Sochi notes: Is an extra game such a bad thing?

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SOCHI, Russia — You may recall Team Canada didn’t exactly come flying out of the gates in 2010 either. A mere shootout win over Switzerland and a loss to the United States in the preliminary round meant the Olympic hosts would have to play Germany in the qualification playoffs, instead of advancing directly to the quarterfinals. You know how it ended — Roberto Luongo replaced Martin Brodeur and Canada won four straight, including the gold-medal game.

Sure, it would be nice to get the rest. Yes, there’s always the risk of injury. And of course there’s always the possibility you could, you know, lose. But there’s something to be said for the additional time a qualification game provides to come together as a team.

“Now we suddenly have some video on our own guys,” coach Mike Babcock said Thursday after Canada’s 3-1 victory over Norway. “We can talk about our team game.

“Once you trust each other and you trust your structure, your skill comes out because you’re in the right spots and playing fast. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. Don’t get me wrong. But we can be way better. We understand that, and we’re confident that we’re going to be.”

Canada. Russia. United States. Sweden. Finland. Czech Republic. At least two of those sides will have to play in the qualification playoffs. If it happens to your side, try not to fret; it’s not necessarily the worst thing, and may in fact be a good thing.

—- Per the Olympic News Service, this was Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov after his team’s 5-2 win over Slovenia: “We passed too much today, we needed to shoot much more. The fancy passing is nice to watch, but shooting brings results.”

Babcock could’ve said the same thing after Canada’s 3-1 win over Norway. (Jonathan Toews did.)

I think we’ll see a more basic approach from the Canadians tonight versus Austria, and Sidney Crosby is one player to watch in this regard. For all the fancy passes he completed last night, the results weren’t there.

—- Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press sums up the Red Wings’ concerns following Henrik Zetterberg’s withdrawal from the Olympics with a back issue: “The Wings can ill afford to be without Zetterberg, their captain and best all-around player. They are coming out of the Olympic break, in less than two weeks, clinging to the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Pavel Datsyuk is also hurting, playing on an inflamed knee, but [general manager Ken Holland] said he has heard nothing new on Datsyuk.”

And remember that Johan Franzen (concussion) is out until further notice as well.

The focus is on the Olympics now, but the Wings’ injuries mean opportunity for Columbus, Ottawa, Washington, Carolina and New Jersey when the NHL gets back to business.

—- Here was commissioner Gary Bettman, almost two decades ago, before NHLers were set to make their Olympic debut in Nagano: ”We’re going to get exposure like the world has never seen for hockey. This is about 120-plus of the world’s elite hockey players playing for pride and playing for their countries. It will give us a tournament of high magnitude. It will be quite compelling.”

And here was deputy commissioner Bill Daly, earlier this week on an ESPN.com podcast, on the prospect of continued Olympic participation: “We’re in a different place now, 20 years later than we were 20 years ago. And that adds to the equation as well. Where is the National Hockey League today on the global landscape, on the North American landscape? Do we need the Olympics to help raise the visibility of hockey, and professional hockey, throughout the world? And I’m not sure the answer is yes.”

Keep that in mind.

Related: If NHLers want ongoing Olympic participation, they need to speak up

No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

Here is O Canada:

Sami Vatanen returns to Ducks lineup vs. Oilers

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Good news for the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 in their second round series.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to the lineup Sunday for Game 3 — his first game since April 13, which was the opener of Anaheim’s first-round series with Calgary, because of an upper-body injury.

However, the Ducks will be without Kevin Bieksa, who is dealing with a lower-body injury.

A familiar tune: Predators stifle Blues to take back series lead

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The Nashville Predators have snapped their one-game funk in these Stanley Cup playoffs, taking back the series lead over the St. Louis Blues.

For long stretches of Sunday’s contest, the Predators kept the puck away from and stifled the Blues, including a stretch of almost nine minutes at the beginning of the second period in which St. Louis failed to register a shot attempt.

The Predators’ 3-1 victory in Game 3 was eventually secured on an unbelievably dominant shift late in the third period.

Joel Edmundson‘s (costly) turnover led to a dizzying attack from Predators, who had sustained puck possession inside the St. Louis zone for about 1:10.

By the end, Edmundson and Colton Parayko had exhausted themselves as the Predators tossed the puck around with increasing ease before Roman Josi halted the madness with a slap shot to the top corner, giving Nashville a two-goal lead.

That continues an impressive trend for the Predators.

They have scored nine goals in this series, with at least one defenseman contributing directly with either a goal or an assist on eight of those goals. Nashville’s group of blueliners — including Ryan Ellis, who has been on quite a productive roll throughout these playoffs — have combined for 11 points through three games in this series.

This series resumes Tuesday in Nashville, with the Predators leading 2-1.

VIDEO: Ryan Ellis continues his incredible postseason run for Predators

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Playing in Nashville over the years it has been easy for Ryan Ellis to get overlooked, always playing in the shadow of bigger name stars on the team’s blue line.

Shea Weber (before he was traded). Roman Josi. P.K. Subban.

But Ellis has been a major part of the Predators’ blue line and he had a career-year in 2016-17, setting new personal bests in goals (16) and points (38) while matching his previous career high in assists (22).

He has continued that strong play in the postseason and is currently the team’s leading scorer after he netted his third goal of the playoffs (and eighth total point) on Sunday afternoon to give the Predators a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues.

You can see it in the video above.

After being held without a point in the Predators’ first playoff game, Ellis has now picked up at least one point in every playoff game since them and is now riding a six-game point streak.

The first half of Sunday’s game has been a defensive clinic by the Predators, by the way, limiting St. Louis to just 10 shots on goal through the first 34 minutes, and none through the first 14 minutes of the second period.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 in the second period when Cody McLeod deflected in his first goal of the playoffs to give the Predators some unexpected scoring depth. He had just five goals in 59 games during the regular season between the Predators and Colorado Avalanche.