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Predators look to bounce back after Saturday’s ‘gross’ effort

The Nashville Predators have been a frustrating hockey team this season.

A season that began with such promise is now into its fifth month of inconsistency, and coach Peter Laviolette seemed to have finally seen enough of it all on Saturday following his team’s ugly 7-4 loss to the Florida Panthers.

It was so ugly, in fact, that Laviolette would only refer to it as “Gross” when asked about it.

“We didn’t play with any purpose,” Laviolette said, when asked what was so gross about it.

“There was no passion. No effort. You’re never going to win a hockey game. The actions that we gave are going to give us the results that we got. It’s that simple.”

Just about the only positive the Predators had on Saturday (other than Viktor Arvidsson‘s hat trick) is that they are right back in action on Sunday evening against the Dallas Stars.

It also might be a good opportunity for the team to hit the reset button before they head on their bye week this upcoming week.

What had to be especially frustrating for Laviolette on Saturday is that for a couple of weeks the Predators finally started to be back on track with a 7-1-1 stretch between Jan. 10 and Jan. 26 to help them climb back into a playoff position.

But since a 4-3 win over the Blue Jackets on the 26th, the Predators have reverted back to the same maddening inconsistencies that plagued them through the first half of the season, winning just two of the six games that followed, seemingly hitting a new low point on Saturday against the Panthers. On Saturday, Laviolette referenced their inconsistency as “performance inconsistency, period inconsistency, and game inconsistency,” before criticizing their approach to the game against Florida.

“First half of the game we weren’t ready to play, second half we played it the wrong way. All we did was retaliate to their aggressiveness. That is not going to get you results either.”

Sunday’s game is a big one for Nashville, not only so they can head into their bye week on a high note and erase the sour taste that Saturday’s performance had to leave behind, but also because they simply need to start picking up points again. They enter Sunday just one point ahead of Calgary in the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference while the Stars themselves are six points back. A regulation win by Nashville could put some serious distance between them and the Stars. But a Stars regulation win not only sends the Predators into the bye on a three-game losing streak, but also helps close the gap just that much more.

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.