Ryan Kesler

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Expansion draft will force Ducks to make some big decisions

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Bob Murray managed to keep the Anaheim Ducks together for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

But after losing to Nashville in the Western Conference Final, Anaheim’s general manager will now have to make some big decisions — especially with the expansion draft looming.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, the blue line will definitely be worth watching. Hampus Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. And after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign. For that reason, it’s possible Murray may choose to shop Fowler instead. Or perhaps it’s Vatanen that goes on the block.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

In goal, the Ducks have John Gibson under club control for years to come, but they’ll need to choose a backup. Jonathan Bernier is an unrestricted free agent, and even though he played well during the regular season, his performance against the Predators wasn’t great. Murray may want to at least consider his options there.

Related: Fowler surprised he wasn’t traded

Nick Ritchie ejected after boarding, bloodying Viktor Arvidsson (Video)

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Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchie scored a goal in Game 4, but he won’t be able to provide such a scoring boost for his team in Game 6.

That’s because he was ejected during the first period after hitting rising Nashville Predators star Viktor Arvidsson from behind, bloodying the slick Swede.

Ritchie was whistled for a game misconduct and major. Remarkably, the Ducks killed the entire five-minute power-play opportunity, with Ryan Kesler‘s shorthanded chance being one of the better opportunities for either team.

It’s still a big blunder, but if the Ducks can get back in it, remember that big kill.

Video of the hit is coming soon. For now, check out the GIF:

Oddly, Arvidsson left the ice with a wound that more or less spelled out “R,” presumably for Ritchie, maybe celebrating the return of “Twin Peaks.”

(Such an obvious move might not be surreal enough for David Lynch, though. Alex Prewitt’s Zorro reference might be more, um, on the mark.)

Predators’ Johansen done for playoffs after emergency thigh surgery

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Nashville’s Stanley Cup chances were dealt a crushing blow on Friday.

Per Sportsnet, No. 1 center and leading scorer Ryan Johansen suffered a season-ending thigh injury during last night’s OT loss. The ailment will require surgery and 2-3 months of recovery following the procedure.

Update: Nashville released a statement confirming the initial Sportsnet report. The Preds added that Johansen underwent emergency surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and that the procedure was successful.

Johansen, 24, was averaging 20:46 TOI per night through 14 playoff games and, as mentioned, led all Preds with 13 points.

It’s unclear when Johansen’s injury occurred. He played nearly 28 minutes last night, his highest TOI of the playoffs, and was taking regular shifts in overtime, his last coming just before Corey Perry scored the winner midway through the extra session.

Prior to the injury, Johansen had been engaged in an ongoing battle with Anaheim center Ryan Kesler. He took Kesler to task after being hounded throughout Game 2.

“I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that,” Johansen said. “It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey and it sucks when you’ve got to pull a stick out of your groin every shift.”

With Johansen out, Nashville is facing some serious issues down the middle. Veteran center Mike Fisher left last night’s game with an undisclosed injury, and there’s been no update on his status. If Fisher joins Johansen on the sidelines, Calle Jarnkrok could be Nashville’s No. 1 center on Saturday night.

Carlyle on Predators crashing Ducks’ net, big shots difference in Game 3

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Rather than balking at the challenge, the Nashville Predators responded to a 1-0 deficit and a great John Gibson performance by just imposing their will in an eventual 2-1 Game 3 win.

The Predators overcame back-to-back canceled-out goals in that rush to succeed, and there are at least some who wonder if they were crashing Gibson’s net in a way that wasn’t quite innocent.

(Granted, every team kind of sort of goes for that … just some tend to collide with netminders more than others. And sometimes it seems a little more intentional than others.)

You can watch the two negated goals in the video above.

Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle didn’t provide bulletin board material on the subject like Ryan Johansen did regarding Ryan Kesler, but his comments were still interesting:

Again, intriguing, but not sassy. Carlyle was far sassier in disputing the Predators’ mammoth shot differential in Game 3, which was listed as a 40-20 shot edge in Nashville’s favor.

Carlyle thought the shot counter might need glasses, prompting onlookers to make less-than-flattering comparisons to his days with the Toronto Maple Leafs. To Carlyle’s credit, he still admitted that the game was pretty lopsided at times.

One would expect a more aggressive Anaheim attack in Game 4, even with that contest in Nashville. Considering Corey Perry‘s notorious crease-crashing tendencies, Pekka Rinne may also want to be alert.

You can watch Game 4 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream).

Video: Keith Urban sings national anthem for Predators in Game 3

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Ryan Johansen and Ryan Kesler jawing at each other isn’t the only source of drama in the Western Conference Final.

The other, significantly odder, controversy surrounds national anthem singers before Nashville Predators games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In short, Dennis K. Morgan – the Predators’ regular singer for years – hasn’t been happy that big celebrities have been singing the anthem for Predators games as passion for the team is taking over the area.

It’s fairly odd stuff considering the stakes, but if you need a breather from frenetic playoff hockey and/or terrifying political news, you might want to jump down the rabbit hole there.

Anyway, Morgan isn’t likely to be happy with tonight’s choice, as another famous celebrity did the anthem honors, with Keith Urban getting the nod. This post’s main image features Urban and Carrie Underwood, spouse of Mike Fisher and one of the singers whose presence upset Morgan.

You can watch Urban’s rendition of the anthem in the video above this post’s headline. And then ruminate, for at least a second, on how virtually anything can be controversial in 2017.