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5 Keys: Penguins at Predators, Game 6

Victory gives Pittsburgh Stanley Cup for second straight year; Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis may not play because of injury

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent


8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports

Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 3-2


NASHVILLE -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive year, and become the first NHL team to win back-to-back championships since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, with a victory against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday.

The Penguins have won the Cup four times, ending the series on the road each time.

The Predators are 9-1 at Bridgestone Arena during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The home team has won every game in the series.

Here are 5 keys for Game 6:


1. Defenseman Ryan Ellis' status

Ellis left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury in the second period and did not return. He skated on his own but did not participate in an optional morning skate Sunday. 

Defensemen Anthony Bitetto or Brad Hunt could play if Ellis isn't available. Neither has appeared in a game during the postseason.

"Well, we've all played with each other so we're confident with whoever goes over those boards," defenseman Matt Irwin said. "It's just a matter of communication, just like you do with your [defense] pairings as is. It's just a lot of talking."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm1: Ellis uses screen to tally PPG


2. Seize the opportunity

The Penguins have a chance to win the Stanley Cup and not face the Predators in a winner-take-all Game 7. They want to be prepared for the best game the Predators have to offer.

"If you can see your ultimate goal right in front of you, you should be able to drive yourself to have the best game of your life," forward Chris Kunitz said. "That's why we're all here, to win. You don't get this opportunity too much, but also, they're going to be coming with their best game. If we sit back or not watch and not stay focused, that's their chance to jump into it."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Kunitz lays a big hit on Ekholm


3. Sidney Crosby's dominance

Crosby has four points (one goal, three assists) for the Penguins in the past two games.

"I think he'll play his game and I think he'll bring his very best," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He's a difference maker. I think he sets the tone for our team. He's the heartbeat of this hockey team, and his leadership certainly helps this team be the type of team or create the identity that we want to create."

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm4: Crosby nets slick backhand on break


4. Predators need more from Filip Forsberg, James Neal

Forsberg's empty-net goal in Game 4 is his only point in the Stanley Cup Final, and Neal has one goal and one assist. The Predators will need more offensive production from two of their top goal-scorers.

Forsberg leads the Predators with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in the playoffs. Neal is tied with Roman Josi and Colton Sissons for second on Nashville with six goals.

"I think we need more offense from everybody, myself included," Neal said. "We're guys that want to put the puck in the net, we want to contribute offensively. It would be awesome to be able to chip in [in Game 6] on the biggest stage in the biggest game of the year."

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm4: Murray shuts down Forsberg in close

5. Limit odd-man rushes

The Penguins got some odd-man rushes in Game 5 that led to goals, and the Predators were able to take advantage of some breakaway opportunities in their two wins.

A key for each team in the series has been the ability to establish a forecheck and prevent quick breakout opportunities that lead to rushes going the other way.


Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Conor Sheary

Scott Wilson -- Evgeni Malkin -- Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz -- Matt Cullen -- Bryan Rust

Carl Hagelin -- Carter Rowney -- Patric Hornqvist

Brian Dumoulin -- Ron Hainsey

Ian Cole -- Trevor Daley

Olli Maatta -- Justin Schultz

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Mark Streit, Josh Archibald, Oskar Sundqvist, Cameron Gaunce, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Derrick Pouliot, Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon, David Warsofsky, Frank Corrado, Kevin Porter, Garrett Wilson, Tom Sesito, Tristan Jarry, Sean Maguire

Injured: Kris Letang (neck surgery), Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body), Chad Ruhwedel (concussion), Nick Bonino (lower body)


Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Colton Sissons -- Pontus Aberg

Viktor Arvidsson -- Mike Fisher -- James Neal

Austin Watson -- Calle Jarnkrok -- Craig Smith

Colin Wilson -- Frederick Gaudreau -- Harry Zolnierczyk

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Roman Josi -- Matt Irwin

Anthony Bitetto -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Brad Hunt, Vernon Fiddler, Miikka Salomaki, Cody McLeod, PA Parenteau, Vladislav Kamenev, Marek Mazanec, Petter Granberg

Injured: Kevin Fiala (fractured left femur), Ryan Johansen (acute compartment syndrome), Ryan Ellis (undisclosed)


Status report

Irwin could play alongside Josi if Ellis can't go. … The Penguins are expected to use the same lineup from their 6-0 win in Game 5.


Who's hot

Malkin has three goals in the series and eight points (four goals, four assists) in his past eight games. … Guentzel has five points (four goals, one assist) in the series. … Josi has four points (one goal, three assists) in the series.

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