NASHVILLE -- With his team landing at the wrong end of an epic playoff comeback, Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz is attempting a little reverse psychology with his group as it prepares for Game 6 Monday (9 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN) at Bridgestone Arena.
Trotz said that after allowing the tying, shorthanded goal with 13.6 seconds left in regulation, failing to score on a five-minute power play and then losing in overtime, 5-4, to fall down 3-2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks, that the Predators were probably at "about the lowest place you can think of (emotionally)."
"We were at ground zero, if you want," he said.
However, Trotz said the 2009-10 Predators are a resilient group, so he looks at Game 6 as "a great opportunity."
"Tonight's about having your backs against the wall. It's one game. …We're not talking about the 'what if's.' No matter what, you'll see the best the Nashville Predators have to offer. That's the strength of our hockey team. We have a great bounce-back ability."
-- Barry Trotz
"We've done it all year. Talk about having to bounce back from something, that's a pretty good opportunity. I don't think you're going to find too many better than that. So we're looking at this as a great opportunity, to … not set the record straight, but to really re-establish ourselves if we can. You're going to see our best. And if we get beat at our best, we'll have no regrets."
Trotz said he sees all of the right signs from his team, but one might think that right wing Martin Erat, the team's second-leading goal-scorer who also ranked second in points per game, might be a special cause for concern.
Trotz said he spoke to Erat, who scored twice in the third period in Game 5 to put Nashville ahead but then made the glaring turnover that allowed Chicago to tie the game in the waning seconds of the same period.
"Yeah, I talked to Marty," Trotz said. "I'll tell you this about Martin Erat -- there's probably not a player who cares more about the Nashville Predators and about the outcomes of the games and all those types of things than Marty. It was a … as I said, he'd like to have that decision back, but we can't."
Said Erat: "I just tried to pass it to someone around the net and when I tried to pass it I got hit there and it just went from the net. It happened -- we can't focus on that. We have to focus on this game."
That the tying goal, by Hawks forward Patrick Kane, came shorthanded only served to underscore how bad Nashville's power play has been in the series. Still in search of their first man-advantage goal, Trotz said the Predators will attempt some changes.
"We've got a plan of doing a couple of things different," he said. "We won't go into it. We got stubborn in our train of thought, if you will. We got a little frustrated in forcing things that aren't there."
One possibility could be how Nashville uses defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, who played five minutes on the power play in Game 5. Playing his first game of the series in Game 5, Grebeshkov earned assists on both of Nashville's third-period goals with skillful passing.
Trotz had talked in the days leading up to Grebeshkov's insertion into the lineup that the comfort level had to run both ways -- the coaching staff trusting Grebeshkov, and the defenseman feeling comfortable with Nashville's system. Grebeshkov was acquired from Edmonton near the trade deadline and played only four games with the Predators before getting hurt.
Game 5 was his first game back -- as well as his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut -- and Grebeshkov admitted to being nervous.
"I won't lie, a few more games would help me probably," he said. "But at the same time, yeah, I guess, those few extra days helped me in that perspective."
The Predators don't have a few more games. They never have won a playoff elimination game, and to add insult to injury, each of their four previous appearances in the postseason, they have been eliminated at home.
"There's a lot of guys in this room who have been through this before and it seems like it's been on home ice every time," said defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who has played in every playoff game Nashville ever has played. "Being through it four times myself, it's a huge motivating factor to not let this happen tonight. It's a terrible feeling to lose at home and we don't want that to happen here."