Jones: I’ll respect whatever Preds decide, even sending me back to junior

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Many figured Seth Jones’ last game in a WHL Portland jersey was the 2013 Memorial Cup final, when his Winterhawks fell to the eventual champion Halifax Mooseheads.

But on Monday, he left the door open for a possible return.

“It’s up to the [Nashville] coaching staff at the end of the day how much ice time I get and how they want to develop me in the league,” Jones told the Globe and Mail. “I’ll respect the decision that they make, whatever that may be, whether it’s 20 minutes or 12, or maybe even going back to Portland to develop for another year.”

Because Jones is only 18 — he doesn’t turn 19 ’til October — he’s ineligible to play for Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee next season (because of the AHL-CHL agreement).

That means it’s one of two options: Play with the Preds, or head back to junior.

The former is the most likely scenario. At 6-foot-4, 206 pounds, Jones has the size and skating ability to play defense at the NHL level.

That said, playing defense at the NHL level as a teenager is no easy go.

None of the first-round defensemen from 2012 played in the NHL last season. Columbus’ Ryan Murray likely would’ve if not for a shoulder injury, while Minnesota’s Mathew Dumba made the team out of camp, but never saw game action.

Adam Larsson, the first defenseman off the board in 2011, played 65 games as an 18-year-old for the Devils.

Cam Fowler did it in 2010 and Victor Hedman in 2009. In 2008, a trio of 18-year-olds debuted — Drew Doughty (No. 2 overall), Zach Bogosian (No. 3) and Luke Schenn (No. 5).

So, it does happen. Just not all that often.

It’ll be interesting to see now the Jones situation plays out. There’s definitely a spot for him in Nashville — GM David Poile said he expects Jones to start the season in the NHL — and the Preds defense isn’t exactly an impenetrable wall. While the top three of Shea Weber, Kevin Klein and Roman Josi is set, the likes of Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Victory Bartley are hardly proven entities.

As for Jones, he just wants to make the team.

“I’m going to go and do my best to prepare myself physically and mentally for training camp and prove to the (coaching) staff and the organization that I can make the team,” he said. “Hopefully, I can come in and try to make an impact as much as I can.”

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

Predators survive Blues’ big late push to win Game 1

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The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”

You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.

Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.

via Natural Stat Trick

P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.

Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.

Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.

For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).

Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.

It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.

In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.

This tweet explains it in additional detail.

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)