James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Predators fight off extinction by forcing Game 7 vs. Ducks

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This Nashville Predators – Anaheim Ducks series has been testy and tightly matched, so it only makes sense that it will go the distance.

The Predators won their first home game of the series by a score of 3-1 to force a Game 7 against the Ducks on Wednesday.

One key difference for Nashville: they managed to protect a lead after seeing some squandered edges in previous games (not to mention the 2-0 series lead that dissolved into a 3-2 deficit that really doesn’t matter right now).

Another big one: Pekka Rinne rebounded with some big saves, stopping 26 of 27.

It was a tight game. The two teams combined for just 52 shots on goal and penalties were sparse. That doesn’t mean there was no controversy, as Predators fans were not happy about the call that helped the Ducks score on the power play.

This series has been back-and-forth with the growing distaste building between the two teams being one of the most consistent storylines. If the previous six contests are any indication, expect a close one on Wednesday.

One secret “winner” beyond fans of the sport as a whole?

Blues get off to quick start in Game 7 (But Blackhawks aren’t rolling over)

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Look, just about no one will count out the Chicago Blackhawks, especially after they shrank the St. Louis Blues’ lead to 2-1 just moments ago.

Plenty of skeptics have been mocking the Blues about possibly squandering their quick start in Game 7 even when they just went up 1-0 and then 2-0.

Still … it’s better to start strong than to meander out of the gate, right?

As you can see in the video above, the Blues scored very early into the first period via a Jori Lehtera deflection.

Colton Parayko boomed a thunderous shot for a 2-0 lead, and things were looking good for St. Louis. Of course, it couldn’t be that simple.

Marian Hossa looked terrifying for the Blues late in the first, scoring a goal to make it 2-1 and nearly tied things up going into the intermission.

Long story short: don’t be shocked if this decisive contest features plenty of other twists and turns.

Looks like Craig Smith is back for Predators in Game 6

AP

The Nashville Predators have their backs against the wall, but they’re getting one of their best snipers back for Game 6.

After missing Games 4 and 5 against the Anaheim Ducks, all signs point to Craig Smith being back in the Predators’ mix. (He only played about a minute of Game 3.)

Smith made a big impact in Game 2, scoring a goal and an assist.

If warm-ups are any indication, Smith will line up with Calle Jarnkrok and Mike Ribeiro:

PHT will make note if Smith has a setback and cannot play after all. He looks good to go at the moment.

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action

AP

With two games, Monday is light on quantity … but oh boy, talk about quality.

You really can’t get much better than a Game 7, which we’ll be treated to for sure tonight and possibly again if the Predators can survive against the Ducks. Expect a lot of nervous hockey fans this evening.

Here’s how you can watch the games (get your two screen options ready)…

Anaheim at Nashville (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 6 will be on CNBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Chicago at St. Louis (8:30 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for tonight’s action:

Hitchcock loves Tarasenko’s passion for the game

Blackhawks dig deep, force Game 7

Blues’ Stastny: ‘History has to change eventually’

Video: Ribeiro lands an ugly spear on Perry 

Ducks take 3-2 series lead after edging Predators in Game 5

The Red Wings aren’t giving up on Pavel Datsyuk returning just yet

AP
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Earlier today, PHT went deep on the state of the Detroit Red Wings, but let’s take an extra look at Pavel Datsyuk‘s possible departure from the NHL.

Some interesting tidbits surfaced on Monday that at least leave the door slightly ajar on Datsyuk returning to the NHL in 2016-17 … especially if the Red Wings get their way.

The latest word is that the Red Wings “desperately” want him back and will beg him to stay sit down and talk with him in June, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Datsyuk continues to play coy on the subject, at least publicly.

It sounds like he’ll have a better idea regarding 2016-17 once he’s finished participating in the World Hockey Championships.

Honestly, it still sounds like Datsyuk will opt for Russia instead for various reasons, but the Red Wings seem to think they at least have a chance to keep him around for one more year.