Doug Armstrong’s Dallas allegiances die hard

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The St. Louis Blues raised a few eyebrows upon announcing the firing of head coach Davis Payne and the hiring of his replacement, Ken Hitchcock. Payne was regarded as one of the NHL’s better young coaches and Hitchcock was rumored for the Columbus job once the Jackets put Scott Arniel out of his misery.

But there was another wrinkle to the decision, one that played a big role in raising those eyebrows. The hiring of Hitch had a real turn-back-the-clock feel to it, mostly because of his history with Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

The two won a Stanley Cup together in Dallas in 1999, with Hitch the head coach and Armstrong the assistant to GM Bob Gainey. Apparently, Armstrong was quite fond of his time in Dallas…because he’s since loaded up the St. Louis organization with a bunch of his old cronies.

Here’s an unofficial Doug Armstrong-Dallas-St. Louis flowchart.

Hitchcock: As discussed above.

Jamie Langenbrunner: Current Blues LW. Played under Hitch/Armstrong for six-and-a-half years in Dallas. Memorably posted 10G-7A-17PTS in 23 games during the 1999 Stanley Cup run.

Jason Arnott: Current Blues center. In Mar. 2002, Armstrong traded Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk (now the GM in Dallas, oddly enough) to New Jersey for Arnott, Randy McKay and a first-round pick.

Corey Hirsch: Current Blues goaltending coach. In 2002, Armstrong signed Hirsch to be the third goalie in Dallas behind Marty Turco and Ron Tugnutt.

Rob DiMaio: Current Blues professional scout. DiMaio played under Armstrong in Dallas for three years — one season with Hitch as head coach, one season as a teammate of Langenbrunner’s and two seasons as a teammate of Arnott’s.

Now, keep in mind this isn’t a rarity. The NHL is like six degrees of Kevin Bacon when it comes to filling out a staff/roster — decision-makers will generally tend to go with who they know rather than who they don’t. That said, it’s somewhat amusing to watch Armstrong get the band back together and party like it’s 1999.

Could the call to Sergei Zubov be next?

Anybody got Richard Matvichuk on speed dial?

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.