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Playoff Buzz: Ducks host Predators in Game 5

Nashville without injured center Ryan Johansen but optimistic it can win in Anaheim @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. Game 5 of the Western Conference Final between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators is Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news. Here is the playoff news for Saturday:


4:20 p.m.
Patrick Eaves back on ice for Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks received some good news Saturday when forward Patrick Eaves returned to the ice for the first time since being sidelined by a lower-body injury on April 30.

Eaves won't play in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Nashville Predators (7:15 p.m.; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). However, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Eaves is "one step closer" to joining the lineup, writes staff writer Lisa Dillman.

Carlyle referenced the top-six forward's absence when he was asked about the Game 4 thigh injury and subsequent surgery that will sideline Nashville center Ryan Johansen for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

"When you lose players, it's part of life in the playoffs," Carlyle said. "We lost a pretty good player in Patrick Eaves. You guys seem to forget about that. He was one of our top goal scorers, maybe one of our best players since the trade deadline. Reignited our offense.

"You try to [replace him] by committee. One player is not going to replace Patrick Eaves. And we know that. So it gives other people an opportunity to get some minutes they wouldn't normally get. And that's the way you treat it."


4 p.m.
Penguins hoping for Game 5 reinforcements

Neither the Pittsburgh Penguins nor the Ottawa Senators practiced Saturday in Ottawa before flying back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

With the best-of-7 series tied 2-2, the Penguins hope to get back some of their injured players, possibly as early as Sunday. Forwards Bryan Rust (upper body), Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body) and defenseman Justin Schultz (upper body) all are day to day. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel is out with a concussion. staff writer Tom Gulitti has more on the Penguins' injury situation.

The Senators also might have reinforcements on the way; left wing Alexandre Burrows and defenseman Mark Borowiecki are close to returning from their respective lower-body injuries. Each skated on his own Saturday. correspondent Chris Stevenson takes a look at when they might return.

The Senators' struggling power play has been a growing concern. Ottawa was 0-for-4 in its 3-2 loss in Game 4 on Friday and is 0-for-25 with the man advantage since scoring in the second period of Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Rangers. Staff writer Amalie Benjamin breaks down what's been going wrong on the Senators' power play.

The Penguins are feeling better about themselves after rebounding from a poor effort in Game 3 to win Game 4. Sidney Crosby had a big hand in the victory that went beyond his goal and an assist. Gulitti takes a thorough look at Crosby's inspirational performance.


12:00 p.m. 
Predators face tough task in Game 5 

The Nashville Predators resume the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks without injured first-line center Ryan Johansen. 

Game 5 is at Honda Center on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). When teams are tied 2-2 in a best-of-7 series, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 198-54, including 5-0 this postseason. 

Johansen will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of a left thigh injury sustained in Game 4 on Thursday that required emergency surgery. He had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 14 playoff games. correspondent Dan Arritt looks at the options for Predators coach Peter Laviolette in his 5 Keys to Game 5. Without Johansen, the Predators are at a crossroads and can rally or fold, writes columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika. 

Having played each other four times in this series, there are few surprises the Ducks and Predators can pull on each other. Former NHL assistant Davis Payne, analyzing the series for, says execution and effort are the factors that will decide who wins.

One big factor for the Ducks has been the play of defenseman Cam Fowler, who returned from a knee injury earlier in the playoffs and has been superb against the Predators. In Game 4, notes staff writer Lisa Dillman, Fowler played 28:10, was credited with three shots on goal, blocked four shots and made an excellent stretch pass that led to Rickard Rakell's first-period goal.


9:30 a.m.
Penguins hang on, even series

The Pittsburgh Penguins won Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators on Friday -- barely.

The Penguins led 3-0 midway through the second period but had to hold on in the final seconds of regulation. The Senators, who twice scored game-tying goals in the final two minutes against the New York Rangers during the second round, came close but couldn't do it against goalie Matt Murray, who started for the first time in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2. Game 5 is Sunday in Pittsburgh.

When teams are tied 2-2 in a best-of-7 series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 198-54, including 5-0 this postseason.

Video: Crosby, Murray lead Pens to 3-2 win in Game 4


Here is a look at what happened Friday:

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Ottawa Senators 2

Murray made coach Mike Sullivan look smart with a 24-save performance in the Game 4 win at Canadian Tire Centre.

Goals by Olli Maatta, Sidney Crosby and Brian Dumoulin gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead at 11:30 of the second period, but the Senators, on goals by Clarke MacArthur and Tom Pyatt, made it 3-2 game with 5:01 left in the third period. The Senators, already playing 6-on-5 with goalie Craig Anderson pulled for an extra skater, got a two-man advantage when the Penguins were called for having too many men on the ice, but couldn't beat Murray.

It was the 48th one-goal game this postseason in 76 games played. The single-season record for one-goal games in Stanley Cup Playoffs is 51, set in 2007 in 81 games. staff writer Tom Gulitti wrote about those final chaotic minutes.

The Game 4 loss was a missed opportunity for the Senators to take command of the series. Here is staff writer Amalie Benjamin's story on Ottawa coming up short.

Video: PIT@OTT, Gm4: Sullivan on scoring depth, Murray 

Here are some things we learned on Day 37 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:


No power in Ottawa

The Senators went 0-for-4 on the power play Friday and have been struggling mightily with the man advantage for a long time. Their last power-play goal came in the second period of Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Rangers. Since then, the Senators are 0-for-25 in nine games. This comes after a first-round series against the Boston Bruins in which the Senators scored five power-play goals. Ottawa needs to find that success again, and soon.


Senators can't take advantage

Knowing how depleted the Penguins are, especially on defense, the Senators did not do enough to take advantage, as forward Clarke MacArthur pointed out. That was especially true in Game 4 after the Penguins lost defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a concussion in the final minute of the first period. The Senators needed to press the Penguins and they didn't, at least not until the end of the game. With Ruhwedel potentially out for Game 5 and no determination yet if defenseman Justin Schultz will be ready to return, Ottawa has to take advantage of the depleted Penguins.


Mike Sullivan has guts

Not every coach would have made the decision to swap in Matt Murray for Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, given what Fleury had done for the Penguins in the first two-plus rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But Sullivan went with Murray in Game 4 and Murray delivered, making 24 saves in a win that evened the series 2-2. Murray, who hadn't started a game since April 6, said he wanted to "pay [Sullivan] back for his decision." He did that, and proved his coach right.


Penguins have depth

Before Game 4, the Penguins had gotten all their scoring from their big three, with one goal each by Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby. In Game 4, they got another goal from Crosby, but defensemen Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin also scored. While those weren't exactly the most likely options for depth scoring from Pittsburgh, they were welcome nonetheless. As Sullivan said, "I'm not sure if you asked me before the game those were the guys that came to mind." But he and the Penguins will take it and hope that there's more to come in Game 5.

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