NASHVILLE – It was a bold move by Predators coach Peter Laviolette, but it paid off in the form of a 4-1 win in Game 3 of their second round series with the Sharks on Tuesday.
Mike Ribeiro, Nashville’s second line center, was a healthy scratch after scoring 50 points in 81 games in the regular season. The 36-year-old had struggled in the playoffs, though, with just one assist and a minus-three rating in nine games. In games one and two against San Jose, Ribeiro was scoreless with three shots on goal. In 64 career playoff games, he has 33 points (7g, 26a).
Pontus Aberg made his NHL debut, skating eight minutes and 27 seconds with no points or shots, and two hits. He was on a line with Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson.
“In regards to Ribeiro, it was just a lineup decision that I made,” Laviolette said after the game. “[Aberg], I thought, came in and gave us some good speed. He was a good player for [AHL] Milwaukee down the stretch. He brings speed and skill, and this is a fast game right now against San Jose. I thought he did a good job.”
Aberg, 22, was drafted by the Preds in the second round (37 overall) of the 2012 draft. He scored 25 goals and 40 points in 74 games in the AHL this season.
After indicating he was pleased with how the Predators played in a Game 2 loss on Sunday, Laviolette likes the direction his club is headed into Game 4 on Thursday, as they will attempt and tie the series at two games apiece. Game 5 is at SAP Center on Saturday (7 p.m.).
“Our guys have played hard,” he said. “Game 2, I liked the way we played, and Game 3 I liked the way we played. I think our guys are playing pretty good hockey right now.”