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|Playing the Winnipeg Jets is exactly why Nashville coach Peter Laviolette wanted home-ice advantage in the NHL playoffs. Even if it’s a round – or two – earlier than anyone really wants.
Laviolette’s Predators play Winnipeg in the Western Conference semifinals after turning in their best season in franchise history to grab the right to start and end a series in the place called ”Smashville.”
They edged out their Central Division rival by a mere three points for the Presidents’ Trophy http://www.texansauthorizedshops.com/authentic-justin-reid-jersey , and this will be just the fifth series since 1990 between the NHL’s top two teams in the regular season.
”They wanted divisional battles, got them,” Laviolette said. ”This should be a big series.”
It’s the second straight postseason that division foes and the league’s top finishers meet in this round. Pittsburgh, which wound up beating Nashville in the Stanley Cup Final, advanced to the Eastern finals by downing the Capitals in Game 7 in Washington.
Winnipeg and Nashville played so well that this series has been anticipated for weeks, so good it could be a Cup Final despite the Predators winning the regular-season series 3-1-1. Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban dismissed such talk Thursday, noting this round remains a long way from the Stanley Cup Final.
A thrilling series with lots of speed and goals? That the Jets and Predators can provide.
”The thing about winning, and I’m sure you ask anybody who’s won a Cup, is the steps that it takes to get there,” Subban said. ”You have to go through some thick walls Brian Allen Color Rush Jersey , and this is definitely one of the thickest walls that we’re going to have to get through to get there.”
Winnipeg goes against the defending Western Conference champs coming off the franchise’s first postseason series victory after relocating from Atlanta in 2011 with 10 Jets making their playoff debuts against the Wild. Winnipeg center Bryan Little says that makes the Jets the underdogs by just a little bit.
”It’s going to be a really tough series and a tight series, so I think that’s why everyone’s so excited about it,” Little said.
Some things to know before Game 1 on Friday night:
Goalies for both the Jets and Predators are finalists for the Vezina Trophy with Nashville veteran Pekka Rinne looking to win the award in his fourth try.
Connor Hellebuyck made his postseason debut, shutting out Minnesota twice with a 1.94 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Rinne’s numbers weren’t nearly as glitzy against Colorado, but he tightened up over the final three games with a 1.34 GAA and .951 save percentage, including a shutout in the series clincher.
HOME AND ROAD
Nobody was better in the NHL at home than the Jets who went 32-7-2, and they have won 12 straight in Winnipeg, including all three in ousting Minnesota. The Jets haven’t lost at home since Feb. 27 – to Nashville. The Predators were the league’s best away from home (25-9-7). The Predators won twice on the road in the first round, including clinching in Colorado in Game 6.
Even with Rinne and Hellebuyck in net, these teams combined for 42 goals in five games in the regular season with Nashville outscoring the Jets 22-20. It was the most goals the Jets scored against any team Isac Lundestrom Ducks Jersey , while they also gave up the most goals to any opponent. The Jets also ranked second in the regular season for both most goals (273) and average goals per game (3.33)
SHUT DOWN WHO?
Nashville’s top trio is nicknamed the ”JOFA” line for Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. But the Predators’ top scoring line against Colorado was their third line of center Nick Bonino with Austin Watson and Colton Sissons, who combined for 19 points. The Jets can match Nashville’s scoring depth with seven players scoring at least 43 points in the regular season led by Blake Wheeler (91 points) and Patrik Laine (team-high 44 goals).
Nashville has four of the NHL’s best defensemen in Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Subban and Mattias Ekholm. But the group that led the league with 55 goals only had one goal in the first round, and that came in Game 6 from Ekholm. Subban says defending comes first for a team that ranked second in the regular season in allowing both the second-fewest goals (204) and average goals per game (2.49).
On June 7, the Colorado Rockies were tied for first place in the National League West and riding high. In the week since, the Rockies have lost five straight games and come to the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Friday with as many questions as answers about themselves as the season heads into the dog days of summer.
Colorado begins a three-game interleague series with the Texas Rangers, a team also in search of answers, at Globe Life Park in Arlington Donte Jackson Color Rush Jersey , Texas.
The Rockies will send right-hander Chad Bettis (4-1, 4.40 ERA) to the mound for the opening game and the Rangers will counter with Yohander Mendez (0-0, 0.00).
Colorado activated right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino from the disabled list Thursday, and manager Bud Black said Ottavino would go right back into his late-game role.
Ottavino had a 0.95 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings before going to the disabled with a left oblique injury. The team went 5-9 without him in the lineup.
“Otto feels that he wants to jump right back into the mix of pitching deep in the game,” Black told mlb.com. “He’s ready for that. He doesn’t necessarily want to ease back in. Physically, he made it a point of emphasis to get his body in the best shape possible in the offseason. The year before, it wasn’t the case.”
Ottavino did not see action in the Rockies’ 9-3 loss at Philadelphia but will be ready when Colorado takes on hapless Texas.
The Rangers will attempt to end a six-game losing streak that included a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in 11 innings in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
With one out and the bases loaded, the Dodgers‘ Austin Barnes dribbled what appeared to be a sure out at home in front of Rangers reliever Matt Bush. However, Bush’s throw to home for the force pulled catcher Carlos Perez off the plate, allowing Enrique Hernandez to score the deciding run.
Texas is now a season-worst 18 games back of the first-place Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros in the American League West after suffering a two-game sweep by the Dodgers.
Bettis gave up three home runs and lasted just four innings in his last start Lamar Jackson Jersey Elite , a home loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The good news is his velocity returned after a dip for three starts. He is a Lubbock, Texas, native who pitched at Texas Tech University.
Bettis will make his 14th start of the season and his eighth on the road. He has no-decisions and a 7.67 ERA in his past six starts since May 11.
Bettis has pitched against Texas only once, getting a no-decision on Aug. 11, 2016, in Arlington, a 12-9 Rockies win.
Mendez will make his first big league start Friday. In 10 minor league starts this season, he has an 0-6 record with a 5.26 ERA. In one relief appearance with the Rangers this year, he didn’t allow a run in two-thirds of an inning.
Mendez, who is ranked the Rangers’ seventh-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline Daniel Castro Colorado Rockies Jersey , has joined the ballclub from Triple-A Round Rock. He has been a September call-up for Texas each of the past two seasons, and featured with the Rangers earlier this season when he was called up May 3.
In 10 career major league appearances — all in relief — Mendez has posted a 0-1 record with a 7.31 ERA (13 earned runs in 16 innings).
“It’s going to be multiple starts,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said Wednesday about Mendez’s upcoming major league stint. “He’s going to have the opportunity to show us what he can do as a starter.
“We’re still in the business of winning baseball games,” Banister added. “It’s about development, but it is the big leagues, and you still develop and still give yourself the opportunity to win baseball games.”
After spending time with Tampa Bay
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