Wednesday night, the Nashville Predators played their worst game of the Western Conference Quarter Finals series against the Anaheim Ducks, losing 6-3.
The loss evened up the series at two games each entering Friday’s night’s pivotal game 5 in Anaheim. The winner of Game 5 takes a 3-2 series lead and will have the opportunity to advance to the next round Sunday night in Nashville when the series returns to Bridgestone Arena for Game 6.
“We didn’t have a great game,” Mike Fisher said of the Game 4 loss, adding “That happens in long series, you don’t play so well in certain games. But it’s how you respond and how you come back, and that’s what we’re going to be looking to do Friday.”
The Predators will have to bounce back without Martin Erat.
Early in the second period, Anaheim forward Jarkko Ruutu hit Erat in the neutral zone, after Erat had already released the puck. Erat left the game with an upper body injury and did not make the trip to Anaheim for Friday’s game.
Ruutu was suspended for one game. Listed as a healthy scratch in games 2 and 3, Ruutu, when he dresses, plays around the 5-minute range per game.
Erat, in contrast, is one of the Predators top players and has been on fire since coming back from injury in the middle of January. Erat ended the regular season with 50 points in 64 games. In four games, Erat has one goal and two assists during the playoffs.
While the Ducks lose a player who no one will notice is not even dressed, they welcome back to their lineup a star in Bobby Ryan.
Ryan missed games 3 and 4 after being suspended for using his skate to stomp on the foot of Jon Blum.
The Predators will need to replace Erat and have a couple of options they can go with. Colin Wilson and JP Dumont have both been healthy scratches for the entirety of the opening round of the playoffs. Both players have drawn the ire of the Predators coaching staff that earned their healthy scratch status. Wilson seems the likeliest candidate to take Erat’s stop on a line with David Legwand and Joel Ward.
Once getting a spot in the lineup, Wilson would be no doubt hungry to prove he belongs in the lineup. Wilson, drafted 7th overall in 2008, played all 82 regular season games for Nashville only to have his roster spot taken by a rookie call-up for Milwaukee.
The Predators have an opportunity on Friday night to make history– again. Nashville has never won a Game 5 in any of their five previous playoff rounds. The Predators were 13 seconds away from beating Chicago at the United Center in Game 5 a year ago, but Patrick Kane scored shorthanded to tie the game, sending it to overtime where Marion Hossa eventually scored the game winner.
Friday night’s game in Anaheim starts at 9 pm CT.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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