Game Five: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators (CHI Leads Series 3-1)
8:30 P.M. | Bridgestone Arena
TV: FS-TN, NBCSN | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Nissan Pregame: 8 P.M.
It's do or die for the Nashville Predators. The Preds are set to host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in Game Five of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series in a game that Nashville must win to keep their postseason play alive.
The Predators trail 3-1 in the series to the Hawks, most recently after a 3-2 loss to Chicago in triple overtime in Game Four, a game that started on Tuesday night and ended Wednesday morning. It was the longest game in Predators franchise history, lasting exactly 101 minutes.
Upon arriving back in Nashville on Wednesday, Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said that he didn't have an answer as to whether or not forward Mike Fisher or Captain Shea Weber would be available for tonight's Game Five. Neither played in Games Three or Four in Chicago and both are listed as day-to-day.
The Blackhawks will start goaltender Scott Darling for the third consecutive contest tonight. Darling is 3-0-0 for the Hawks, including two victories in overtime, after replacing Corey Crawford in the Chicago cage, once in relief in Game One, and then for good to start Game Three.
Through the series’ first four games, both teams have scored 13 goals and both have tallied/allowed 10 goals while playing 5-on-5. During the first four contests, the Preds have gone 13-for-15 on the penalty kill, including killing all six Chicago power-play opportunities in Games Three and Four at the United Center. Nashville is presently 3-for-15 on the power-play (20 percent), a mark that puts them in the top half of all playoff teams.
Nashville has out hit Chicago in three of four contests and both out blocked and out shot the Hawks in all four games, including maintaining the shots advantage in overtimes (Game One, 23-15; Game Four, 20-18). In Game Four alone, the Preds recorded 66 hits to Chicago’s 50 (led by nine from Viktor Stalberg and seven from Gabriel Bourque) and blocked 39 shots to the Hawks’ 19.
Preds defenseman Roman Josi, who played a franchise-record 45:06 in Tuesday’s triple-overtime contest, leads the all postseason skaters in time on ice (34:21). With seven shots on goal in Game Four, Josi tied the Preds record for most playoff shots by a blueliner and strengthened his hold on the top spot among all playoff defensemen in the shots category (20). Josi also leads defenders in blocked shots (21) through four games.
With his goal 11:38 into Game Four, Colin Wilson has now opened the scoring in three of Nashville’s four postseason contests in 2015. Wilson has four goals (0a-4pts) in four games played to lead the League in the category and tie the franchise record for most goals by a Preds player in a playoff series (previously, Joel Ward and David Legwand in 2011 Western Conference Semifinal versus Vancouver). His four goals in the 2015 postseason come after tallying just one goal in his 13 previous playoff outings.
No Reason to Hold Back:
The task before the Predators is daunting to say the least.
Nashville needs to win three-straight elimination games versus the Blackhawks to emerge from the Western Conference Quarterfinals. That’s not something that should be taken lightly.
But it’s also something that should be considered in part and not as a whole. Winning the first period on home ice tonight in Game Five seems a bit more reasonable, and that’s why the Predators dedication to only dwelling on one game at a time during the regular season will come back to benefit them the most now. They've been prepping for this mentality since September.
“We’ve had some good games, including two overtimes where those could go either way,” Preds forward Mike Fisher said. “These guys battled so hard the other night and it was definitely a heartbreaker, a tough one. But all that matters right now is that game tonight. We’re at home where we’re comfortable, and we’re going to have a great effort tonight.”
If there’s a benefit to facing elimination, it’s that there’s no reason to give anything but a full effort. Winger Viktor Stalberg said that’s been a topic of discussion in the Preds locker room.
“We’re going to put everything into it,” Stalberg said. “We’ve done a great job every single game of every guy putting in 100 percent. A couple bounces here or there and it could have meant different standings. We’re at where we’re at, and we’re going to take care of everything we can to force a Game Six.”
Belief is just the first step in winning one battle, one period, one game, and like they’ve been all year, the Preds are OK with that.
“We know in this room, and we believe that we’re very capable of coming back from this deficit,” Nashville blueliner Seth Jones said. “We’ve played pretty good hockey actually in this series, and a couple of OT games, that’s what happens and we’re down 3-1. But everyone believes in this room that we can do this.”
Predators Game Day Video:Preds Players: Craig Smith, Ryan Ellis and Calle Jarnkrok
What to Watch for: Willy and Brent's Breakdown
Coach Presser: Head Coach Peter Laviolette
Morning Skate Update:
The Predators held a morning skate prior to this evening's Game Five against Chicago. Most notably, Captain Shea Weber (day-to-day, lower-body) did not participate. Neither did forwards Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque.
Forward Mike Fisher (day-to-day, lower body) was on the ice for the skate, as well as forward Eric Nystrom (lower-body). Forward Viktor Arvidsson, one of nine players recalled from AHL Milwaukee on Wednesday, was the only such player on the ice for the morning skate.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette stated in his morning press conference that he had no updates on any of the Preds players and their statuses.
Nashville Morning Skate Lines:
Forsberg - Ribeiro - Smith - Fisher
Arvidsson - Cullen - Neal
Santorelli - Jarnkrok - Stalberg - Fiala
Nystrom - Gaustad - Beck
Defensemen Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson, Victor Bartley and Anton Volchenkov all skated this morning for the Preds, as did goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Carter Hutton.
The Blackhawks held an optional morning skate, with Head Coach Joel Quenneville stating the chances of Chicago's lineup remaining the same as Game Four is "likely" for tonight. Quenneville confirmed yesterday that Scott Darling would start in goal for the Hawks in Game Five.
The NHL announced this afternoon that if Game Six is necessary on Saturday, it will take place at 7 p.m. CT on NBC in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada.