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Preds Set for Pivotal Game 5 as Series Turns to Best-of-Three

Nashville Looks to Bounce Back from Game 4 Loss and Take Series Lead

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

It's now a best-of-three.

After the Dallas Stars defeated the Nashville Predators in Game 4, Preds centerman Nick Bonino may have said it best - sure, they would have preferred to win two games in Dallas, but they got one, and that's what they needed.

Of course, having to think about a 5-1 loss for the last two days and waiting until Saturday afternoon for a chance at redemption isn't necessary an ideal situation - or is it?

As was the case after the Predators dropped Game 1 of the series on home ice, Nashville had two days to regroup and refocus, and they responded with arguably their best game of the four two nights later.

After flying straight home to Nashville after Game 4, the Preds were able to take Thursday completely off - get away from the rink, spend some time with family and rid the mind of hockey just for a moment.

We'll know more when the puck drops shortly after 2 p.m. (CT) on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, but that reprieve might be just what the Predators needed.

Video: Laviolette says Preds have made game plan tweaks

"The players got some rest yesterday, and today we were able to do some work and get back to making adjustments and corrections on what we think we need to do, so I thought it was a good day," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said following Friday's practice. "To have the complete day off, I think that was beneficial and then a good work-day today."

As Laviolette predicted on Thursday, the Preds were joined by forwards Wayne Simmonds and Brian Boyle on the ice for Friday's session, great signs as they look to recover from injury. Boyle, who underwent an appendix procedure, and Simmonds, who took a shot off the knee in Game 2, were both listed as week-to-week prior to Game 3.

While their return to practice doesn't necessarily mean an imminent appearance in the Game 5 lineup, it can't hurt their chances, either.

"It was great to see them out there," Laviolette said of Boyle and Simmonds. "Boyle looked really good out there today. Wayne, the same thing. When it first happened, we were thinking that it might be that long, and it's never an exact science, but they're both out there and they looked good. I haven't talked to the trainer yet, but we'll get a plan in here [to determine when they might be able to play again]."

Whether or not the Predators have Simmonds, Boyle or both at their disposal on Saturday, the group will be anxious to avenge a start that saw them allow four goals in the first period, including three on the power play.

"For sure you want to come out with an edge and do your best, dominate the play," Preds center Ryan Johansen said. "Usually we talk about hockey being a game of aggression, and you have to be ready for a war, so we're definitely coming in with that mindset."

Johansen and his linemates, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, have found chances difficult to come by in the series, as have most of the Preds against a stingy Dallas club that has allowed no more than three goals in any of the four games.

Continuing to find ways to break through those defensive efforts from the Stars was a hot topic for the Predators over the past two days, and the group is hoping to find some holes and capitalize when the opportunities arise.

"They've been doing a lot of good things defensively and making it hard on us to create offense," Johansen said. "It can be frustrating for sure when things aren't going your way, but you've just got to stick with it and stay positive and keep trying to find ways to be successful."

Video: Johansen, Josi and Smith preview pivotal Game 5

"It's a little mix [of will and being tactical]," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "We just have to play our game and get as many pucks in the net as we can, and I think that's it. They've been doing a good job, but I think it's a little mix of everything."

Nashville showed a bit of a different look among the forward corps today, including Craig Smith skating with Austin Watson and Bonino, as well as Mikael Granlund with Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok. Laviolette said the Preds continue to look at all of their options up front heading into Saturday.

If nothing else, two of those potential three games will come in Nashville, and although the home team is just 1-1 in each of their respective buildings, there's still nowhere else the Predators would rather be for a big game.

It doesn't get much larger than Saturday, and one of those Smashville Standing Os might just do the trick to turn the best-of-three into a chance at elimination on Monday for the visitors.

"We need the same passion and energy they bring every time," Johansen said of the home crowd. "We know exactly what it'll be like."

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