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The Climb

Predators, Ducks try to climb into second round

Nashville will play first Game 7 in its history; Anaheim aims to avoid fourth straight home elimination loss

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

The Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks will try to take the next step toward the Stanley Cup when they play in Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series at Honda Center on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, FS-TN, FS-W).

Each team has had to climb back into the series. Anaheim lost the first two games, then won the next three. But the Predators rebounded on Monday with a 3-1 victory at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville will play the first Game 7 in franchise history. Anaheim has lost five of seven, including each of the past three years at home.

Here are four players trying to help their teams take the next step in the climb toward the Cup.

Mattias Ekholm, D, Predators - Ekholm is often overshadowed by the Predators' stars on the blue line, Shea Weber and Roman Josi. But he finished with career highs of eight goals and 35 points during the regular season and has built on that success into the playoffs with two goals, including the first goal of Game 6. He also scored late in the first period of Game 2, and he and partner Ryan Ellis have been solid at both ends of the ice.

James Neal, LW, Predators - Neal's 31 goals during the regular season were the most he's scored since 2011-12, and he's scored twice in the first six games, including the winner in Game 6. He also assisted on Weber's empty-netter, which assured that the series would go seven games. Neal and Filip Forsberg have clicked since the addition of center Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a midseason trade; they were a combined plus-5 in Game 6.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Andersen sprawls out to rob Josi

Frederik Andersen, G. Ducks - The series turned around when Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau changed goaltenders after the Ducks lost Games 1 and 2 at home. Andersen replaced John Gibson, had a 27-save shutout in Game 3 and has allowed five goals in four games, stopping 107 of 112 shots. His 1.26 goals-against average is second among all goaltenders thus far in the playoffs.

Ryan Getzlaf, C, Ducks - Anaheim's captain stepped up his game after a disappointing first half of the regular season, and his improvement has carried into the playoffs. Getzlaf leads all scorers in the series with five points, including two goals, and he's second among Anaheim forwards at plus-4. He's also won 54.3 percent of his 81 faceoffs.

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