Pre-game reading: Panthers owner (and Trump nominee) accused of throwing punch at racehorse auction

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— Up top, watch Bob McKenzie answer all questions Islanders. Why was Jack Capuano fired after a 4-0 win in Boston? Who will be their next coach? Is ownership going to make changes to the hockey-ops hierarchy? What does the future hold for captain John Tavares?

— From the New York Times: “Vincent Viola, the billionaire Wall Street trader Donald J. Trump has nominated to be the secretary of the Army, was accused in August of punching a concessions worker at a high-end racehorse auction in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., according to a police report and local law enforcement officials.” Viola is better known on PHT as the owner of the Florida Panthers. And for the record, he claims the concessions worker shoved his wife; hence, the punch. The concessions worker, according to the article, told the police he did not shove Viola’s wife. (New York Times)

— What does each team need as the March 1 trade deadline approaches? TSN’s Frank Seravalli goes through all 30 NHL squads and makes his assessments. Only two teams, Colorado and Arizona, are totally out of the playoff race at this point in the season, so things could certainly change in the next month and a bit. Even the Islanders still think they’ve got a chance to turn things around. (TSN)

Patrik Laine is back skating for the first time since suffering a concussion Jan. 7; however, it remains to be seen when he’ll be back in the Jets’ lineup. Winnipeg starts a four-game home stand tonight against Arizona. Laine has yet to participate in a full-contact practice. (NHL.com)

— We wrote earlier today about the struggles of the St. Louis Blues. Their GM, Doug Armstrong, recently sat down with the Post-Dispatch to discuss his team’s season. One interesting quote: “I don’t think you can ask Robby Fabbri to play the way David Backes did. I just think it’s unrealistic. So our coaches’ responsibility is to use their expertise to find different ways to play. We have to find different ways to get the same results. I think you need a good balance and we’re trying to find that balance.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

— If Cam Neely and Don Sweeney decide to fire Claude Julien, they’ll have the full support of Bruins ownership. “That’s not my call to make,” Charlie Jacobs told the Boston Herald. “That’s on Cam and Donnie.” The B’s are coming off a 4-0 loss to the Islanders on Monday. Strangely enough, it was the winning team that canned its head coach the next day. Boston plays tonight in Detroit (on NBCSN). (Boston Herald)

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.

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.