NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Anaheim Ducks want to close out the series and get some rest before taking on the San Jose Sharks in the second round. The Nashville Predators are thinking why not push it to Game 7, where anything can happen? Game 6 begins Monday, 8 p.m. ET, at Bridgestone Arena. Here’s what to watch for:
Smith returns: Predators top-nine winger Craig Smith has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury but skated in full equipment at Monday's morning skate. When the teams took the ice, Smith was in the lineup, and not a moment too soon: The Preds have scored just three goals in three games against Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Struggling power play: This certainly hasn’t been a series for the power play. The Predators are just 1-for-22 on the man advantage, absolutely shut down by the Ducks' No. 1-rated penalty-killing unit from the regular season.
However, the Ducks’ No. 1-rated power play is just 2-for-19 in the series.
"Both teams would like that stat to be better," said defenseman Ryan Ellis on Monday morning, a member of the Predators second power-play unit. "It’s the playoffs and guys are doing all they can to stop the puck from going in the net. We need our power play to be better. We knew it would be a key in this series, they were No. 1 on the PK and No. 1 on the PP. We definitely have to find a way to get pucks to the net on the power play."
The Ducks filled the net on the power play in the regular season but have struggled against Nashville’s excellent blue-line corps.
"They’re really composed and they stick to what they do well," Ducks power-play point man Hampus Lindholm said Monday morning. "But I think the other part is about us; we’re not really executing and winning those battles. You see the power plays right now that are successful, they move the pucks quick and to the net in a hurry to create a couple of scrums. That’s how you get the PK to stand on their heels a little bit. I think that’s something we can be better at. Executing."
Killer instinct: It’s a narrative the Ducks are mighty tired of talking about. They were up 3-2 in their series with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals last year and lost in seven games. They were up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Kings in the second round two years ago and lost in seven games. They were up 3-2 on the Detroit Red Wings in 2013 in the opening round and lost in seven games.
So yeah, they’d like to finish it Monday night in six games and stop having people ask them about their inability to close out a series.
"This is our Game 7 right now," said Ducks center Ryan Kesler after the morning skate. "We’re taking this as a Game 7. We have to put our best foot forward tonight because we’re going to get their best."
Key matchup: Kesler's line from the Ducks has done a great job containing Ryan Johansen's top line from the Predators.
The matchup is harder to get for Anaheim on the road without having the last line change, so you’ll see a lot of changing on the fly Monday night as Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau chases that matchup.
Because he wants it at all costs.
"Every situation," Boudreau responded Monday morning when asked how often he would try for that matchup in Game 6. "Our players have become really good at understanding who they’re playing against."
Which is to say the other forwards on the team are quick to get off the ice to allow Kesler's unit to get on if they realize Johansen's top line has come over the boards.
The danger in chasing a matchup on the road is that you sometimes end up not playing your top players as much as they should, but Boudreau has done a good job finding the ice time for his other top guys despite being so focused on that defensive matchup.