Avs have tough decision as Stastny plays out final year of contract

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There was a time not long ago when Paul Stastny seemed a near-sure departure from Colorado once his contract expired following this season, or even sooner via a trade.

Today, the 27-year-old pending unrestricted free agent has 21 points (four last night) in 30 games and would be missed if he left the Avalanche, a team on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

All of which begs some tough questions for Avs management. If the club wants to re-sign Stastny, how much is it willing to give him? His current cap hit is $6.6 million, a high number for a franchise with a budget, but one he’d probably get, or least approach, in free agency.

If, on the other hand, the Avs don’t feel they can get Stastny under contract at a number that works for both sides, do they try and get something for him prior to the trade deadline, or do they keep him for a playoff run and bid adieu in the offseason?

Stastny says he likes being on the Avs now, something he couldn’t say in previous seasons. But according to the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater, that doesn’t mean Stastny will end up staying:

If Stastny stays, that means Nathan MacKinnon has to either play as a third-line center, or on the wing on a higher line. Either he won’t get great ice time as a third-liner, or he’ll get more, but play at an unnatural position.

The Montreal Canadiens have been scouting the Avs heavily all season, and I’m told they have been looking hard at Stastny. The Toronto Maple Leafs need a center badly, too, and you have to believe they’ve thought about making an offer. The list of teams who might give up a lot to get a potential UFA, though, is probably very small. It’s a tough thing, to get much in return unless the player is a bona-fide big star. Stastny doesn’t quite rise to that level.

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

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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.