Should the Penguins bring back Petr Sykora?

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sykora.jpgThe most exciting moments of hockey off-seasons come when a team lands a big, expensive free agent. Yet, nine times out of ten in sports, splashy deals fail miserably (see: the Dan Snyder era with the Washington Redskins). Just look at last summer; while Jay Bouwmeester made headlines when he signed with the Calgary Flames, it turned out his former Florida Panthers teammate and backup goalie Craig Anderson ended up being the coup.

Now, sure, we’ll still be more fixated on the Ilya Kovalchuks and Evgeni Nabokovs of the world, but that doesn’t mean PHT will forget the smaller names entirely.

One of those guys you won’t hear a whole lot about in most circles is Czech winger Petr Sykora.

There’s a good reason why Sykora’s name will only come up in the most obscure free agent conversations. His one year with the Minnesota Wild was a borderline disaster, scoring three points in only 14 games played before he was waived in late January. He suffered from concussion problems and never made much of an impact. The fact that no one claimed him is obviously a bad sign, too.

While it’s quite possible that the wayward winger might retreat to the KHL, I wonder if the Pittsburgh Penguins should consider giving him a chance at retribution on the cheap. My guess is that Sykora would garner even less than the $1.6 million he received from the Minnesota Wild (although, again, the KHL could potentially overpay him). The forward and goalie ranks are filled, but the team needs to bolster its defense with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski being the only experienced blueliners under contract.

Aside from that whole “career free-fall” thing, there might also be some residual bitterness festering from the Penguins scratching Sykora during the 2009 Stanley Cup run.

It might not be the most realistic option, then, but the salary cap (and Sykora’s lack of other choices) could make compromise at least feasible. There’s two simple reasons to make it work: Sykora is a natural goal scorer and he developed genuine chemistry with Evgeni Malkin. It’s too simplistic to say that Sykora was the difference between Malkin being an Art Ross winner and just a point-per-game guy, but he certainly benefited from having a 25-goal guy on his line.

He’s not a crash-and-bang hitter. He rarely leads his team in hustle points or defensive acumen. If Sykora isn’t scoring goals, he’s nearly useless.

Yet, despite all of those flaws, Sykora being back in black and gold could be a solid if unspectacular move. As long as he’s cheap and can accept the fact that he might be a healthy scratch every now and then.

Video: Trisha Yearwood sings national anthem for Preds-Ducks

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Keith Urban sang the national anthem for Game 3. Kelly Clarkson did the honors for the Nashville Predators before Game 4. Next up: Trisha Yearwood for Game 6.

The Predators hope to close out the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, and they got off to a nice start with Austin Watson scoring a quick 1-0 goal. Not long after, the Predators added another to build to a 2-0 lead.

Garth Brooks spoiled Yearwood’s appearance a bit before the contest.

Brooks also revealed Yearwood’s early fan creds:

Nick Ritchie ejected after boarding, bloodying Viktor Arvidsson (Video)

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Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchie scored a goal in Game 4, but he won’t be able to provide such a scoring boost for his team in Game 6.

That’s because he was ejected during the first period after hitting rising Nashville Predators star Viktor Arvidsson from behind, bloodying the slick Swede.

Ritchie was whistled for a game misconduct and major. Remarkably, the Ducks killed the entire five-minute power-play opportunity, with Ryan Kesler‘s shorthanded chance being one of the better opportunities for either team.

It’s still a big blunder, but if the Ducks can get back in it, remember that big kill.

Video of the hit is coming soon. For now, check out the GIF:

Oddly, Arvidsson left the ice with a wound that more or less spelled out “R,” presumably for Ritchie, maybe celebrating the return of “Twin Peaks.”

(Such an obvious move might not be surreal enough for David Lynch, though. Alex Prewitt’s Zorro reference might be more, um, on the mark.)

Video: Predators storm off to 2-0 lead, beguile Bernier early on

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It was already loud at Bridgestone Arena, but the Nashville Predators are making it a madhouse with a strong start against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6.

First, it was Austin Watson, who sent a puck off a Ducks skate to score a 1-0 goal on Nashville’s first shot on Jonathan Bernier, who is starting instead of John Gibson. That came about 90 seconds into the game, really revving up the crowd.

Colton Sissons scored his first goal of the Western Conference Final – on his first shot on goal of the series – to make it 2-0. At that point, Bernier had allowed two goals on three shots on goal. Bernier’s made a few stops since then, but it’s a shaky start for a Ducks team facing elimination.

There’s some solace in that Anaheim’s often at its best in dire situations, though you have to wonder how many times they can bounce back from this?

No Mike Fisher or Craig Smith for Predators in Game 6

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The Anaheim Ducks won’t have John Gibson back, but the Nashville Predators are dealing with some injury-related letdowns, too.

Craig Smith skated before Game 6, but he opted not to play on Monday. Mike Fisher is also unable to go for the Predators as they aim to eliminate Anaheim.

The Ducks also won’t have Rickard Rakell back in the mix, so this physical Western Conference Final continues to feel like a battle of attrition.

Click here for the official roster report.

Game 5 is airing on NBCSN right now. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE.