Saying tonight's match between the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators in game four of the Western Conference semifinals is "huge" is an understatement. There is a vast difference in going back to Vancouver tied 2-2 and being down 3-1 with a chance for the Canucks to clinch on home ice.
That is what the Predators face in tonight's 7:30 p.m. contest at the Bridgestone Arena. It is the only game of the night, so the entire hockey world will be watching. There are no secrets as to what each team plans to do as it has been a chess match for 12 periods over three games.
It's been all about the goal tending so far with Pekka Rinne (1-2-0, 1.34, .955) getting the most publicity but Roberto Luongo (2-1-0, 1.06, .958) getting the most wins. Vancouver has had far more quality scoring chances that has forced Rinne to make repeated acrobatic saves while Luongo has been very workmanlike in his victories.
On Tuesday, we saw the first power play goals of the series when the Canucks picked up two including the game winner in overtime to move to 2 of 10 through three games. The Predators are still zero for 12 on the man advantage.
The Predators will be forced to make a lineup change since Steve Sullivan is out for tonight's game and possibly may have played his last shift as a Predator due to a "lower body" injury that did not indicate a speedy return.
Barry Trotz was not clear in who may take Sullivan's spot in the lineup wavering between Colin Wilson and J.P. Dumont as possible replacements and even some indication that both may play.
Dumont played well in two games against Anaheim and the Preds won both. Trotz has indicated in the past that J.P. always has a good game first game back after sitting out. Wilson played all 82 games in the regular season but has not had a whiff of playoff ice as Trotz's confidence in him was sinking like a rock at season's end.
While Wilson has shown flashes of offensive brilliance at time, he has been inconsistent in effort and has not played the type of defense that Trotz demands, especially in tight, do or die playoff situations. Wilson told anyone who would listen that he was "chomping at the bit" after Wednesday's practice.
After the poor call against Shea Weber that gave the Canucks the power play that won the game on Tuesday and some "acting" by Luongo on a high sticking call against Jerred Smithson, Trotz used the media to relay a message to officials that Vancouver was showing up the officials with all the shenanigans.
After seeing a Predator team that was fully engaged for almost five periods in game two and in overtime in game three and seeing the same team looking really flat for two periods in game one and part of game three, it is difficult to tell what to expect in tonight's game.
The Predators have generally played better with their backs against the wall so a better effort is anticipated.
Vancouver has been consistent in their efforts and most of their offense has come from lines other than one that he Sedin Brothers are on. The is some indication that Henrik may not be 100% healthy but the Predators have done a good job against the top line. If the Preds defense slips, that could drastically change the complexion of the series.
The Predators will have their morning slate at 10:15 this morning at Bridgestone.
Here is a look back at a post from April 8th when the Preds were teetering on putting themselves in a precarious position if they lost to Columbus. Most of what was said about the possibility of it being a last game at the Bridgestone Arena applies today also.
Other previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, The Predatorial, Robby Stanley, Marc Torrence, Paul McCann, AJ at PMFF, David Singleton, and Predators.com.
For previews from Vancouver check out all the links in the right column.
The Edmonton Sun has five things to watch in tonight's game.
Here's what the bookies think about tonight's game.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass