ANAHEIM, Calif. — Barry Trotz knows something is coming. The Nashville Predators coach simply cannot be sure exactly what it is.
Now that his team has pushed the Anaheim Ducks to the brink of elimination with its 4-3 overtime victory Friday at the Honda Center, Trotz figures the Ducks will make some adjustments.
“They may come up with a little different game-plan so we’re going to try to anticipate that,” Trotz said. “That’s sort of the chess match that goes on. It’s not always matchups or players. It’s systems. It’s different things in different situations.
“We’re going to try — as a coaching staff — to anticipate where they might go.”
It won’t be easy.
Anaheim has been anything but predicable throughout the first five games of the Western Conference quarterfinal series, which Nashville leads 3-2.
Yet faced with an opportunity to close out a playoff series for the first time in their history and with a one-game edge for the third time in this matchup, the Predators know they would like to at least one thing differently when they play Game 6 (5 p.m. Sunday at Bridgestone Arena).
“We’ve let our emotions get the best of us or we’ve gotten a little too confident at times,” defenseman Cody Franson said. “That’s come back to bite us. … We just have to move on to the next game.”
The Ducks have not yet used the same lineup in consecutive contests. Seven different players have been in and out of the lineup based on coaching decisions.
In each of the last two games they dressed seven defensemen rather than the traditional six — but not the same seven. Veteran Andy Sutton made his series debut in Game 4 on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena. Sheldon Brookbank, who played in the first three games of the series, replaced Sutton on Friday.
Before that, Anaheim used 12 forwards and six defensemen.
“We feel that we have people available to us,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We make a decision on what player or what combination of players we feel is going to give us the best chance for success.
“Believe me, there’s a lot of time and brain cells burned and a lot of pieces of paper that have a lot of things scribbled on them between games. It’s just one of those things that, from game-to-game, you have a feel.”
Based on that combination of effort and feel, Anaheim has used 22 different skaters and two different starting goalies.
Now, for the first time since Game 2, it has every one of those skaters available, including two who have yet to play in the series. Bobby Ryan was suspended for Games 3 and 4 and Jarkko Ruutu was suspended for Game 5. Both suspensions were the result of on-ice actions.
Conversely, the only lineup alteration Trotz has made was necessitated by injury. With Martin Erat sidelined for Game 5 by an upper body injury, veteran forward J-P Dumont played for the first time in the series.
The changes extend beyond just personnel, though.
“Obviously, they’re changing their systems and we’re changing our systems,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “It’s a lot like a chess match throughout a playoff series or even within a game. Teams will change things to try to counteract what the other team is doing.
“It goes back and forth and that’s where good coaching comes in.”
Nashville’s coaches spent time Sunday playing the guessing game in regard to what Anaheim will do when the puck drops for the next contest.
“We made some adjustments for [Friday’s] game on some of the things they were doing,” Trotz said. “They made some adjustments during the game, and we had to just sort of tweak what we were doing.
“… That’s what the playoffs are about.”