Predators Gameday: Smithson set to return to Nashville lineup

Monday, May 9, 2011 at 1:00pm

Jerred Smithson said he is ready to play.

The Nashville Predators center was coy, though, when it came to whether or not he actually would play Monday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinal series with the Vancouver Canucks.

“I feel good, so it’s up to the coaching staff,” Smithson said Monday following the team’s morning skate. “Obviously, we had a pretty good formula last game. So I wouldn’t be disappointed if they didn’t change anything. But if they need me I’m good to go.”

Smithson played just one period of Game 4 before he was knocked out with an upper body injury. He said he watched the Predators win Game 5 on Saturday from his couch at home.

He was one of three players who appeared in all 82 games for Nashville during the regular season and has appeared in 10 of the 11 playoff games thus far. He has one goal and one assist.

“I’m very optimistic he’ll be ready to go tonight,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s our best faceoff guy. He’s our best penalty killer. He’s hard on the puck. He gives you every ounce of ability he has shift in and shift out, and he’s a real glue guy for us.

“That’s why he would go in.”

Trotz said a decision on who sits out in favor of Smithson will be made at game time.

Road glory: The visiting teams have won four straight in this series.

That’s a trend the Predators clearly hope to change.

“We were such a good team at home during the regular season and we have to find a way to get back to that,” captain Shea Weber said. “I think it’s just being more simple out there and making the easy plays rather than trying to do the fancy ones.”

Vancouver led the NHL with 27 road victories during the regular season and won Games 3 and 4 of this series by a combined 7-4.

Nashville was second to the Canucks among Western Conference teams for points at home but has gone just 2-3 in its own building this postseason.

“I think sometimes you just play a little more relaxed [on the road],” right wing Joel Ward. “You might get a little too amped up at home. So you tend to try different plays.

“We just have to simplify our game.”

Man at the top: Ward estimates that it has been six years, when he was a college hockey player in Canada, since he has been atop any list of goal scorers.

That’s where Ward is presently, though. He is one of four players tied for the playoff lead with seven goals each. Two of the other three — Philadelphia’s Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk — have no chance to score any more because they have been eliminated.

“I don’t really see myself as a goal scorer, to be honest with you,” Ward said. “That’s no secret. I just try to get in there, and any opportunities just try to bear down and finish plays if you can.

“It’s such a fun time of year. I’m just living in the moment and just trying to enjoy myself.”

Ward had just 10 goals in 80 games during the regular season.

By the numbers

1 — NHL player with more than one shorthanded goal this postseason. That is Nashville’s David Legwand, who has two. In fact, no one else has more than one shorthanded point.

2 — Game-winning goals each for Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins in the playoffs, which makes the Canucks one of three teams (Boston and San Jose are the others) with more than one from multiple players. Those two have scored the game-winner in each of the Canucks’ three victories in this series (Kesler two, Higgins one).

5 — Players who share the lead for most games played by a rookie (11) this postseason. Three of them — Blake Geoffrion, Jonathon Blum and Matt Halischuk — are Predators.

6 — Power-play goals scored by Vancouver in road games. That’s the most among Western Conference teams.

18 — Goals allowed at home by Nashville in five playoff games. That’s the most allowed by any Western Conference team.

1 Comment on this post:

By: jlpostie on 5/9/11 at 1:00

This is a letter to the city of Nashville...
I want to thank you for the experience my daughter and I had last week when we came from Vancouver to watch the two Canuck/Predators play-off games. We were in your beautiful city for five days, and now know first hand the meaning of the words "Southern hospitality". Never having been to Nashville, or anywhere in the southern U.S. before, we really had no preconceived ideas, and were only coming to watch our team play in what we guessed would be a nice place. From the moment we arrived, we had one lovely interaction after another, and on the two game nights, while we were in our Vancouver jerseys, had too many to count people ask after our well-being... "Are you alright?" "Are you having a nice time?" "Everything good? That's great... keep in mind we still want to beat y'all" which of course we understood and respected. And even in the one and only negative experience of a few Nashville fans mocking our anthem and talking and laughing throughout it, other locals were consoling us and reminding us how there are jerks everywhere. Your city was the best experience I have had while traveling, your people are the most polite, fun, lovely and delightful, and we are telling EVERYONE how special a place Nashville is. Thanks for sharing...