Crosby will make trip with Penguins on season opening road trip, but don’t get your hopes up

The good news is that Sidney Crosby is slated to join his team as they travel to Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary for the first three games of the 2011-12 season. The bad news is that it’s still extremely doubtful that he’ll play in any of the opening three games. That’s not really bad news—that’s more likely to fall under the “expected” news column.

Penguins head coach Dan Byslma told Alan Robinson of The Canadian Press that the team expects their captain to accompany the team to Vancouver to start the season.

“We’ll be starting with everybody going on the trip that’s part of our group that’s with us at that time. Unless their rehab needs to be at a facility that’s not part of the trip, they’ll be going on the trip with us. So I anticipate that to be the case for Sid.”

Even with the necessarily disclaimers, people are going to get excited that Crosby may appear during the first trip of the season. Don’t bet on it. Remember, the Pittsburgh captain has just started skating and still hasn’t been cleared for contact as of yet. The next step in the recovery process will be to show doctors and the training staff that he can go through multiple workouts without suffering any setbacks or feeling the side-effects from January’s concussion.

Crosby also admitted that even without the contact, he’s still understands that it’s going to take even more time before he gets back to the way he was feeling before the injury last season. He doesn’t sound like he expects to be at that point when the season opens next week:

“Everything seems to be coming slowly, but I think that each day all of that gets better and better. It’s tough. I’m kind of going based on December of last year and how I felt. I’m not going to get to that level this week.

“It’s just a matter of being realistic with how much you want to improve every day, but also paying attention to everything that’s important — so that transition is as smooth as possible.”

On the ice, the Penguins will depend on the players they still have on the roster to get the season started on the right foot. Evgeni Malkin is showing signs that he’s fully recovered from the season-ending knee injury he suffered last season. Behind Malkin, Jordan Staal would realistically be the #2 center on just about any team not named the Penguins. One of the big differences is that the depth on the team will suffer until Crosby makes a return and everyone can slide back into their normal roles.

Of course, the biggest difference is that they’re losing arguably the best player in the NHL. (Easy Caps fans, I said “arguably”)

Whether he plays sometime in October or has to continue to wait for the symptoms to subside, the good news is that Crosby hasn’t suffered any setbacks throughout training camp. In a recovery process that has seen its share of problems and uncertainty, no news is good news. Now, the only question is when he’ll be able to travel with the team and actually play with them as well.

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different team to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the Stanley Cup Finals yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.