Tonight’s battle on Versus between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m. ET) comes with a bit of a twist. The Wild come in with the hopes of making the playoffs in the West thanks to the additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The Penguins roll into town coming off a tough 2-1 loss to Winnipeg last night and without a handful of key players.
Pittsburgh will be without Tyler Kennedy (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Dustin Jeffrey (knee) and Brooks Orpik (abdominal) and while the Malkin and Orpik injuries are brutal ones, losing Kennedy and Jeffrey hurts the Pens’ depth offense in a big way. Seeing Kennedy go out with a concussion is frustrating as they’ve already got an important guy in Sidney Crosby dealing with that already.
As it is, the Pens are rolling with essentially Jordan Staal, James Neal, and Kris Letang as their biggest offensive threats, they could use a bit more from Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis to get things going offensively. Hey, at least Matt Cooke is keeping things on the straight and narrow for the time being or else it’d be at a soap opera-level type of drama in Pittsburgh. On the upside, Marc-Andre Fleury has been stellar so far but after dealing with the mayhem atmosphere in Winnipeg last night, it seems likely that Brent Johnson gets the call in goal tonight.
Minnesota has been playing things tight so far and while the attention is being paid to Heatley and Setoguchi, it’s their other lines doing the damage right now. Guillaume Latendresse is setting his teammates up while Matt Cullen is scoring goals. Heatley and Setoguchi are getting their points, but a bit more offense from Mikko Koivu would go a long way.
The guys who really have to get it going are the Wild defensemen. They’ve been holding strong in helping Niklas Backstrom play great so far in goal this year, but getting a little bit more offense from them would go a long way. It’s a work in progress in Minnesota but coach Mike Yeo will have extra motivation for his team tonight going against his former team and former boss in Dan Bylsma. Yeo would love to see the Wild’s power play carry the load tonight after his work with the Penguins’ power play as an assistant coach was a source of contention amongst the fans.
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:
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.)
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?
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.
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