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Stanley Cup Final Buzz: Predators boosting TV ratings

Series against Penguins has set new highs for NBC networks in Nashville market @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final is in Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). writers in Pittsburgh and Nashville will be checking in throughout the day.

Here is the Stanley Cup Final news for Wednesday:


7:00 p.m.
Predators travel to Pittsburgh with confidence

The Nashville Predators flew to Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon full of confidence heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins.

The Predators won the past two games and believe they have a formula for winning, even in Pittsburgh, despite losing the two games there by a combined score of 9-4. Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu explores the blueprint for a win in Game 5.

Another reason for the confidence is the stellar play of goaltender Pekka Rinne, who regained the form he reached earlier in the playoffs after being pulled in Game 2 here. Staff Writer Lisa Dillman explains how Rinne found his way back.

The Predators may have reinforcements. Forward Colin Wilson, out for the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final, skated in practice Thursday and took line rushes. 

"He's one of those guys who can really bring a lot to the table," forward Filip Forsberg said in a story by Correspondent Robby Stanley. "He's a really hard-working guy with a lot of skill and can bring the physicality as well, so he's definitely one of those guys that can really make a difference." 

Wilson has four points (two goals, two assists) in 12 games this postseason, but led Nashville in the 2016 postseason with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 14 games.

Finally, Staff Writer Tom Gulitti has a look at the scene at the Nashville airport Wednesday as the Predators left for Pittsburgh. As usual, it was a crazy scene!


4:00 p.m.
Penguins need lift from Kessel

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel hasn't scored a goal in six straight games and has one goal in his past nine. So what does Evgeni Malkin expect from Kessel in Game 5 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports)?

"He score," Malkin said, among other things in senior writer Dan Rosen's story on Kessel. Kessel thinks he was close on a few chances in Game 4. His teammates believe he's close to breaking out. That would be huge for Pittsburgh in Game 5.

It's still not clear if goalie Matt Murray will start for the Penguins in Game 5 or if coach Mike Sullivan will turn to Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins insist they're confident in both goalies. Columnist Nick Cotsonika gives his take on the Penguins' goaltending situation.

There was also some news at Penguins practice Wednesday involving forwards Nick Bonino, Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary. Correspondent Wes Crosby has the details.

And don't forget about our terrific blogger, Penguins defenseman Ian Cole, who wrote about Pittsburgh's confidence and belief Wednesday. Even though the Penguins have lost two games in a row, Cole said this series is still very much theirs for the taking.


10:15 a.m.
Ratings bonanza in Nashville

To say that the Stanley Cup Final has been a smashing success in Nashville would be an understatement.

The Predators' run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to tying the best-of-7 series against the Penguins 2-2 has set television ratings records in the Nashville market. Game 4 had a 28.0 rating, the highest-rated Predators game ever on the NBC networks, topping the 22.5 for Game 1 of the Final. Nationally, NBC had a 4.14 rating, surpassing all games in the Stanley Cup Final last season. Senior Writer Dan Rosen explains how this could impact the Predators' presence on the NBC networks next season, and reveals his picks to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in his latest mailbag.

Predators assistant coach Phil Housley played 1,495 games in 21 seasons and finished his career as the NHL's leading scorer among U.S.-born defensemen with 1,232 points (338 goals, 894 assists). He coached the United States to a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

All that's missing on Housley's resume is his name on the Stanley Cup. He's two wins from what he told Staff Writer Tim Campbell would be the "ultimate reward."

"It would be a great accomplishment to be able to lift the Stanley Cup, but we're far from it right now," Housley said. "We've got to win two games against a very good hockey team. You're always pursuing it as a player or a coach and to say you won a Stanley Cup would be pretty special."

The Predators may win the Cup if they can continue with the relentless forecheck that helped them even the series. They got more out of their forecheck in Game 4 than they had at any point of the Cup Final, says former NHL assistant Perry Pearn.

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