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Rangers could get Fast, Staal, Raanta back for game against Blue Jackets

It’s been a nice couple of days for the New York Rangers.

On Monday night, a report surfaced saying that they had agreed to terms with head coach Alain Vigneault on a two-year contract extension. Tonight, it looks like they’ll get some healthy bodies back into their lineup when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Marc Staal and Jesper Fast have missed nine and four games respectively because of upper-body injuries, but it sounds like they’re healthy enough to go tonight. They both practiced on Monday, and if they respond well this morning, they’d be able to play.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that on our team, his experience, his leadership, the way he plays – he’s a very good defender,” Vigneault said of Staal, per the Rangers’ website. “He gives us the capabilities of having two pretty good duos as far as defending against the opposition’s top line. If he’s good to go tomorrow, which I expect, we’ll be happy to have him back.”

He’s expected to skate on a pairing with Nick Holden.

As for Fast, he didn’t get to enjoy the All-Star break in the way he would have liked, but he used his time wisely so that he could get back into the lineup sooner.

“Yea, I was here and did some treatments and stuff to get ready for the next game,” he said after Monday’s practice. “It wasn’t the most fun, but it was important to be here and get ready.”

New York had won three in a row when they suffered a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their last game before the break.

Also, the Rangers sent Magnus Hellberg to the minors before the break, which means goalie Antti Raanta should suit up as Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup tonight. Raanta exited a Jan. 14 game against the Canadiens after the first period because of a lower-body injury.

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.