NSH 4th Line

They may not feature on the scoresheet quite as much as Nashville’s other offensive trios thus far, but the Predators identity line of Michael McCarron, Kiefer Sherwood and Cole Smith has continued to play an invaluable role in Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“They've been great the whole series and they've carried it around through this series,” Predators Head Coach Andrew Brunette said. “They’re a big identity line for us. I think they stir the drink a little bit, especially early in games, early in periods. And in moments where we need a momentum switch, they're the line you kind of lean on right now. So, they've been outstanding and it hasn't stopped in the playoffs.”

Indeed, while Nashville’s fourth line has only combined for a single point in five games - via Sherwood’s empty-net goal in Game 2 - their physical play through a chippy, emotionally-charged first-round matchup against the Vancouver Canucks has been tremendously important.

In a series that has so far seen the two opponents combine for 353 hits (167 NSH, 186 VAN), 50 have come from Nashville’s fourth line, the most among all Predators forward groups. 

Additionally, No. 44 currently leads the League in hits (31) and hits per 60 minutes (30.67) after five games, and recorded nine hits in two different outings. 

“No one wants to play against them because of that,” Predators forward Ryan O’Reilly said. “They have such an impact and that’s something that we all feed off. Whether it's getting a scoring chance or their forecheck or the way they defend or finish against one of the top guys, every shift it feels like they're doing something to impact the game, which is something that gives us life. And it's fun to watch.”

They’re also playing their roles with intelligence and restraint.

Though McCarron shared the team lead in fighting majors this season (8), and Smith (5) and Sherwood (3) recorded the second and third-most, respectively, among Predators forwards, the trio have kept the gloves on and their composure in check during all five games thus far.

“It's the playoffs, I don't know if anybody really wants to sit out for five minutes,” McCarron said. “There's not really your prototypical fighters anymore on your team. Everybody can play. So both teams need everybody on both sides. If it happens, it happens, but we'll continue to play physical.” 

“I think everybody's on their best behavior,” Brunette said. “They don't want to hurt the team. And I don't know if it's a five-minute [major] thing or taking an extra penalty, for the most part. And Michael is probably right… Nobody wants to miss that five minutes. I haven’t really noticed it that way, I’ve just noticed a little bit of cautiousness of not taking an extra penalty in a scrum or starting something where you’d put the team down.”

The Predators will certainly need their fourth line for another 60 minutes - and more, if need be - when the puck drops for a do-or-die Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena on Friday.

While their season will be at stake again on Friday, the trio is simply looking to play the same impactful game they’ve been playing all season.

“We've been doing a good job as of late,” McCarron said. “We’ve been able to get some good sustained shifts for the past few games, so I think if we continue that, we’ll be successful.” 

Puck drop is at 6 p.m. CT, with the game set to broadcast on Bally Sports South, TNT, truTV, MAX, 102.5 The Game and El Jefe Radio.

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