Nashville, TN -- The Carolina Hurricanes (2-1) and the Nashville Predators (1-2) take to the ice Sunday afternoon for what should be a pivotal Game Four in their first-round series.
Carolina came to Nashville with the opportunity to end the series in a four-game sweep. However, after a double-overtime win on Friday night, Nashville ensured that wouldn't happen.
Now, both teams are doing what they can to recover and prepare for an afternoon game that will take place roughly 36 hours after they played 95 minutes of hockey on Friday night.
A Nashville win would even the series at two games apiece--an unexpected scenario given the Canes strong performances in Games One and Two.
A Carolina win would give the Canes a 3-1 series lead--and set the stage for the Canes to clinch the series at home in Game Five on Tuesday.
With three games in the books, a few trends have emerged in the series:
- Carolina has outscored Nashville 12-7 (6-1 in third periods), but the five-on-five play has been remarkably even (Carolina - 7, Nashville - 6).
- The Canes' advantage has come off the powerplay (2g) and empty-net situations (2g).
- The Trocheck-Niederreiter-Necas line has struggled at five-on-five. They're a combined minus-8 as a group.
- Sebastian Aho (3g, 2a, +3), Brett Pesce (1g, 3a, +4), and Jordan Staal (3g, 0a, +3) have been Carolina's best players.
- Brady Skjei (28:09), Dougie Hamilton (26:35), and Brett Pesce (29:36) are all averaging monumental amounts of ice-time with Jaccob Slavin out.
- Hamilton (0g, 1a, +1) doesn't have the points to prove it, but he's still been effective, even with Slavin out. His 16 shots on goal are second only to Aho (19).
- Nashville only has two skaters with a positive plus/minus rating, Matt Duchene (+1) and Alexandre Carrier (+1).
- Roman Josi (-4) and Mikael Granlund (-4) have the worst plus/minus ratings for Nashville.
- Filip Forsberg (2g) is the only Predators player with more than one goal in the series.
Jaccob Slavin's status remains the big question for the Hurricanes. If Slavin can go, it will provide the Canes an enormous boost on the blue line--particularly after Friday night's grueling double-overtime.
In net, expect Petr Mrazek to get a start. Mrazek had a stop-and-start season, mostly due to a thumb injury sustained early in the campaign. However, he's a playoff veteran (career playoff stats: 11-14, .914 SV%, 2.31 GAA). It would make sense to have him play Game Four and rest Nedeljkovic for a Game Five start on Tuesday.
Similarly, Nashville might go to Pekka Rinne after Juuse Saros played 95 minutes on Friday night. Saros has been solid but not exceptional. His stats in the series (1-2, .919 SV%, 2.82 GAA) are a bit of a slide from his regular-season averages.
The Canes' expected lines:
Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter — Vincent Trocheck — Martin Necas
Warren Foegele — Jordan Staal — Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook — Steven Lorentz — Brock McGinn
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries: none / Slavin
Scratches: James Reimer, Max McCormick, Drew Shore, Morgan Geekie, Cedric Paquette, Joakim Ryan, Ronald McKeown, Maxim Lajoie, Jake Gardiner
Nashville's expected lines:
Filip Forsberg — Ryan Johansen — Viktor Arvidsson
Eeli Tolvanen — Mikael Granlund — Luke Kunin
Brad Richardson — Erik Haula — Matt Duchene
Yakov Trenin — Colton Sissons — Tanner Jeannot
Roman Josi — Alexandre Carrier
Mattias Ekholm — Ryan Ellis
Erik Gudbranson — Matt Benning
Scratches: Mathieu Olivier, Calle Jarnkrok, Dante Fabbro, Ben Harpur