Preds have responded well after playoff losses — and they need to again in Game 6

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The Nashville Predators have not faced this situation before in these playoffs.

Through three rounds, the Predators have avoided facing elimination, sweeping the Blackhawks and then dispensing of the Blues and Ducks each in six games.

But after Thursday’s blowout loss in Pittsburgh, they need a win on Sunday in Nashville to force a seventh game in the Stanley Cup Final. The away team has gone 0-5 in this series, with visiting goalies struggling — and, in Pekka Rinne‘s case last night, getting pulled.

The Predators are 5-1 in their next game immediately following a defeat in these playoffs, and they have already battled back from a 2-0 deficit in this series. Only difference is now, there is no room for another loss.

“Just with regard to our team not playing well, we’ve had a real honest group in here, and when the game that we played isn’t the game that we’re looking for, there’s usually a good response,” said coach Peter Laviolette on Friday.

“I don’t think that there’s any searching going on in there on how we’re going to do this or what needs to take place. We need to play a better game. We’ve proven that we can and we have in the past, and there’s a lot of confidence that we will in a couple days.”

Read more: Predators’ confidence not shaken after Game 5 blowout

The Predators had controlled play for large stretches in this series — until Thursday, when the Penguins, perhaps refreshed from an extra day of rest following Game 4, struck early and often on the scoreboard, received balanced scoring and arguably Sidney Crosby‘s best game of this postseason.

Both teams get an extra day off again before Game 6.

One concern for the Predators will be the status of defenseman Ryan Ellis.

Nashville’s blue line, particularly the top four of Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm, has been tremendous in these playoffs, however Ellis missed a large portion of last night’s game with an undisclosed injury.

There was no update from Laviolette on Thursday, and again, no update on Friday.

But, he was more than willing to turn the page on what occurred with his team the previous night.

“We don’t like the way we played last night. We’re all ready to own that. We’re ready to admit that, and we’re ready to move forward from it,” said Nashville’s coach.

“But, again, I think that there’s an awful lot of positives that we’ve taken from this series, as well. Last night we didn’t have it going on. Pittsburgh did. And we’ll look to flip that.”

Agent: Schultz likes Pittsburgh, but wants to be ‘rewarded’

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Justin Schultz took a significant pay cut to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year.

He doesn’t begrudge the deal he signed, as the Penguins have been a big part of turning his career around.

One assumes winning a couple of Stanley Cups has been pretty fun, too.

That being said, the 26-year-old defenseman wants a raise.

“We took a one-year, discounted deal to come back from last year and build upon what he did,” Schultz’s agent, Wade Arnott, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The player took a lot of the risk. The player performed. Now the player should be rewarded.”

Schultz, a restricted free agent, had a career-high 51 points in 78 games last season. Those 51 points were the seventh most among NHL defensemen — just five fewer than this summer’s biggest UFA, Kevin Shattenkirk, managed.

Schultz then added 13 more points in the playoffs, as the Penguins managed to win it all without Kris Letang.

For the record, Schultz wants to stay in Pittsburgh. The question is whether the Pens can afford to keep him, or if they’d be better off selling high in a trade.

“We’ll probably have some more direction here this week with where we’re going with [a possible extension],” Arnott said. “But we’ve had some good discussions.”

After Stepan trade, Zibanejad negotiations become even more crucial

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For a good while, the center position in New York was largely carried by the one-two punch of Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan.

Now, the Derick & Derek show is no longer.

Stepan was shipped out during draft weekend in a blockbuster deal with Arizona. Brassard exited a year earlier in a move to Ottawa that brought Mika Zibanejad to the Blueshirts.

Zibanejad, 24, was acquired by GM Jeff Gorton in the hopes of one day becoming New York’s No. 1 center. He certainly showed he was capable this season — despite missing nearly 30 games with a broken fibula, he put together a fine offensive regular season and then surged in the playoffs, finishing with nine points in 12 games.

And now, a big negotiation sits on the horizon.

Zibanejad is a restricted free agent coming off a two-year, $5.25 million deal with a $2.625M cap hit. As we wrote earlier, Gorton is “open to anything” with regards to the extension, saying he’d be willing to go either short- or long-term.

One has to think Zibanejad has a ton of leverage. His acquisition price (Brassard) was significant, Stepan is now gone, and so too is depth center Oscar Lindberg, who was acquired by Vegas at the expansion draft. Right now, New York’s center depth consists of Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and maybe some spot duty from J.T. Miller.

Lias Andersson, taken seventh overall at Friday’s draft, said he wants to make the Rangers this year. But there’s no guarantee he’ll even play in North America this season, as Gorton could opt to send Andersson back to the Swedish League for further development.

The free agent market isn’t especially inspiring down the middle, unless someone thinks they can land Joe Thornton, and there’s no doubt Zibanejad’s seen the paydays scored by some other good, young, top-line centers. Winnipeg gave Mark Scheifele $49 million over eight years, while Calgary gave Sean Monahan $44M over seven.

Is Zibanejad at their level? If you surveyed folks around the league, the answer would be probably no. But he could be soon and, what’s more, the Rangers may be forced to pay him as if he already is.

Sabres bring back defenseman Fedun on two-year deal

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Taylor Fedun, the Sabres depth defenseman that was set to become a UFA on Saturday, has agreed to a two-year, two-way extension, Buffalo announced on Monday.

Fedun, 29, appeared in 27 games for the Sabres last year, splitting time between the NHL and the club’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. He was a very productive player for the Amerks, scoring 23 points in 29 games.

Moving forward, most expect Fedun to continue in the same role he served this year — a guy that can provide veteran stability at the minor league level, and fill spot duty at the NHL level when injuries strike.

Ottawa extends Pyatt — two years, $2.2 million

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Tom Pyatt, the veteran forward who enjoyed some success reuniting with Guy Boucher in Ottawa last season, has re-signed with the Sens on a two-year, $2.2 million deal, per TSN.

Pyatt was a steady contributor for the Sens, scoring nine goals and 23 points while appearing in all 82 contests. He averaged over 15 minutes per night and was a vital part of the club’s penalty kill, leading all forwards in blocked shots.

He also appeared in 14 playoff games, scoring twice.

Prior to playing in Ottawa, Pyatt had skated under Boucher in Tampa Bay. They spent parts of two years together with the Lightning, before heading off to Switzerland — Pyatt with Geneve Servette, Boucher with Bern SC.

Pyatt was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday, but clearly liked the fit in Ottawa. He’ll get a pay bump — up from the $800,000 he made last year — a bit more long-term security, and possibly a bigger role with the Sens moving forward.

Ottawa has already stated it will cut ties with veteran tough guy Chris Neil, and decisions are still looming on UFA forwards Viktor Stalberg, Chris Kelly and Tommy Wingels.