Predators-Ducks Preview

Corey Perry would just like to point out that somewhere

underneath the allegedly dirty hits, the suspensions and the

press-conference posturing, there’s quite a memorable playoff

series going on between the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville


A 2-2 series with clutch goals, wild momentum swings and a nasty

edge – which is just the way the Ducks like their hockey.

Anaheim and the Predators will begin the best-of-three finish to

their first-round brawl Friday night with Game 5 at Honda


”There’s been some big hits, and you’ve got to fight for every

inch on the ice,” said Perry, the NHL postseason scoring leader

with eight points through four games. ”They’re a team that likes

to play the body, and so do we. It’s a great physical series. It’s

playoff hockey.”

Another game led to another suspension Thursday, with Ducks left

wing Jarkko Ruutu banned from Game 5 after colliding with Martin

Erat during Anaheim’s series-evening 6-3 victory in Game 4. Ruutu

is a minor contributor to the Ducks, but the Predators lost a much

more valuable player: Erat was Nashville’s co-scoring leader, but

he didn’t make the trip to Orange County for Game 5.

The hit led to another round of verbal spin by both coaches.

Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle called the NHL’s criteria for discipline


”To me, it’s absurd that there’s even mention of a hearing when

it’s a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, and a guy passes the puck,” said

Carlyle, who wondered why the NHL didn’t investigate Jordin

Tootoo’s cross-check to the head of Anaheim defenseman Toni Lydman

in the final minute of Game 4.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz saw a different play – and an

additional reason to lament the collision.

”It was a late hit,” Trotz said. ”To me, the Ducks are the

ones whining and complaining that they are the ones being targeted

or whatever, but they have had a guy suspended, late hit, we lose a

good player. Ruutu didn’t even dress (earlier in the series). He’s

a 5-minute player for them, and we lose a top player.”

While both teams lost a player for Game 5, the Ducks are getting

a big contributor back.

High-scoring left wing Bobby Ryan sat out the Ducks’ last two

games in Nashville under suspension for stomping on Jonathon Blum’s

foot in the waning moments of Game 2. Ryan scored two goals that

night, and he’s well-rested after two nights of watching Anaheim

from a luxury box.

So did the suspension change anything about Ryan, who has never

had a reputation for dirty play?

”I don’t think it can,” said Ryan, a 34-goal scorer in the

regular season. ”Obviously, I’ve had nothing like this before,

being called a dirty player. I won’t change a thing – just be a

little more careful not to stomp on anybody’s foot. I’m just glad

the guys won (Game 4) to take some pressure off the


Ryan is expected to resume his role on Anaheim’s top line with

Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf, although Carlyle is still

contemplating his lineup after rookie Brandon McMillan excelled on

that wing in Nashville. The Ducks went straight from the airport to

Honda Center for practice Thursday, although Getzlaf and goalie Ray

Emery were among the players who did little or nothing.

The Predators worked out before traveling Thursday, hoping to

shake off the shock of a rough finish to Game 4. Nashville twice

rallied from deficits to tie it heading to the third period, but

Perry’s short-handed goal set off a three-goal avalanche and chased

Pekka Rinne, reducing the Predators’ formidable goalie to a


”You take this kind of game personally a little bit,” Rinne

said. ”You don’t feel good about the game ending like that, but at

the same time, you have no other choice. It’s the best time of the

year, and you just have to respect this situation and bounce


The Predators’ problems this season have been mostly related to

an often-punchless offense, yet they’ve scored at least three goals

in every game of the series. Instead, Nashville’s formidable

defense has struggled to keep up with the Ducks’ star-studded

offense, which has scored 14 goals in the past three games.

Nashville is doing its best not to think about last season’s

playoff experience in the franchise’s fifth consecutive first-round

series defeat. The Predators had a 2-1 series lead over Stanley Cup

champion Chicago, but lost Game 4 in discouraging shutout fashion –

and then blew a lead with 13.6 seconds left in an eventual overtime

loss in Game 5.

”Now it’s time to really show that what kind of group of guys

that we are,” Rinne said. ”It was the same situation last year up

in Chicago. I think we can go back and little bit and learn from


AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville contributed to

this report.