Predators 'will not go away quietly' after Game 4 loss


Predators 'will not go away quietly' after Game 4 loss

The visiting locker room inside the United Center was dead silent early Wednesday morning. 

After 101 minutes of play in Game 4 against the Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators sat at their stalls at the end of their longest game in team history, only to pack up after a disappointing loss that left them down 3-1 in their opening-round playoff series.

"We were in it. It was a fun game," Craig Smith said. "We played hard. Just sucks."

[MORE: Blackhawks win triple-OT thriller over Predators in Game 4]

The players were exhausted by the time Brent Seabrook's game-winning goal went in to end Tuesday's triple-overtime contest. And like the previous three games in the series, the Predators felt they were right in it with the Blackhawks, only to miss out on a look that Chicago managed to capitalize on.

"I thought we did all the right things," Smith continued. "We had a lot of emotion on our bench, we were fired up. These types of games there are going to be funny bounces so that's why you shoot. We had some really good looks, we had the chance to put the puck in the net but just couldn't quite get it."

The Predators took the lead in the first period off a goal from Colin Wilson, but it took Antoine Vermette just over a minute to score his first goal with the Blackhawks to tie things up. 

The Predators then managed to use second period to their advantage after being outscored 18-4 during that frame in their last 10 contests. James Neal found the back of the net, closing out a strong 40 minutes for Nashville before the Blackhawks outplayed them in the third.

"I think we played two really good periods," Roman Josi said. "In the third we sat back a little bit and they came at us. But even in OT we had our chances. They had their chances too, but just didn't go our way.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

"We have to play the same way as we did for two periods today. I thought we were the better team the first two periods. We were up 2-1. We just have to come out with a lot of energy, these games are so tight. Little mistakes are going to burn you so we have to limit those."

After such an emotionally-charged game, the Predators couldn't help but feel tremendous disappointment. But they're confident that a return to Nashville could be just the boost they need to get the series back to Chicago.

A 3-1 deficit is a tough pill to swallow, but the Predators have no doubt that they'll be ready to bring their best performance for their most important game of the season on Thursday.

"Eventually the sun will come up tomorrow," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "Our guys are resilient. They will not cave. And they will not go away quietly. So they'll be ready to play Game 5, I promise you."

2019 NHL Draft Profile: C Jack Hughes

NBC Sports

2019 NHL Draft Profile: C Jack Hughes

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Jack Hughes

Position: Center
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from draft expert Adam Kimelman:

The most talented player in the draft should be the first one selected. The 18-year-old has a package of skating, passing, vision and hockey sense that's reminiscent of Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane."

NHL player comparable: Connor McDavid/Patrick Kane

Fit for Blackhawks:

Listen, we know. Hughes isn't going to be on the board at No. 3. But let's dream just for one minute because when the Blackhawks jumped into the top-three on lottery night, the thought crept into everyone's minds.

Hughes is one of the most talented players to ever come out of the United States National Development Program, and is the most pro-ready out of any prospect in this year's draft. He could step onto an NHL team tomorrow and play in a top-six role seamlessly. 

Stylistically, Hughes' game is reminiscent of McDavid and Kane: A playmaker, goal scorer, smooth skater, unreal vision, high hockey IQ. He is the complete package. And just wait until he adds some muscle to his frame under the care of an NHL organization.

If the Blackhawks landed the No. 1 overall pick, their center depth for the next 7-8 years could've consisted of Hughes, Dylan Strome and Jonathan Toews. Alright, now back to reality. 

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GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

The 2019 NHL Draft is 48 hours away from now and the Blackhawks are slated to pick third overall for the first time since 2006 when they took Jonathan Toews. Coincidentally, that draft happened to be in Vancouver. 

The Blackhawks are sitting in a unique spot this time around.

The consensus is that Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko will go first and second overall, respectively, which essentially puts the Blackhawks in a position where they have the first overall pick in a different draft. There's a large group of players to choose from and there doesn't appear to be much separation amongst them.

So would the Blackhawks consider trading out of the No. 3 spot if a team wants to make the jump and the Blackhawks feel good about their player being on the board a few picks back?

"That’s a tough question to answer because it's not like we have a magic formula that we’re waiting for some to call and offer us," GM Stan Bowman said on Wednesday during his pre-draft conference call. "If somebody made a really appealing offer then we’d have to consider it, but that hasn’t happened yet. If it does, then as a group we’ll talk about it. That’s one of those things where a team has to want to put together a really appealing package to move up. It’s happened before, pretty rare though. So I wouldn't say it's out of the realm, but it’s unlikely to happen."

All signs point to the Blackhawks keeping their pick at No. 3, as expected. And it sounds like they already know who it's going to be, which isn't surprising considering the Blackhawks have done extensive research on the prospects — both on and off the ice — for months now.

The Blackhawks staff met on Wednesday a group, they'll meet again on Thursday, and then one more time on Friday before the draft to finalize their list. At this point, it's more about ironing out the later rounds.

"It’s more just fine-tuning the list," Bowman said. "We have more than just one pick in the draft. We’re looking at players we think are going to be around in the second round, and then we don’t have a third-round pick right now so there’s a bit of a gap there between our 43rd and then the two picks in the fourth round. So we have to look at that and determine which players we’re going to target for those rounds. I wouldn’t say there’s anything new that's being discovered at this time of year.

"We’re not going to be cramming last minute. I think we’re going to be very comfortable with the guy we pick when we get to Friday night."

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