBCSN) -- The Ducks evened the series on forward Jakob Silfverberg's goal 45 seconds into overtime in their 4-3 win in Game 4 on Wednesday. The Ducks have been without a few key players because of injury, but they will look to take their first lead in the series, correspondent Dan Arritt reports. Correspondent Derek Van Diest writes that the Oilers, 4-1 on the road in the playoffs, remain confident despite losing two straight at home against the Ducks.

 

9:31 a.m.
Rangers' depth key in victory

The New York Rangers improved their chances of making a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs thanks mostly to their depth.

Getting scoring from throughout their lineup, the Rangers evened the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Ottawa Senators with a victory in Game 4.

Ottawa played the third period without All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who sustained a lower-body injury. Game 5 is at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Saturday.

Here's a look at what happened Thursday:

New York Rangers 4, Ottawa Senators 1

The Rangers won for the fourth straight time at Madison Square Garden, getting two goals from Oscar Lindberg and two assists from Tanner Glass to even the best-of-7 series 2-2. Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves for his 61st career Stanley Cup Playoff win, tying him with Tom Barrasso for 13th all time.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said Karlsson could have played the third period and he's hopeful to play in Game 5 on Saturday.

Senior Writer Dan Rosen said the Game 4 win showed how deep the Rangers are.

As for Karlsson, staff writer Amalie Benjamin said there should be cause for concern in Ottawa.

Video: Rangers tie the series up on home ice

 

Here are some things we learned on Day 23 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Erik Karlsson is not a machine

Karlsson, the Senators' sublime captain, has been playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, an injury he revealed after the Senators eliminated the Boston Bruins in the first round. Either his injury is getting worse or he sustained a new injury during Game 4, because Karlsson did not return for the third period after playing 14:54 through the first two periods. Karlsson was limping noticeably and not putting weight on his left foot as he left the ice following the second period. Senators coach Guy Boucher said he thinks Karlsson should be good to play in Game 5. But even if he does it looks like he'll be limited, which is bad for the Senators.

Rangers have broken the 'Kanata Wall'

The Senators have taken to calling their 1-3-1 neutral-zone clogging setup the "Kanata Wall," naming it after the suburban Ottawa community where Canadian Tire Centre is located. The Rangers have knocked down the wall and turned it into rubble by blocking perimeter shots and getting odd-man rushes off of them, by making smart decisions with the puck, making quick passes that are available, and forechecking to get through the neutral zone with what appears to be ease. They've done it since the second period in Game 1, but they've consistently put the Senators on their heels during the past two games.

Craig Anderson's struggles are real

Goalie Mike Condon led the Senators onto the ice for the third period and played the final 20 minutes Thursday. That tells you all you need to know about Anderson and his play of late. Anderson allowed three goals on 20 shots in two periods in Game 4 and has allowed 12 goals on 98 shots the past three games. Senators coach Guy Boucher said he is sticking with Anderson "100 percent" but you have to wonder how long his leash will be in Game 5.  

Oscar Lindberg is on a tear

Lindberg, the Rangers' fourth-line center, scored eight goals in 65 games during the regular season. He has three goals in the past five periods in this series. Lindberg scored twice in Game 4 after scoring a goal late in the second period of Game 3. His line, with J.T. Miller and Tanner Glass, has been a thorn in the Senators' side the past two games, combining for eight points (three goals, five assists), including three assists from Glass.

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