If there was one general theme to the Ducks’ discussion of Nashville Monday, it was toughness. The Predators, who finished second in the Central Division, aren’t the flashiest team in the NHL playoffs, but the Ducks aren’t allowing themselves to be fooled by that.
“Their whole team is very underrated and can’t underestimate them at all,” Teemu Selanne said. “Respect that and do our job the best we can. It’s going to be a tough series for sure.
“We have to be patient, they have a great system. They are what they are so we have to make sure we don’t give them any turnovers and play smart. I expect they’ll be low-scoring games and we have to play very tight.”
The Predators receiving the most praise Monday were goaltender Pekka Rinne and his goals-against average of 2.12 along with their No. 1 defensive pair of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Ducks goaltender Dan Ellis, who played for the Predators from 2007-10, was effusive in his praise of the trio and the franchise in general.
“I had a great time in Nashville,” Ellis said. “If it wasn’t for them I might be in Europe or have some other job. They gave me a chance to break in and learn and I’m thankful for what they did for me.
“They have one of the best (goalies) in the league in Pekka and have some underrated defensemen. People remember Shea Weber and Suter as two of the top but if you look at their other defensemen all the way through they don’t give up very much.”
Ellis continued on in his praise of Weber and Suter, both of whom have starred at the Olympic level.
“They are right there with everyone,” he said. “Weber was one of the top ones for team Canada and Suter was for Team USA. They can do it all on the power play, penalty kill. They see the puck and they see the ice well and both are strong leaders. Both will be all-stars and Hall of Famers when their career is over.”
The Predators’ offense doesn’t have the 50-goal scorer like the Ducks do in Corey Perry, but have gotten solid production from Martin Erat (17 goals, 33 assists) and Sergei Kostitsyn (23 goals, 27 assists) and could get a key threat back in veteran Steve Sullivan, who returned Friday from a groin injury.
“They don’t have a bunch of superstars as far as league talents but they have a bunch of gritty, skilled guys and they are likely going to get one back in Steve Sullivan,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “I think he’s coming off the IR and adds a lot to them.”