Living without Craig Smith
The absence of Smith in Nashville's line-up was felt Tuesday night as the Ducks went on to win 3-0. Playing without him in the line-up this evening will be just as difficult, but the Predators have had ample time to make their adjustments in preparation for tonight's pivotal game four.
Can Nashville survive without Smith? Sure. Colin Wilson, who turns into a playoff superhuman every season, will most likely slot into Smith's spot alongside Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg. Miikka Salomaki will move up into Wilson's role on the third line and Colton Sissons could see some action in Salomaki's normal spot on the fourth line.
It's a very seamless transition for the forwards involved. While Wilson is best used in a bottom-six capacity, he can be easily pushed into the top-six if needed. Salomaki and Sissons are perfect for where they'll likely be slotted, so it shouldn't be much of an issue at all.
Will Nashville miss what Smith can do on the ice? Absolutely, however it shouldn't affect its ability to find the back of the net. There are plenty of weapons left on the roster.
Expect a storm...but not from Anaheim
Yes, the Ducks are a dangerous offensive team that can easily find the back of the net when they want to. Yes, they can lock a team down defensively and prevent chances towards their net. Nashville learned that first-hand on Tuesday night.
Based on how the Predators have carried themselves off the ice over the past 36 hours, there's an interesting air of swagger surrounding them. Much like prizefighters training for a rematch after losing a championship belt, Nashville focus and confidence levels are off the charts.
If the Predators don't come out with an extra pep in their step to start the game, I'll be shocked.
Rebounding from a humbling loss
Nashville was out-played, out-hustled, out-everything in game three. It was an ugly contest where the Predators couldn't muster much of anything. I'm not even sure that a healthy Craig Smith in the line-up would have even mattered.
With that game in the rear-view window, Nashville's poised to take a 3-1 lead heading back to southern California for Saturday's game five.
I don't think that the Predators could have played worse in game three, but much of the demeanor in the locker room immediately afterwards gave the impression of "oops". Even Pekka Rinne was smiling at the end of his media scrum.
The team and coaching staff are very clear on what needs to be done tonight and the level of execution necessary to achieve that. Will we see a replay of Tuesday night or a completely different Predators team than we've seen in the series so far?
If I was a betting man, I'd guess the latter. Nashville hasn't scratched the surface on what it can do this postseason. Tonight would be a perfect time to open the valve and let the effort pour through.