Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz likened the opening two games against the Vancouver Canucks to boxers feeling each other out in the early rounds of a title fight.
He expects that Game 3 between the Predators and the Vancouver Canucks, who are tied 1-1 in their Western Conference semi-final, will be critical to determining a winner. The Predators were atrocious in a 1-0 defeat in Game 1, whereas the Canucks were awful in a 2-1 overtime loss of Game 2.
"It's on right now," Trotz said. "I think both teams realize we're both engaged in the series."
The Canucks are expected to make several lineup changes, including replacing Keith Ballard with Andrew Alberts on defence, and using Cody Hodgson to centre the fourth line while benching winger Victor Oreskovich.
Sami Salo (lower-body injury) was put through two strenuous skates before and after practices in Nashville, and is unlikely to dress in Game 3. That means a likely third pair of Alberts and Aaron Rome.
Alex Burrows is expected to move back up to the top line alongside the Sedin twins, while Mikael Samuelsson could well be demoted to the fourth line. Chris Higgins is expected to move up to the second line, while Raffi Torres should be elevated to the third unit.
Each team is stuck on two goals after two games, both low-scoring ugly contests that suit the Predators more than the Canucks. Vancouver has just nine goals in six meetings against the Predators this season, and neither team has broken through with a tally in the first-period.
"They're clogging it up and making it hard for us to play," associate coach Rick Bowness said. "Eventually, we'll score some goals."
Trotz said he was considering some lineup changes, which would likely mean benching a forward and turning to either winger J.P. Dumont, or centre Colin Wilson.