Predators Gameday: Suter, Weber stay alert for Ducks' top line

Friday, April 15, 2011 at 3:59pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s basically a no-brainer.

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz wants his top defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber on the ice as much as possible against the Anaheim Ducks’ top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan.

The challenge — particularly on the road — is for Suter and Weber to know how to make that happen. Suter and Weber cannot simply skate to the bench when Anaheim uses the last change to put out a different unit against them.

It was an occasional issue in Wednesday’s Western Conference quarterfinals opener and will be again Friday night in Game 2.

“You have to have smart changes when we’re changing on the fly,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “They’ve done it all year. It’s not like something new for them. We’re comfortable if they can’t get off [our other four defensemen] can all spend time against top lines in the league.

“If you’d have your druthers, obviously we’d want Suter and Weber out there [against that line] as much as possible.”

Trotz estimated that Suter and Weber were on the ice against the Ducks’ top line 75 percent of the time in Game 1. The majority of the time they were not, the job fell to Kevin Klein and Jonathon Blum.

The dance started almost immediately. Suter and Weber were on the ice at the start of the game, and the Ducks countered with their second unit. Roughly 20 seconds into the shift, the defensemen went to the bench and traded spots with Klein and Blum.

The first time Perry’s unit came over the boards, Suter and Weber did the same. There were numerous other times throughout game when the same thing happened.

“Obviously it’s nice when you can just go out and play your normal shift and not have to worry about it,” Suter said. “But it’s our strategy and what our coaches want us to do. We’re doing what we’re told.

“If we can get off, we’ll get off.”

Otherwise, they’ll leave it up to the others.

Even the Ducks realize, though, that those opportunities will be rare.

“There are opportunities to keep them apart, but sometimes they’re going to have to play against each other,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “They [Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan] are our big guys, and they [Suter and Weber] are their big guys.”

Something to consider: If Trotz is looking for an opportunity to get J-P Dumont in the series, this could be it.

Three of the four officials for the game are French-Canadians. The referees are Marc Joannette and Francois St.-Laurent and one of the linesmen is Pierre Racicot. The other linesman is Ryan Galloway.

Dumont is the only Quebec native on Nashville’s active roster.

In the circle: Carlyle said he’s looking for his team be better in the faceoff circle in Friday’s game than it was Wednesday.

The Predators won 31 of 59 draws (53 percent). David Legwand, Mike Fisher and Nick Spaling all took at least 10 and won more than they lost.

“In our building, that’s not acceptable,” the Ducks’ coach said. “As the home team, we have the opportunity to get our stick down last, and I think most guys would tell you that should help win faceoffs.”

Keeping quiet: Carlyle did not specifically address the issue of who would be his starting goalie in Game 2 but he hinted that it would be Ray Emery, who replaced Dan Ellis early in the third period Wednesday.

Emery is 18-12 with a 2.44 goals-against average in 31 career playoff appearances.

“I think we do a really good job of scouting goaltenders, so we have a good handle on what [Emery] brings,” Trotz said. “He’s a lot different than Danny Ellis — we know that. … We talked about both of them today.”

Quote of note: “Every player has another level they can get to. In the playoffs, I think you have to expect another 20 percent, and most of that is in grit and in determination and on the defensive side.”

— Randy Carlyle.

Notable numbers: 3 — points by Mike Fisher (two goals, one assist) in Game 1. Through the first two days of the postseason, only San Jose’s Ryane Clowe (three assists) had as many.

4 — goals scored by Nashville in Game 1. None of the other seven road teams scored more than two goals in their respective openers.

10 — different Nashville players who had a plus rating in Game 1. No Nashville player was a minus.

13 — games played by the Ducks in their last postseason appearance (2009). Only once that year were they held to fewer than two goals, as was the case Wednesday.

21:25 — Legwand’s ice time in the series opener. He was the only Nashville forward to play more than 20 minutes and has now played more than 20 in three straight postseason contests, including the final two games against Chicago in 2010.