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Five keys for Predators vs. Ducks, Game 6

Kesler's role against Johansen, special teams among factors to watch

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

NASHVILLE -- The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators play Game 6 of their Western Conference First Round series Monday at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, TVA Sports, SN, FS-TN, FS-W). The Ducks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

Here are five keys for Game 6:

1. History: Three years in a row, the Ducks have held a 3-2 series lead and lost Games 6 and 7. They did it against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round three years ago, the Los Angeles Kings in the second round two years ago and the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final last year. The Predators have never played a Game 7.

"If it has to go to Game 7, it has to go to Game 7," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But we would love to finish it off tonight for sure. But we're not thinking that we've got something in the back of our mind that we can give one up."

2. Kesler vs. Johansen: Ducks center Ryan Kesler, a Selke Trophy winner, has been matched up against Predators center Ryan Johansen at home and on the road. Kesler has two goals. Johansen has a goal and an assist.

Asked how Boudreau would sneak him on the ice against Johansen in Nashville without the last change, Kesler played coy.

"It all depends on the situation," Kesler said.

Boudreau was direct.

"Every situation," he said.

3. Special teams: Staying out of the box might be more important for the Predators than the Ducks. The Ducks have scored two power-play goals in this series and the Predators have scored one, even though the Ducks have spent much less time on the power play (27:45) than the Predators (38:35). The Ducks ranked first in penalty killing and goals against in the regular season. 

"We need to be disciplined and really play a 5-on-5 game," said Predators center Mike Ribeiro, who has no goals, one assist and six penalty minutes in this series. "I think when it's 5-on-5, we're pretty even. We just need to stay focused."

4. Patience: Players on both teams have disappointing offensive numbers, but that's common in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can't force it and stray from your responsibilities. 

Take Ducks right wing Corey Perry, an elite goal-scorer, who has no goals and three assists. Boudreau said he told Perry that he had been responsible defensively and been winning board battles.

"He's still going to the net," Boudreau said. "He's still being a little bit of a pain the butt to other people. But when he's doing a good job defensively, eventually we know the goals are going to come for Corey Perry. So I'm never worried about his offense."

5: Craig Smith: Predators coach Peter Laviolette would not confirm it, but right wing Craig Smith could return from a lower-body injury he sustained early in Game 3. Smith scored 21 goals in the regular season, and he had a goal and an assist in Game 2 of this series. His speed and skill would boost the Predators, who have scored three goals in essentially three games without him.

"He's a great skater," Predators left wing Filip Forsberg said. "I think that's the biggest thing. He's been skating a lot, shooting the puck well. I think if he's back in the lineup, he's going to contribute."

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