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Home is where the wins are for the Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators raise their sticks to thank the fans after wrapping up their Western Conference semifinal series against St. Louis with a 3-1 victory on May 7.
(Frederick Breedon / Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators have turned Bridgestone Arena — the team’s downtown rink also known as “Smashville” — into a fortress this season, losing a league-low nine times at home in regulation and 17 overall. That includes the playoffs, where they are a perfect 5-0 heading into Tuesday’s third game of the NHL Western Conference finals.

But Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle says the raucous postseason atmosphere can work to his team’s favor too.

“You feed off the positives,” he said. “If you don’t get shivers and chills up your spine stepping out onto the ice, then you’re in the wrong sport.”

That didn’t work in the regular season, with the Ducks getting blown out 5-0 in their only visit to Nashville. It was the team’s most one-sided shutout loss of the season.

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And Carlyle conceded that the Predators’ building offers some unusual challenges.

“We’ve experienced loud buildings,” he said. “[But] this building is a little bit more unique because of the brightness in the building, the color of the opposition’s jerseys. The closeness and the acoustics in the building make it a very loud place.

“If you look at the top of the board around the rink, it’s yellow. All other buildings are blue, have a different color. That’s defining. It’s part of their color scheme. It’s all added. I just find it’s different.”

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette countered, saying the biggest difference stems more from Predators’ colorful fans than the color of the jerseys and the boards.

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“Typically, when somebody talks about a home-ice advantage, it goes through the atmosphere of the building and the energy that can come from a building. And ours, I think, is just terrific,” he said. “There’s more of a European soccer match-type event, with the chanting and the noise and the applause and just 100% behind us, and it is an advantage.”

The fans will have even more reasons to cheer during the two games in Nashville this week: The NHL’s Western Conference finals — the first in the Predators’ 19-year history — are arguably the most important professional sporting events to be contested in the city.

Nashville’s baseball team, the Sounds, has won three league titles, but they were minor league championships. And though the NFL Titans have won an AFC championship and played in a Super Bowl, they’ve played just four postseason games at home, none beyond the divisional round.

“It’s unbelievable how much the city has gotten behind our team,” Laviolette said. “Our fans have always been there, but they’re even louder and more vocal and more visible now. That’s the playoffs.

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“The further you get, the more exciting it gets for everybody, for a city who is maybe experiencing something for the first time and for our players. All of that adds up to just a great environment that makes our game so great.”

Song sung blue

Bridgestone Arena also has taken on a different tone before the opening faceoff during the playoffs, but for reasons that have nothing to do with the fans.

Dennis K. Morgan, a corporate recruiter who has sung the national anthem at nearly 200 Predator games over the past 17 years, has been benched for the postseason. Instead, the team has turned to country music superstars such as Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town.

Underwood is the wife of Predator captain Mike Fisher, so when the team approached Morgan and told him Underwood wanted to perform before a playoff game, he thought it was for one night only.

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“I agreed to it,” Morgan told the Tennessean newspaper. “Then they continued to bring in these other singers and touted them as ‘A-listers,’ which kind of hurt me.”

However, Morgan said he doesn’t plan on addressing the issue with the team until after the playoffs.

“The most important part of a Stanley Cup run is not what happens in pregame ceremonies, but rather what happens on the ice,” he said. “I will address any disappointment I have with the Predators’ decision hopefully after a Stanley Cup parade.”

The team said in a statement that its arrangement with Morgan allowed for “nationally and internationally renowned musical artists to perform when available.”

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: kbaxter11


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