Game One: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators (Series Tied 0-0)
7:30 P.M. | Bridgestone Arena
TV: FS-TN, NBCSN | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Nissan Pregame: 7 P.M.
For the first time since 2012, the Nashville Predators are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Preds host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals from Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators finished the 2014-15 season with 104 points, tied for the third-highest total in franchise history. Nashville went 28-9-4 on the campaign at Bridgestone Arena, a home record that was second best in the League.
The Preds were 1-1-2 against the Blackhawks during their four-game season series, the last of which came nearly four months ago on Dec. 29, 2014.
Rookie Filip Forsberg, who led Nashville in scoring this season with 63 points, is one of nine Preds set to make their postseason debuts. On the other bench, Patrick Kane is scheduled to return to the lineup for a Chicago team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013.
Nashville is 4-3 all-time in Western Conference Quarterfinal Game Ones, including winning its last three Quarterfinal Game Ones (4-1 W at Chicago, 2010; 4-1 W at Anaheim, 2011; 3-2 W vs. Detroit, 2012). The Preds have won their last two Western Conference Quarterfinal appearances (2011 vs. Anaheim and 2012 vs. Detroit).
There are six players on the Preds that have played in 40 or more playoff contests in their NHL careers – Mike Fisher (97), Anton Volchenkov (85), Matt Cullen (68), Mike Ribiero (49), Paul Gaustad (48) and Shea Weber (43).
Nashville is returning nine players from its last postseason run in 2012, while Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Mike Santorelli, Victor Bartley, Mattias Ekholm, Kevin Fiala, Seth Jones, Taylor Beck and Carter Hutton are poised to make their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts this postseason.
It's Go Time:
For a Stanley Cup Playoffs-bound hockey player, today may be one of the greatest of the entire year.
“It’s not too often I wake up before my alarm clock, but today was one of those days,” Preds forward Viktor Stalberg said. “You jump out of bed a little quicker than you usually do.”
Nashville is hoping to jump on their opponents, the Chicago Blackhawks, early on tonight in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. For Stalberg and the Predators, puck drop can’t come soon enough.
“It is exciting,” Stalberg said. “[There hasn’t been] playoff hockey [in Nashville] for a few years, so I’m sure the fans will be as excited as we are.”
Stalberg won the Stanley Cup in 2013 with Chicago and is well aware, as are his teammates, of the challenges posed by some of the Hawks elite forwards in the form of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.
“Looking at their lineup, they have a lot of skill, a lot of talent up and down through four lines,” Stalberg said. “Whoever we match up against, we’re going to do our job, make sure that we shut them down and try to put some in their net as well.”
“[They have some of] the best players in the League,” Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm said of the Hawks. “They have a lot of speed, and you just have to be aware when they’re on the ice all the time to defend well and be hard on them. It’s a great challenge.”
Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette is also anticipating a challenge behind the bench. The Preds bench boss has been here before, having won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, then returning to the Final in 2010 with the Flyers. After two days of beneficial practice, Laviolette is confident in his group.
“You get the opportunity after an 82-game grind to play for the Stanley Cup; that’s an exciting thing,” Laviolette said. “It’s exciting for our players, organization, for our fan base, everybody. It’s a great opportunity and our guys are ready. They’re excited, and we’re ready for Game One. More than anything, our guys are excited and ready to go.”
Predators Game Day Video:Preds Players: Colin Wilson, Mattias Ekholm and Viktor Stalberg
What to Watch for: Willy and Brent's Breakdown
Coach Presser: Head Coach Peter Laviolette
Morning Skate Update:
Eric Nystrom (lower-body) was the only Preds skater absent from Nashville's morning skate. Head Coach Peter Laviolette confirmed that forward Mike Fisher, who had been day-to-day with a lower-body injury, will play tonight against Chicago. Cody Franson, who participated in Tuesday's practice in a white, no-contact jersey, sported a blue jersey this morning. Laviolette said Franson is still listed as day-to-day. Preds Morning Skate Lines:
Forsberg - Ribeiro - Smith
Wilson - Fisher - Neal (Fiala rotated in)
Cullen - Jarnkrok - Stalberg (Santorelli rotated in)
Bourque - Gaustad - BeckDefensemen:
Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson, Anton Volchenkov and Viktor Bartley all skated for the Preds this morning.Goaltenders:
Carter Hutton*Probable StarterChicago Projected Lineup:
Forward Antoine Vermette is expected to be among the scratches for the Blackhawks tonight. Forwards:
Saad - Toews - Hossa
Versteeg - Richards - Kane
Bickell - Shaw - Sharp
Nordstrom - Kruger - TeravainenDefensemen:
Keith - Hjalmarsson
Oduya - Seabrook
Timonen - Rozsival Goaltenders:
Scott Darling/Antti Raanta*Probable Starter