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NHL Stanley Cup Update

The 8th seeded, surprising Predators will try to recover from a 2-0 deficit in Saturday night’s NHL Stanley Cup game three finals in Music City against defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins

Nashville team hopes to continue to play its best before yet another capacity crowd at the Bridgestone Arena

Arnie Leshin

By Arnie Leshin

Down 2-0 in games, don’t count out those Nashville Predators.

One of the top home teams in the National Hockey League, that’s where the surprising 8th seeded Western Conference champions will be for the next two games of the best-of-seven.

They dropped the first two against in Pittsburgh against the defending champions, 5-3 and 5-1, but for Nashville, one thing was missing, and that was not winning game one for the first time in the playoffs. It did this versus the top-seed Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blue and Central Division winner Anaheim.

But the Penguins have much more experience in these games. They have been here many times, for this is the first for the Predators in the finals. They would like to do something for the first time, and that’s to hoist the 4.4-pound silver trophy.

But a loss in game three at home Saturday will almost certainly keep the Cup in the Steel City. A win in the first time these finals have been played in the Music City will at least bring optimism to the faithful fans who have packed the Bridgestone Arena at capacity for the last 58 games.

This hadn’t been the case for this franchise that was formed in 1998. It has had an up-and-down ride through the years, with this being the first time these country music fans have truly embraced this team. It’s a loud, cheering, chanting, 16,000-plus audience who have come together in this sport on ice.

The Pittsburgh fans have been there for ages. They also have the Major League baseball Pirates and the NFL Steelers to root for. Both franchises have had Hall of Famers, All-Stars, championships, and the Pens add to this with titles, All-Stars and Hall of Famers.

Their star center, Sydney Crosby, will be a Hall of Famer in the future, but currently he’s the one who paves the way for a veteran lineup. He’s no doubt the one that Nashville will have to keep watch over, the one to check, and perhaps, when Crosby is off the ice, do some damage of its own

It was in 2004 that the Predators reached the post-season for the first time. Three years later the original owner sold the team after it finished third in the NHL with an impressive 110 points, saying he was tired of losing millions.

Now, a decade later, this franchise has packed the place, scalpers are seen outside the arena and even at the legendary Grand Ole Opry. It’s become a tremendous atmosphere, maybe second to none, and these fans have really come together in support of the men on the rink.

No major league franchise in Tennessee has ever won a sports championship, with this being the closest it has come since the NBA Memphis Grizzlies were swept in the Western Conference finals in 201 and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans lone AFC title before reaching the Super Bowl in 2000, and with the clock running out with the Titans less than a yard away from winning.

Now the Predators have to win four times to celebrate, hoist the Cup, and earn a parade in Music City. The Penguins only have to win twice to make it two-in-a-row for the first time since the Detroit Red Wings accomplished this in 1998.

They will be a tough nut to crack, but in Nashville, these Predators have played their best with the capacity crowd providing the energy, the desire, and the will to win.

Now the question is, who will sing the national anthem Saturday night. In game three against Chicago, it was Nashville captain Mike Fisher’s wife Carrie Underwood in the spotlight. Others this season have been famed country entertainers Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Garth Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood.

Will it next be Jason Aldean, the reigning Academy of Country Music entertainer of the year? Stay tuned, but don’t forget there’s still more hockey to be played.

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