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Preds Aim to Keep Even-Keeled Approach After Losing Weber

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

Before jetting off to Chicago for Games Three and Four, the Nashville Predators gathered at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday for an optional skate.

Headlining the topics of discussion were injury updates on Preds Captain Shea Weber and forward Mike Fisher.

Weber left roughly midway through the second period of Game Two and did not return after suffering a lower-body injury. The blueliner did not make the trip to the Windy City and will miss at least Games Three and Four of the series. A further update on Weber is expected when the team returns to Nashville on Wednesday.

Fisher maintains a day-to-day label with his lower-body injury and has not been ruled out of Sunday’s matinee matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.

With the Preds and Hawks series now tied at one game apiece, the importance of Game Three has only risen in the past 24 hours. Without at least Weber, Nashville will go for their first lead of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in Game Three at the United Center on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a really big game going into their building,” Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne said. “It’s the the third game, another chance for a team to grab the lead in this series. We just have to be prepared for that. This time going without Shea, it’s going to be a challenge.

“But the way we’ve been playing these last two days, I think we have to be confident going into their building. Just keep playing the way we can.”

Captain Out For Next Two Games:

The Preds won big in Game Two, but they lost a big piece along the way. Nashville now knows they will be without their captain for at least the next two contests.

Head Coach Peter Laviolette wouldn’t divulge on Saturday whether defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who played in Game One, or defenseman Victor Bartley, a healthy scratch in Games One and Two, would take Weber’s place in the lineup. Nashville’s bench boss does believe, however, that his team is well prepared to handle the absence of the captain.

“It happens throughout the course of the playoffs; everybody gets injuries and you have to deal with them,” Laviolette said. “[Game Two], I think was a real good sign that some guys did elevate their minutes and played in different situations and try to fill the void [left by Weber]…and we were successful in doing that.”

For those on the ice, the loss of Weber is less than ideal, but a 6-2 victory in Game Two coupled with the response after No. 6 went down provided a sense of confidence around the Nashville dressing room on Saturday.

“We all know how important Shea is to our team,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “He’s a huge part of our team, so it’s definitely going to be a big challenge without him. But I thought we handled it well [in Game Two] and hopefully we handle it the same way the next couple games.

“We’ve got a deep D-corps and we’re confident that we’re going to have six guys step up.”

Goaltender Pekka Rinne also alluded to the mental aspect of dealing without the Preds captain for two games, stating that it’s up to the rest of the Preds to channel the emotion in the proper avenues.

“It’s a mindset too,” Rinne said of playing without Weber. “You’re playing without one of your best players and our captain, so it’s a mindset that you have to be strong and just work even harder.”

Never Too High, Never Too Low:

The Predators were straightforward in their resolve following a double overtime loss in Game One. The defeat could have set a crushing tone for the rest of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series, but veterans and first-year postseason players alike expressed that a focal point in the playoffs is keeping emotions that well up in the playoffs in check.

Following Game Two, forward Craig Smith said not dwelling on Game One allowed the Preds to again jump out to an early lead and eventually even the series with a 6-2 victory.

But again, even after a win, the mantra still has to hold true as the team flies to the Windy City for two games in Chicago.

“You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low,” Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “Even if you’re up three [games], you have to keep to that approach, we’ve seen teams come back from that. After the loss we were pretty disappointed, especially with the way it went down. After the win, we were of course very excited. But coming here today, you kind of wipe the slate clean and have to start all over again.”

Recognizing that there are still a string of ups and downs to come for both clubs, not dwelling on a missed call or a failed scoring opportunity from a prior game can be crucial.

“Even though it’s an energy boost and everything you get from win at home, the loud building and all that stuff, you still have to kind of forget that and get the confidence out of it, but you can’t get feeling too good about yourself,” Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “Everybody knows it’s going to be another huge battle [on Sunday].

“Even in the last game with us playing extremely well, we didn’t get anything for free. It was still a [3-2] game going into the third and the game could have gone either way. We stuck with it and got a few timely goals and after that it was game over. You expect that same kind of game as these first two [in Game Three].”

So now the Predators will put their mindset to the test when they take on the Hawks on Sunday afternoon in a hostile environment. In the past are one loss and one win for Nashville; all that’s before them now is another opportunity to stay level headed over the upcoming 60 minutes of Game Three.

End Game:

The Predators flew to Chicago on Saturday afternoon and are not expected to hold a morning skate prior to their matinee tilt with the Hawks on Sunday. Game Three is set for a 2:00 p.m. CT start time with coverage nationally (and locally) on NBC.

Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville revealed on Saturday that he will be starting Scott Darling between the pipes in Game Three. A member of the Predators organization (with the Milwaukee Admirals) last season, Darling came on in relief of Corey Crawford in Game One, making 42 saves for his first career playoff win. The 26-year-old, with 15 NHL games (including Game One) to his credit, also faced the Predators earlier in the regular season, guiding the Hawks to a 3-1 victory in Music City.

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