Neal, Predators Ready For Physical Battle Vs. Ducks

Posted at 5:28 PM, May 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-14 20:38:13-04

James Neal delivered a vicious check that sent Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour into the boards. Then moments later, he received a pass from P.K. Subban and ripped a shot past one defender and off of another for the game-winning overtime goal.

The sequence that ended game one of the Western Conference Final Friday delivered a message that neither Neal or the Predators are going to back down from the physical Ducks.

"They've got a lot of big bodies and play a heavy game," Neal said. "They're physical and make you pay for everything that you do."

The Preds outlasted Anaheim in a grueling seven game series a year ago, and it was clear early on in game one that there was no love lost between these two teams.

Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis delivered a massive hit at the blue line.

Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf knocked Preds' spark plug Viktor Arvidsson into the boards, who was then shoved back to the ground before he could get up.

Ducks' forward Chris Wagner was sent to the box for roughing. And Nashville enforcer Cody McLeod got tangled up with just about anybody who was willing in a black sweater.

And that was just in the first period.

Just imagine the bad intentions if this series goes the distance like the one a year ago did.

"Nothing new to us, it's what we expected," Neal said. "It was the same way last year when we played them in the playoffs, so we knew it was going to be a battle and we're just trying to win a game and move on."

One thing that was clear in game one is that Nashville is the significantly faster skating team. The Ducks can't afford to let the Preds skate freely and operate with space in this series, and they know that.

So expect the hits in the neutral zone, hard checks into the boards and, yes, even the penalties to continue.

Anaheim was sent to the penalty box five times in game one. Nashville was whistled for four penalties.

The Predators can't afford to allow their physical play to cross the line, and they can't retaliate when the pushing and shoving after the whistle begins.

"Discipline is probably the most biggest factor now in the playoffs," Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said. "Regardless of how chippy things get or how physical, you want to try to stay out of the box."

The Predators are going to feel it if they're going to reach their first ever Stanley Cup Final. The Ducks will make them pay for every inch of ice in this series.

But Neal and the Preds delivered a message in game one. They can withstand all the body blows and still have enough to punch back within the rules.

"There's a lot of emotion on the ice out there," Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. "Typically, the team that can keep it together the most is the one that will be successful."

In game one it was the Preds that kept their cool and sent the Ducks home frustrated.