Less than 12 hours after Duncan Keith’s one-timer ended Game One in double overtime, the Nashville Predators gathered at Bridgestone Arena to officially prepare and move onto the Western Conference Quarterfinals’ second act.
The Preds felt that in addition to their dominant first-period performance, they did many of the right things versus the Blackhawks on Wednesday and that a slightly enhanced output in Game Two would work to even the series.
Nashville forwards Matt Cullen and Taylor Beck expressed that a key to the playoffs is not allowing positive or negative emotion to become consuming in a stretch where teams can face one another seven-straight times.
“Never too high, never too low, we thought we definitely played well enough to win that game last night,” Beck said. “Especially 5-on-5, we played really well; we’ve got to stay out of the box, but we know we played well enough to win that game. We have another big game tomorrow and it’s a must win for us, so we’re ready to go.”
Preds bench boss Peter Laviolette said he preferred not to speculate on whether Mike Fisher would be available for Game Two on Friday night, but did say the forward is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Nashville’s bench boss explained how much Fisher’s absence was felt over the remainder of the second period and into two overtimes in the Blackhawks 4-3 double OT win.
“You could go down a checklist of things that you need from players on the ice from faceoffs, leadership, power play, penalty kill, and you just keep checking the boxes when Mike comes out of the lineup, so those are some big shoes to fill,” Laviolette said following Wednesday’s game. “Certainly to lose him with a regulation time of two periods, that’s a lot, but then to go to the first overtime and half of a second overtime, that is a big piece out of our lineup.”
The center left early in the middle frame of Wednesday’s Game One and did not return. Fisher missed Nashville’s final two regular season games with a lower-body injury. After sitting out the initial 21 games of the 2014-15 regular season with an Achilles injury, the forward scored 19 goals and 20 assists in 59 games.
Neither the Predators or Blackhawks held formal practices on Thursday, with Nashville electing to hold an on-ice session for the team’s scratches from the night before.
Cody Franson (upper-body, day-to-day) was among the participants, as were Mike Santorelli, Kevin Fiala, Victor Bartley and Carter Hutton. Franson, who wore a non-contact jersey during Tuesday’s practice, has since shed the white jersey for a normal, blue one.
Blackhawks Maintaining Status Quo:
Via a conference call with the media on Thursday morning, Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville revealed that he will again go with goaltender Corey Crawford in net on Friday. The netminder was yanked after allowing three goals on 12 shots in the first period of Game One, but the Hawks coach said it was a “no-brainer” going back to a player he’d never pulled in the postseason before.
“That’s their top goalie, any team would do that, you come back with your top goalie,” Nashville forward Mike Ribeiro said. “[We want] to have the same start [as we did in Game One], but at the same time, to play the full 60 minutes and not take a breather here or there.
"We played a solid game throughout those five periods and had a lot of chances to put it away. Tomorrow’s a new one, and that’s what you have to look for.”
Scott Darling came on in relief of Crawford to begin the middle frame and recorded 42 saves over the next 68 minutes of game action. The journeyman goalie played 26 games for the Preds primary minor league affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, last season, and has now stopped 74 of 75 Nashville shots over two career contests against the Preds to improve to 2-0-0 against his former organization.
Quenneville later mentioned he’ll likely keep the same lineup for Game Two that he used in the Hawks and Preds initial meeting, meaning center Antoine Vermette would again be a healthy scratch. Michael Rozsival (a minus-1 in 19:24 of time on ice) and Kimmo Timonen (two penalty minutes in 11:39 TOI) should also continue to round out the Blackhawks defense as the third pairing.
Pekka Rinne on the Predators opportunity to even the series:
“It’s a really big game for both teams, but especially for us, we have another chance to play at home. I think it’s a building where we love to play and just another opportunity for us to come back and even the series, so it’s a great opportunity for us.”
Peter Laviolette on the need for a Preds win in Game Two:
“They’re all crucial, they really are. Certainly, you want to get off the mark last night and get a win in your home building; that didn’t happen. I guess you could say it probably fills a little bit of the urgency to try and make sure that we get on the board here. I think if we can pull from a lot of positives last night that happened on the ice, there’s a lot of things that we like the way we did things. [There are] some things we can do better, but I feel like tomorrow’s a big game but that’s because it’s tomorrow. I guess yesterday was a big game too when we were living in yesterday.”
Mike Ribeiro on preparing for Game Two:
“We have to still focus on us and what we did well yesterday. They’re a great team and you can’t take a breather here and there, or they’re going to make you pay. We need to just play the full 60 minutes, but like I said, just take the positive, look at some video and get ready for tomorrow.”