A year later, Wild GM feels ‘fortunate’ to have Parise, Suter

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The Minnesota Wild made a big splash last summer when they signed defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. After missing the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, that move renewed their commitment to win the Stanley Cup and singled out those two newcomers as the people they felt would lead them there.

Minnesota’s 2013 campaign ended with a shift first-round exit at the hands of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks and given the increased expectations, it was seen as something of a disappointment. All the same, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have any regrets about the trust they’ve put in Suter and Parise.

“We were fortunate to sign both Zach and Ryan,” Fletcher told NHL.com. “Looking back now, in hindsight with a year removed, I can’t even say how lucky we are that we did sign them.

“You hear horror stories of all these big free-agent signings that don’t pan out, and we signed arguably the best defenseman in the League and one of the best goal scorers in the League. Both players lived up to expectations. They’re great people.”

To Fletcher’s point, while the team didn’t get far in the playoffs, Parise and Suter did largely perform as advertised. That’s especially true for Suter, who averaged a league-leading 27:16 minutes per game and was a Norris Trophy finalist.

At the same time, those long-term contract horror stories don’t always start with the first season of a deal. After all, Parise is 29 years old and Suter will celebrate his 29th birthday on Jan. 21. With them signed through 2024-25, it’s not hard to see them being liabilities in the final years of their contracts.

Still, right now the Wild have a team with a strong core and some young, up-and-coming talent. And if they can manage to win the Stanley Cup over the next few years, then their signing of Parise and Suter could be credited as the turning point that led them to new heights.

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.