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Predators looking to handle Blackhawks pressure

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com

CHICAGO – Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher participated in the full morning skate Tuesday, but it’s unclear if he will return to the lineup for Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA3, FS-TN, CSN-CH).

The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Fisher missed Games 2 and 3 of the series after leaving Game 1 with a lower-body injury in the second period.

Fisher took rushes on the second line at the morning skate along with forwards Colin Wilson, Matt Cullen, and James Neal. Predators coach Peter Laviolette did not reveal if Fisher will return to the lineup in Game 4.

“He’s still listed as day-to-day,” Laviolette said. “Mike will return at some point, but right now he’s still listed as day-to-day.”

Fisher played in all situations for the Predators this season and was a net-front presence on the power play. He had 19 goals and 20 assists in 59 games and is a valuable two-way player.

“He has a lot of respect among his teammates,” Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “Just a veteran presence. He’s been in the playoffs, he’s been with different teams, he’s one of the leaders, but we’ll see. He’s a solid two-way player.”

Nashville has an opportunity to even the series Tuesday and head back home for Game 5 with home-ice advantage. Chicago was able to capitalize on transition opportunities in Game 3 to get the win, but Nashville said it still feels like it has played well in the series.

“Playoffs are playoffs,” Laviolette said. “Every game is its own individual identity. Our guys, they seem to give an honest effort. Game 1, they played hard. We didn’t get the results. It’s about the results in the playoffs. Game 2 they played hard. I thought there was a lot of things that we did well in Game 3, and like I mentioned, there’s some things that we talked about possibly doing better for Game 4, but I don’t think it was a lack of effort or energy or wanting to do well. I believe that they’ll bring a spirited game to the rink tonight.”

The Blackhawks’ pressure was effective in Game 3 and created turnovers that led to offense the other way. The Predators said they are putting a priority on nullifying that back pressure in Game 4.

“It’s good puck management,” Predators defenseman Cody Franson said. “It’s putting the puck in the right areas to give our forwards chances to get up ice and not get hounded from the back side. With us being physical down low in our end, it should slow their back pressure up a little bit, hopefully, and give ourselves some chances at some offensive zone time.”

Here are the projected lineups:

PREDATORS

Filip ForsbergMike RibeiroCraig Smith

Colin WilsonMatt CullenJames Neal

Mike SantorelliCalle JarnkrokViktor Stalberg

Gabriel BourquePaul GaustadTaylor Beck

Roman JosiSeth Jones

Mattias EkholmRyan Ellis

Victor BartleyCody Franson

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Kevin Fiala, Anton Volchenkov

Injured: Mike Fisher (lower body), Eric Nystrom (lower body), Shea Weber (lower body)

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Kris VersteegBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Bryan BickellAntoine VermettePatrick Sharp

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson

Duncan KeithMichal Rozsival

Kimmo TimonenBrent Seabrook

Scott Darling

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Teuvo Teravainen, Antti Raanta, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta

Injured: Daniel Carcillo (upper body)

Status report: Fiala joined line rushes on the fourth line at the morning skate but is not expected to play. … The defense pairings are expected to be the same as Game 3.

Who’s hot: Smith has two goals and three assists in three games and is tied with Chicago forward Jonathan Toews and Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry for the playoff lead with five points.

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