The Carolina Hurricanes led the Nashville Predators 6-0 in the regular season prior to the final two games.
At this stage, Rod Brind’Amour had already locked in the number one spot in the Central Division and were able to rotate their squad ahead of the playoffs.
Subsequently, the Predators won the final two head-to-head matches of the season, to book their place in the post-season as the fourth seed.
Order appeared to be restored a week ago as the Carolina Hurricanes started the seven-game series with comfortable 5-2 and 3-0 victories over their division rivals in the first round of the playoffs.
However, Nashville have tied the series 2-2 with a pair of hard-fought, overtime victories in Tennessee. Both came in the second overtime period, 5-4 and 4-3.
The two sides will now alternate between host locations over the next five days to determine who will advance to the second round.
Bookmakers are expecting the number one seeds to advance safely, with the Hurricanes’ odds less than halves to progress, according to the latest odds on https://22bet.com/mobile/. It feels like Carolina can still reach another level while it’s hard to imagine the Predators playing much better than they have over the previous two games.
Here’s a look at the players who will need to get back to their best on Tuesday to ensure a Hurricanes victory:
The Carolina goaltender made a solid start to the series by conceding just two goals in the first two games, but since then Alex Nedeljkovic has struggled. Nashville have had the fewest attempts on goal in three of the four meetings so far. Petr Mrazek could be drafted back in goal if the coach has lost faith in Nedelijkovic.
The youngster is one of the top players in the NHL and headed into the playoffs as Carolina’s top point scorer. He has another five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in the post-season too. However, they failed to find a single goal in four overtime periods. Juuse Saros has made 110 saves on 117 shots for Nashville over the past two games. He had tied the Predators record with 52 saves in the Game 3 victory before eclipsing it with 58 in the following game.
Nashville have defended strong in their past two games, especially in overtime. They have shot Carolina’s lethal attack down, limiting their time on the puck around the goal. Any tired legs from the Predators’ defensemen on Tuesday will allow the likes of Andrei Svechnikov and co to get back to their best.
In only his second NHL campaign the 21-year-old Russian has registered a point in each of the past three games. Svechnikov will want to raise those numbers over the remainder of the series.
Carolina have been without Jaccob Slavin since game 1 and it’s really shown over the past two games in particular. Penalty kills have been notably tough on the number one seed as Brett Pesce’s minutes continue to rack up in the absence of the key defenseman. If Slavin doesn’t return for game 5 then Nashville’s attack has every reason to remain confident.