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FIRST ROUND

Predators know power play must improve once playoffs begin

Stars' fifth-ranked penalty kill will provide test starting with Game 1

by Robby Stanley / NHL.com Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators admit their power play will need to be more effective in the Stanley Cup Playoffs than it was during the regular season.

They hope improvement begins with Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; SN1, TVAS, FS-TN, FS-SW).

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Stars series coverage]

 

Nashville was 31st with the man-advantage at 12.9 percent but finished strong, converting at 17.6 percent in 16 games after March 1.

"I think it's a mindset to go out there," forward Craig Smith said. "Sometimes you have to play it like it's 5-on-5. I think that's definitely a crucial part of it too, retrieving pucks and getting back and supporting one another, because you've got to find the 2-on-1 somewhere. We've worked hard at it and watched a lot of video. 

"It's crazy. Some years you don't watch half of the videos we've watched this year and it just goes in and things are falling and you're in a groove. But this year it's been an uphill battle and we've put in a lot of work to it. We're excited and confident and ready to get out there."

The Predators are confident with how they've played at even strength for most of the season. They also know special teams could be the difference in a best-of-7 series and their power play must click at a higher conversion rate on a consistent basis.

"It's do or die now, so it has to," Smith said. "We've got to come up with big-time plays and be sharp right off the bat. That's huge. A couple of quick passes here and there and it's all good."

Video: Previewing the Stars vs. Predators First Round series

Nashville went 8-2-1 in its final 11 games to win the Central Division for the second consecutive season. The power play's uptick had a lot to do with it.

"I feel like that's the case with a lot of stuff in our game right now," defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "I think the penalty kill [sixth, 82.1 percent] is coming together a lot lately too. Just our overall game has really come together and peaking hopefully at the right time here. It's exciting. I feel really good about our team and our chances. It's going to be a fun test [Wednesday] first of all, and then we'll go from there."

The Stars' fifth-ranked penalty kill (82.8 percent) will provide a good test starting with Game 1.

"I think we have the strongest team that we've had in forever," Ekholm said. "The way that we've been playing lately, I think there's a lot of positivity in here, and I think that everyone knows that if we bring everything that we can on to the table, it's going to demand a lot out of Dallas to get us."

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