Jason Brough

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Upstaged: Predators anthem singer upset by A-list replacements

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The longtime anthem singer at Nashville Predators hockey games has sour grapes over being replaced in the Stanley Cup playoffs by super star singers and bands such as Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town.

Dennis K. Morgan, who has been singing at Predators games for 17 years, told The Tennessean he has been hurt and disappointed by being upstaged by A-list country acts. Morgan said Underwood, who is married to team captain Mike Fisher, asked to sing in the first home game of the playoffs and he agreed to it. But the team kept bringing in special musical guests to sing.

“I’m not going to hide my disappointment and I told the Predators that I have been asked the same question over and over and it’s just really getting old,” Morgan said. “Everywhere I go — obviously at my day job (as a healthcare IT recruiting manager) and at (Bridgestone) arena as well as everywhere else I go to church, grocery stores, on the street, in meetings and in restaurants — people want to know how I feel.”

The team said in a statement that Morgan’s arrangement allowed for “nationally and internationally renowned musical artists to perform when available.”

Related: Predators postseason run has turned Music City into Smashville

Vegas signs multi-year deal with AHL’s Chicago Wolves

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The Vegas Golden Knights have a farm team.

Now all they need are players to stock it.

The NHL’s newest franchise announced today that it’s signed a multi-year partnership with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

“American Hockey League affiliates play a significant role in the success of all NHL clubs and are we are proud to have the Chicago Wolves as our first in team history,” Knights GM George McPhee said. “Chicago is without question one of the strongest, most passionate hockey communities in North America. This is a relationship that we truly believe will be mutually beneficial.”

“We’re starting from the ground up with a new franchise,” added Wolves GM Wendell Young. “It will be exciting to build both franchises together with the same philosophy.”

The Wolves have been the St. Louis Blues’ farm team the past three seasons.

No word yet what the Blues intend to do for an AHL affiliate next season. Kansas City was once considered a strong possibilitybut AHL president/CEO David Andrews shot that down in January. 

Update:

Blues GM Doug Armstrong has released the following statement:

“The St. Louis Blues will not renew their primary affiliation with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves past the 2016-17 season. We will associate with the Vegas Golden Knights and supply players to the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate next season.”

Related: For Vegas, landing Vadim Shipachyov was ‘a very good start’

Kesler laughs off Johansen’s remarks

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Ryan Kesler is pretty used to being disliked, so it’s no surprise that Ryan Johansen‘s remarks following Game 2 of the Western Conference Final evoked nothing more than a chuckle from the veteran Ducks center.

“I laughed,” Kesler said, per The Tennessean. “Got a lot of text messages from my friends and family saying they’d still cheer me on. He can say whatever he wants, though. I’m not going to change my game.”

Kesler added, “It seemed like he was a bit rattled.”

In case you somehow missed it, Johansen said of Kesler: “I don’t know what’s going through his head out there. Like, his family and his friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. 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.”

This morning, ahead of Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena, Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle said he didn’t think Johansen’s comments would affect Kesler’s game in the least.

“I don’t think it makes any difference to him personally,” said Carlyle. “I think he looks at it as an opportunity to play up against whoever the player is that we decide to match him up against.”

But expect to hear plenty of boos for Kesler from the Predators faithful. They haven’t liked him in Nashville since 2011.

The Ducks and Predators are tied one game apiece.

Tampa could reportedly host 2018 All-Star Game

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According to multiple reports, including one from Yahoo Sports, the Tampa Bay Lightning may soon be awarded the 2018 NHL All-Star Game.

The reports make sense, after the league confirmed back in December that Tampa was “in the mix” to host a big event.

“The city can house a world-class event,” NHL executive Steve Mayer told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s proving it time after time after time.”

But if the 2018 ASG goes to Tampa, that may be it for any hope of the NHL reconsidering its Olympics stance. The last three Olympic years (2006, 2010, 2014), there has been no All-Star Game.

Earlier today, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted the following in his “30 Thoughts” column:

One of the reasons some people still hold out hope for Olympic participation is that no All-Star Game has been set for next season. However, it does sound like there are plans for one. At this past season’s All-Star Weekend, it was believed the next one would be held in a Western Conference city, but there are rumblings the league went southeast instead. It will be announced with the full schedule.

Last year, the NHL released the full 2016-17 schedule on June 21.

So there’s still time to strike an Olympic deal, then presumably give the 2019 ASG to Tampa.

But the clock is most certainly ticking.

Related: Pyeongchang organizers believe NHL still considering Olympics

Penguins defense holding together vs. Senators, somehow

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are proving the old adage that you can never have enough defensemen.

They could actually use a few more now, after Justin Schultz got hurt in last night’s win over the Senators. The Pens were already without two injured d-men: Trevor Daley and, of course, Kris Letang.

Schultz’s early departure from Game 2 forced Brian Dumoulin to log a team-high 26:08 of ice time, followed by Ron Hainsey with 24:49. Next was Olli Maatta at 22:33, while AHL journeyman Chad Ruhwedel had 21:25 and Ian Cole finished with 20:20.

Hainsey, 36, was traded from Carolina in February. He’d never been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before. He’s sure in them now.

“Keep ’em short,” Hainsey said of shift lengths, per the Post-Gazette. “You get into a rhythm, kind of, with a rotation going. Just don’t overtax yourself at any one point because if you get into a situation where you can’t recover, that’s when you can go out there and make mistakes. I think we did a fairly good job of keeping ’em 40 seconds and not being tired when we went back out there.”

The Pens also acquired veteran defender Mark Streit at the deadline. But the 39-year-old has been a healthy scratch for the playoffs.

It remains to be seen who will be ready to go tomorrow when the Eastern Conference Final shifts to Ottawa. There had been talk that Daley could return by then. Head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t provide an update on Schultz after Game 2.

Whichever d-men end up dressing, the Pens are confident in what they’ve got back there.

“There’s always the next guy who’s going to step up,” said Maatta. “Everybody has to play a little more minutes. I don’t think it really matters. We have so many good players in here.”