Tampa Bay Lightning look to expand hockey great Phil Esposito's role

espo.jpgNow, I don’t live in Canada so I might not be fully qualified to lead this discussion but that being said, there are two championship hockey bumper stickers. In one corner is the much-loved “My other car is a Zamboni.” Its opposition is the classic Boston Bruins sticker that read, “Jesus saves, but Espo scores on the rebound.”

If I were to give a front office gold star to any one organization this summer, it would go to the Tampa Bay Lightning and their shiny new GM Steve Yzerman. They keep making refreshingly competent decisions as they rapidly rebuild the moribund franchise – and while details are a bit scarce – reports indicate that they’ll try to give beloved hockey figure Phil Esposito a more prominent role with the team.

TampaBay.com’s Damian Cristodero has more.

There were no specifics given by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, just an acknowledgment Lightning founder Phil Esposito might be in line for an expanded role with the organization. And while Vinik said the final decision will be up to new CEO Tod Leiweke, Vinik sounded as if Esposito could be an asset on the community and marketing side of the organization.

“We want him involved with this team,” Vinik said this week. “We want him out in the community. We want him involved with us. He’s a great ideas person.”

Expanding Esposito’s role from his long-time gig as an analyst on radio broadcasts of Lightning home games, a job for which he has said he never has signed a contract, makes sense for an organization ready to embrace its past and make a better effort to market the team both in the St. Pete Times Forum and Tampa Bay area.

Forgive me for gushing about the job Tampa Bay is doing right now, but they keep making shrewd moves. Embracing hockey icons is a sign that an organization is savvy to public relations and the game’s rich history. Just look at the difference with the Chicago Blackhawks; in the same time that the team went from the hockey basement to its upper ranks, they also honored old greats such as Bobby Orr and Stan Mikita.

Good on Yzerman & Co. for another subtle yet smart move in an impressive initial summer.

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    No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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    There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

    Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

    With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

    Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

    Here is O Canada:

    Sami Vatanen returns to Ducks lineup vs. Oilers

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    Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.

    Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.

    However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.

    Predators stifle Blues to take back series lead

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    The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.

    For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.

    The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.

    Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.

    By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

    That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.

    They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.

    This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.

    VIDEO: Ryan Ellis continues his incredible postseason run for Predators

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    Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.

    Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.

    But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).

    He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.

    You can see it in the video above.

    After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.

    The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.

    The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.