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Craig Smith at Preds Practice; Perhaps Nearing Return

Forward Last Played in Game Three of Round One, But Has Returned to Practice

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / Digital Manager & Producer

Craig Smith was a full participant in Thursday's practice, perhaps marking a step closer to returning to the Predators lineup.

The forward hasn't played since Game Three of Round One against the Chicago Blackhawks due to a lower-body injury. He's since joined the team on the ice for some of their morning skates, but today's involvement in a full practice was a first.

"I think the guys have been playing awesome; I definitely want to make a difference and chip in," said Smith, who has one assist in three postseason games.

The return of Smith would be a welcomed addition to a Nashville top-nine forward group that has also lost the services of Kevin Fiala (for the remainder of the postseason) and Pontus Aberg (upper-body injury).

Video: Rinne, Smith and Forsberg discuss a close-out game

"It would be huge," goaltender Pekka Rinne said of Smith re-entering the lineup. "Everybody knows Smitty, all the tools that he brings with his speed, with his explosiveness. Great shot, maybe brings more offense, but we'll see… He's a guy that would bring a lot of speed and things like that, which will be beneficial to [beating] St. Louis."

On Friday night in St. Louis, Nashville will face a challenge many of their players called "the toughest game of the series," when they'll try to close out their Round Two series after using two home wins earlier this week to take a 3-1 lead.

"Mentally you just try and be ready for it; you know what's at stake," said Rinne. "But you still prepare the same way, you don't want to put any extra pressure on yourself because you know what the situation is… but that being said, we want to play well and we want to close this [series] out tomorrow."

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