Peter Laviolette doesn’t have to tell his players what’s at stake.
The head coach of the Nashville Predators, as well as everyone in the locker room, is well aware they’re on the brink of elimination when they host the Anaheim Ducks in Game Six on Monday night. The Preds are down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series; one more loss for Nashville, and the season comes to an end.
But the Predators can’t go into tomorrow’s game thinking like that. Rather, they’ll be focusing on everything that’s made them successful to get them to this point.
“They’re not going to wake up and all of a sudden have no clue what’s going on or where they’re at in the series; they know exactly what’s going on,” Laviolette said after Sunday’s workouts at Centennial Sportsplex. “We have to focus on our game. I think that’s the most important thing, and it seems like when we focus on our game and our actions on the ice, how we play the game and how determined we are to play the game, we can find success.”
The Predators found that success early on in the series, taking the first two games in Anaheim, but since then, the club has fallen in three straight, including a 5-2 loss on Saturday night in Game Five. While the score looks bad, the Preds say there was a lot to like about that game. Now it comes down to taking one less penalty, getting a bounce here or there and putting themselves in a position to get a victory at Bridgestone Arena.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we have to win a game tomorrow night in our building,” Laviolette said. “Going back and watching the game last night and watching it again today with the coaches, there’s just so many good things that we did and the result didn’t come our way. A couple of odd things happened out there, so we’re going to look to try and be better than we were yesterday and move forward from there.”
“You try to take all the good things, and I thought the last game was a really strong game by us,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “I felt that we played one of the better games this series and just couldn’t get it done. They’ve been executing the last few games really well, and personally, I want to be better. I have no doubt in my mind - we played a really strong game, and if we play the same way I feel like we’re going to win.”
Nashville liked their five-on-five play in Game Five, as well as their net-front presence to pressure goaltender Frederik Andersen, who has won three in a row for the Ducks since taking over for John Gibson. The Predators belief is that if they continue to do many of the things they did in Games Four and Five, while limiting mistakes, they’ll come out on the right side of the ledger.
No one has to tell the Preds what the ramifications are if they fall to the Ducks tomorrow. But until then, someone has to win four games. And that hasn’t happened yet.
“Everybody knows that it’s do or die, and it's one game and we have to win; that’s the bottom line,” Rinne said. “But it’s not going to get better if you start worrying about that. You know the facts and the fact that if we lose, that’s it for the season, so you have the mindset that you know how important it is. But at the same time, you try to just focus on bringing the best you can bring.”
“There’s a big belief that if we go out and play that way and play determined hockey that we can beat anybody in the League,” Laviolette said. “It comes down to not saying it to a camera or saying it in an interview, but actually going out on the ice and playing that determined brand of hockey that can get us one win.”
Forward Craig Smith, who remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury, skated on Sunday afternoon at Centennial Sportsplex.
Limited tickets for Game Six at Bridgestone Arena are available for purchase here. In addition, 100 $15 tickets will be made available through the Smashville App on Monday morning at 10 a.m. (CT).