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Predators take third shot at clinching playoff berth

Nashville visits Pittsburgh, which is jockeying for Metropolitan positioning

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PREDATORS (39-25-13) at PENGUINS (43-25-8)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports, SNO, SNW, SNP, FS-TN, ROOT

PITTSBURGH - The Nashville Predators will have a third chance to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth when they play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

After failing to clinch on consecutive nights against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday (4-3 loss) and Dallas Stars on Tuesday (5-2 loss), the Predators can take advantage of a third opportunity by defeating the Penguins in any fashion. 

Nashville holds the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, nine points ahead of Colorado, which is chasing the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card.

"We've had a few chances [to clinch] here," Predators forward Mike Fisher said. "So, we just want to focus on having a good start and getting back on the winning ways, and just having a real solid road game. If we worry about that, it would just be icing on the cake if we could clinch."

If the Predators fail to clinch Thursday, it would mark their first three-game losing streak since they lost five straight from Jan. 5-14.

Nashville will be without defenseman Ryan Ellis, who left during the second period of the loss to Dallas after absorbing a blow to the left side of his head from Stars forward Patrick Eaves. Ellis has a point in three of his past four games, including a shorthanded goal against Dallas.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette said Ellis is day-to-day. Defenseman Stefan Elliott, who was recalled from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Wednesday, will likely be paired with Barret Jackman against the Penguins.

"[Elliott is] moving the puck well. He's playing good defense," Laviolette said. "He plays an offensive game. We're taking an offensive defenseman out of the lineup, so it's a replacement there, I think. A little bit more of a match."

The Penguins will be without defenseman Brian Dumoulin for a third straight game after he sustained an upper-body injury in a 7-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on March 26.

Dumoulin returned to the ice Thursday for morning skate. He said he felt good after taking some contact during the skate, but stopped short of saying he's prepared to play against Nashville.

"Today was my first day practicing with the guys and having guys skating around me and playing with pace with those guys," Dumoulin said. "So, right now, taking it day-to-day and seeing how it is [Friday]. … I want to play as soon as possible. I don't like sitting out. I don't like being away from the team. I want to be with them. I want to be a part of this group and I feel like we can do something special here."

Pittsburgh also won't have forward Bryan Rust, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

Here are the projected lineups:


Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - James Neal

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Miikka Salomaki - Mike Fisher - Viktor Arvidsson

Paul Gaustad - Colton Sissons - Austin Watson

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Barret Jackman - Stefan Elliott

Mattias Ekholm - Petter Granberg

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Injured: Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Ryan Ellis (upper body), Anthony Bitetto (lower body), Ryan Ellis (undisclosed)

Scratched: Colin Wilson, Eric Nystrom


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Beau Bennett

Conor Sheary - Oskar Sundqvist - Eric Fehr

Trevor Daley - Kris Letang

Derrick Pouliot - Ben Lovejoy

Ian Cole - Justin Schultz

Marc-Andre Fleury

Matthew Murray

Injured: Bryan Rust (lower body), Brian Dumoulin (upper body), Olli Maatta (lower body), Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Kevin Porter (ankle surgery), Scott Wilson (lower body)

Scratched: Jeff Zatkoff

Status report: Pittsburgh recalled Sundqvist from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Wednesday, two days after he was re-assigned. It was the second time in the past week Sundqvist was re-assigned and recalled. … Forward Colin Wilson will likely be a healthy scratch after failing to score a point in nine of his past 10 games.

Who's hot: Crosby has at least one point in 15 of his past 16 games (23 points, seven goals). He leads Pittsburgh with 79 points and 32 goals. … Neal has 11 points and seven goals over his past eight games, a stretch that began with a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers on March 14.

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