WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINAL - GAME 4
WHO: Nashville Predators vs. San Jose Sharks (San Jose leads series 2-1)
WHEN: 9:30 p.m. CT
WHERE: HP Pavilion at San Jose, San Jose, Calif.
TONIGHT THE PREDS WEAR: White
TELEVISION: FSN South (Comcast Ch. 28 in Davidson and Williamson counties)
RADIO: WGFX 104.5 FM;
WGAP 1400-AM (Maryville, TN),
WATO 1290-AM (Oak Ridge, TN),
WKVL 850-AM (Knoxville, TN),
WLOD 98.3-FM (Sweetwater, TN);
SATELLITE RADIO: SIRIUS Ch. 123, XM Ch. 208
LISTEN: Player audio quotes following today's morning skate (Streaming Windows Media audio)
LISTEN: Pete Weber and Terry Crisp preview tonight's game (Streaming Windows Media audio)
San Jose, Calif. - Tonight the Nashville Predators will attempt to tie their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at two games apiece when they face off against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 at the HP Pavilion at San Jose. The game, which starts at 9:30 p.m. CT, will be televised on FSN South and broadcast on 104.5-FM The Zone.
The Predators, who split the first two games of the best-of-seven series with the Sharks at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, enter tonight's contest trailing two games to one after a 4-1 road loss Tuesday night. The prevailing attitude among the Predators players at yesterday's practice was that they are in the same position they were when they arrived in San Jose on Monday: the team needs to win one of the two game here to recapture home-ice advantage. Clearly, that goal remains within reach.
"We still have a chance to get one," goaltender Chris Mason said.
While that scenario would require a victory tonight, Predators players say it's jumping the gun to attach a "must-win" label to Game 4.
"It's going to be a big game, but I don't think we can approach the game like that, like we have to get it," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "Because when you do that usually you squeeze your sticks. Everybody knows it's a big game and will get ready for it."
"We're going to have to play with a lot of heart and respond," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "The great thing about this team all year is they respond. They respond to adversity, they respond to challenges. They respond and I expect them to respond [tonight]."
With all the adjustments and evaluations that take place in a playoff series, Trotz conceded that it's easy to overanalyze things.
"As a coaching staff, we re-watched the game, and some of the things that we thought were part of the game [Tuesday] were overemphasized a bit," Trotz said. "Early in the game [San Jose] had a pretty good start, which we knew they would. Then at the end of the game obviously they had a couple power plays, they got a goal and in the last few minutes they got some chances. But for the most part there was a good stretch of 30, 40 minutes where they didn't have a lot other than on the power play. Sometimes we overanalyze, and the last impressions you have is it's a 4-1 game. Well, it was a 2-1 game with about [six] minutes to go in the game."
Predators captain Greg Johnson reiterated the point. "It was a close game," he said. "We had some chances to cash in, we just didn't do it. Games are really tight at this time of year. We've just got to find a way to win."
While the number of shots taken against the Predators has risen each game in the series--from 34 in Game 1 to 40 in Game 3--Nashville's shot total has gone from 30 to 25 to 17. While the increase on the Sharks' side of the board is partially attributable to the amount of power play time they've received, Johnson said his team's defense is partially responsible and can tighten up.
"We've got to keep the number [of Sharks' shots] down and get ours up," Johnson said. "That's just as important."
Trotz said one of the Predators' keys will be sustaining offensive thrusts for more than a few seconds. Increasing time spent in the offensive zone, getting players to the front of the net and shooting more are all part of the recipe for offensive success.
"I think [Tuesday] they had some zone time but we did a good job defensively," Trotz said. "They were in the zone, but they weren't getting as many things as they would normally five-on-five. We did a good job that way. But we've got to spend less time there. I think that's prominent, for us to go on the offensive attack."
"Our problem has been we haven't scored goals," Timonen said. "That's the thing.... The first game we won we had a lot of guys in front. [Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala] couldn't see the puck and we were able to score. We got away from that a little bit and we've got to keep doing that."
Lineup changes?: The Predators coaching staff has assembled the same lineup for each of the first three games of the series. At his post-game press conference Tuesday, head coach Barry Trotz indicated that some personnel changes would be coming for Game 4.
"I think it's more of a tweaking than a wholesale change," Trotz said yesterday after practice. He also defined what he's looking for from anyone he might insert into the lineup.
"The criteria is pretty simple," he said. "We've got to play a very enthusiastic type of game at a high tempo. We've got to establish some of the low game that San Jose has established on us. We've got to give them a little bit of their own medicine. So we need guys that are prominent it in those areas and can do a real good job in those areas. We're always keeping in mind the whole picture of power plays, penalty kill, all those type of things. There's been a lot of it."
Two players who could potentially help out on the offensive end are Yanic Perreault and Marek Zidlicky. Perreault, who has been a healthy scratch for all three games, is hoping he gets the call tonight.
"He told us before practice that we'll find out [today]," said Perreault, who finished fourth on the club in regular season scoring. "You always want to contribute for sure. But I think there are a lot of good players here and all I can do right now is try to get myself ready and whenever they tell me I'm in, I'll be ready to go."
Trotz said making decisions on who to sit in the playoffs is one of his toughest tasks. "A guy like Yanic Perreault, who is a veteran player that has been very prominent in our lineup all year, is not playing right now. He's been very, very professional about preparing and being ready to go. There are no complaints on his end. I know he would like to be in. Those are tough decisions because those guys have great attitudes.
"For all the guys that aren't playing," he added, "they always say you have to be ready to go. I can tell stories of when I was in the minors, we went to the finals two years in a row and guys that were the extra guys starting out in series No. 1 were prominents players come the finals. Because guys got hurt. Those guys have to be ready."
While Perreault's insertion is at the coach's discretion, Zidlicky's situation is a little more complicated. The defenseman has been out of the lineup since late March with a shoulder injury, but has skated with the team for three consecutive days. He was wiring shots from the point during yesterday's session, but Trotz was expectedly vague in responses to questions about the status of his most offensively gifted blueliner.
"He's pushing it further and further," Trotz said. "Every day that goes by he gets closer and closer.
"We as an organization always trust our players to tell us when they're ready. Obviously you want the best players playing and being ready. Only a player knows his body. We've always been very, very good at allowing the players to come back at their own rate. I think when you force things there's a better chance for re-injury. The player's not going to be at his best if he doesn't feel comfortable and 100 percent. We let the player let us know when he's ready."
Other candidates to dress tonight are Darcy Hordichuk and Scottie Upshall, two healthy scratches who bring a high-energy style that might fit with Trotz's plans to get the puck deep in the San Jose zone and sustain pressure there.