Predators Gameday: Experience not on Nashville's side

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 1:46pm

ANAHEIM — If playoff experience counts for anything, the Nashville Predators are at a distinct disadvantage in their Western Conference quarterfinal series with Anaheim, which begins today.

Seven Predators have just one year of NHL playoff experience (all with Nashville) and another five never have been in an NHL postseason contest. That accounts for more than half of the 23 players on the active roster at the moment.

The Ducks have six first-timers but they also have five players who were part of their 2007 Stanley Cup champion team.

“It is a young group,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said following Wednesday morning's skate. “… But I feel very comfortable. They’re a good group. They’re a caring group, a resilient group and they have been all year.”

The Ducks also have plenty of positive playoff experiences. They have won 11 of the 17 all-time seriesin which they have played.

Since 2005-06 (Nashville’s second playoff season) Anaheim has won 34 postseason contests, second over that span to only Detroit (48) and Pittsburgh (38).

“You kind of already know what to expect,” Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum, one of the playoff newcomers, said. “… It’s exciting times for me — my first playoff game.”

PLAY IT SMART: Dan Ellis holds the Predators’ career playoff record for save percentage of .938, which he set in six appearances against Detroit in 2008.

He hopes to do at least that well when he faces his former team.

“This is the best time of year to play,” Ellis said. “You want to be a guy who can be relied upon when the going gets tough.”

Ellis is one, however, who is not inclined to take the Predators lightly.

“They’re underestimated every year,” he said. “It's kind of getting stupid. Eventually people will stop picking them to finish 14th, which I don’t think they’ve ever done. … It should be a good series.”

HOME ICE: Blum, Nashville’s first-round choice in 2007, is a native of nearby Long Beach, Calif., who made his NHL debut on Feb. 22, well after the Predators’ two regular-season visits to Anaheim.

Even so, he has experience on the Honda Center ice — so to speak.

“I was expecting to have to wait until next year to come to town,” he said. “… I’m just excited for the opportunity to get to play here. The last time I skated on this ice, I was probably 6 years old and it was at intermission of one of the games.”

KEEPING QUIET: Trotz chose not to divulge anything about his lineup choices.

“Basically of all our forwards [on the active roster], they’re all ready to go,” Trotz said. “They’ve all been cleared to play.”

QUOTE OF NOTE: "Everyone here knows it’s time for us to make a step up and to go deep into the playoffs. We have a great test ahead of us here. They have a great hockey club, and they’ve been playing as well as anyone down the stretch here." — Nashville forward Jerred Smithson.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 — road playoff victory by Nashville in 13 all-time road games.

6 — Nashville wins in 24 all-time games at the Honda Center (one was this season). Nashville has been outscored 75-45 in those contests. The Ducks’ .813 percentage against Nashville at home is their best against any opponent.

7 — points by Patric Hornqvist against the Ducks during the season (three goals, four assists). That’s the most by any player for either side in the four meetings.

7 — third-period goals scored by Anaheim against Nashville this season. The Ducks had just 11 goals overall in the series.

8 — goals scored by the Predators in this season’s two games at the Honda Center. That’s the most in franchise history and equal to the previous two seasons combined.

16 — power plays each for the Predators and Ducks in this season’s four contests. Nashville scored just once on the power play, while Anaheim converted three times.

23 — points by Martin Erat in road games this season (10 goals, 13 assists), which was a team-high despite the fact that he played in just 29 of the 41 road games.

24 — Nashville’s first-period goal differential for the season (73 scored, 49 allowed). For the second period, third period and overtime combined, the Predators were minus-1.