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Predators counting on mobile defensemen

Nashville sees odd-man rushes as big factor in series against Blues

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators hope their mobile defensemen can be a weapon in their Western Conference Second Round Series against the St. Louis Blues beginning in Game 1 on Wednesday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Predators defensemen scored 157 points in the regular season, and their ability to create offense could be a big factor against the Blues, who allowed eight goals in five games against the Minnesota Wild in the first round.

"I think it's our biggest asset, probably," forward Colton Sissons said Tuesday. "We have a talented back end where everybody can skate, and everybody makes plays and they're really smart hockey players. They're tough to play against just because they make great decisions all the time."

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Blues series coverage]

 

Ryan Ellis (16), Roman Josi (12) and P.K. Subban (10) each scored at least 10 goals in the regular season. The ability of Nashville's defensemen to join the attack and create odd-man rushes could put added pressure on the St. Louis defense.

"It's hard to beat a team 2-on-2 or 3-on-3," Josi said. "You try to get an odd-man situation, and that's how you create most chances. I think, especially when it's really tight, it's important that we jump up and try to create that odd-man rush."  

Not every team in the NHL has defensemen who can join the play offensively and are fast enough to get back into position and recover defensively if a goal isn't scored. This attacking style is a big part of the Predators' identity. 

"It's definitely special," forward Ryan Johansen said. "We've got a special core of guys. We have our system where we use all five guys on the ice at a time, so it's a big advantage that we're able to do that and throw out anybody on the ice and have confidence in executing whatever it may be on the ice. We're definitely pretty happy to have those guys back there."

The Predators expect a more physical game against the Blues than they had in their first-round sweep against the Chicago Blackhawks, but say they can match up well with St. Louis. Nashville went 3-2-0 against St. Louis, a Central Division rival, in the regular season.

"We've played them a lot," Josi said. "There's certain teams like St. Louis, [the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets], they're always heavy games and we play those teams a lot. I think it's good that we play in this division, this conference. We definitely know them. They know us pretty well too." 

The Predators (0.75 goals against per game) and the Blues (1.60) were the top two teams defensively in the first round. The Predators hope their mobile defense will allow them to create more quality scoring chances against the Blues and make it difficult for goaltender Jake Allen.

"Hopefully we'll have some time with possession in the offensive zone with our mobile [defense] moving around," Sissons said. "We'll find a way."

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