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Pregame Skate: Predators in a tough spot at home, Rangers head to Washington

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

9 ET, Phoenix at Nashville, Game 3 (CNBC)

If this series had a song to it, it would probably sound just like a classic down-on-your-luck country song for the Predators, so that's pretty fitting.

Nothing has gone right for them in the first few days of this series with the Coyotes, including the suspensions of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for violating team rules. Nothing like a little adversity before playing what almost amounts to a must-win game, huh?

The Predators have been handled well by the Phoenix Coyotes in the first two games, particularly Game 2. The surprising part has been Phoenix's offense actually doing a lot of damage because Mike Smith hasn't proven as unbeatable in the first two games of this series as he was against the Blackhawks.

The same can of course be said for Pekka Rinne and the Nashville defense. On paper, the Coyotes shouldn't be making the Preds look like the second coming of the Penguins out there defensively. While that's a slight exaggeration, it's fair to call the defense leaky. And Rinne hasn't been sharp enough to cover for them either.

It's not a must-win game for the Predators -- seriously, that only applies when a team has three wins in the series -- but you can use all of the clichés about being in a bad spot you want. Their backs are against the ropes, the wall; wherever is convenient for the metaphor.

Although it's worth noting that playing without Radulov and A. Kostitsyn shouldn't be the biggest deal in the world for the Preds. They didn't have either player until the trade deadline. The team did just fine before those two were added to the picture. They'll hope for some of that same mojo again in Game 3 to claw back into the series at home.

7:30 ET, Rangers at Washington, Game 3 (NBC Sports Network)

Now here we have a series. The Capitals and Rangers are so similar in the way they play now that it's scary at times. Or dull, take your pick.

After splitting the first two games in New York the series now turns to Washington where the Capitals were excellent during the season, not so much during the playoffs. They lost two of the three games at home in the first round to the Bruins. Of course, that doesn't make them any different than the rest of the teams in the NHL these playoffs.

The Rangers haven't yet shown the form in either the first round or this round that saw them run away with the top spot in the Eastern Conference this season. They aren't getting much if anything out of their forwards at even strength, especially the guys who are supposed to do the most of that work like Marian Gaborik. It goes without saying that the Rangers need him to find his game, they're a better team when he's going well.

Further, they need to try and establish a forecheck so they can get the offense set up in the Washington zone. At that point they can try and get traffic in front of Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, something that seemed to work well for the Bruins in the first round when they were able to do as such.

My question is what kind of game will this one settle in to? The first period of Game 2 was exciting, up-and-down action. The other five periods have been much more clogged up and defensive, the way both of these teams prefers to play. The answer is probably the latter, a slower, safer game, especially if the big guys aren't playing.

Alex Ovechkin's ice time was a big story in Game 2, he played the fewest minutes (13:36) of his career. Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin didn't see much ice time either. If you're electing to give Jay Beagle more ice time than those guys you get a pretty good clue on how the game is going to go.

Daily Miscellany

Gross. (Lockerz)
  • So, you ever wonder what that physical price you hear the players always paying looks like? Sami Lepisto shares.
  • Some of the Predators talk about the suspensions to Radulov and Kostitsyn for Game 3. (The Tennesseean)
  • The Red Wings are going into the summer looking "to get bigger and a little tougher." (MLive.com)
  • Why aren't the Flyers getting love in the awards voting? IT'S A CONSPIRACY! (CSN Philly)
  • With the World Championships set to begin, here's a look at Team USA, one of the better rosters it has had in some time for the Worlds. (The United States of Hockey)
  • Lastly, David Booth has some free time now so he went out and shot a bear. A really big bear. (Puck Daddy)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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