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Sissons has stepped in and stepped up for Nashville in Stanley Cup playoffs

Nashville's Colton Sissons celebrates after scoring a goal against Pittsburgh during the third period in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on May 29.
(Matt Kincaid / Getty Images)

Center Colton Sissons has gone from being unable to win a regular job in December to being a leader in the Nashville Predators’ push to the Stanley Cup Finals, a dizzying journey that he’s handling impressively.

Sissons had a hat trick in the clincher of the Predators’ six-game win over the Ducks in the Western Conference finals, and he scored a goal against Pittsburgh on Monday in Nashville’s 5-3 loss to the Penguins in Game 1 of the Cup finals. Thrust into a vital role because of Ryan Johansen’s season-ending injury and a less serious injury to Mike Fisher, Sissons has become an important cog in coach Peter Laviolette’s efforts to compensate for losing Johansen, the team’s No. 1 center. The Predators will count heavily on Sissons again Wednesday night, in Game 2 at PPG Paints Arena

“Right now it’s by committee,” Laviolette said Wednesday morning of filling that first-line center role. “That’s not by choice. We wish that all of our players were healthy. Kevin Fiala was playing excellent at the time of his injury. Ryan was doing an unbelievable job for us. We miss those guys.

“We are who we are. We’ve got to find a way to do this. Colton Sissons has moved up in the lineup. I think he’s played terrific. I thought he was one of the most noticeable players on the ice the other night. That’s what has to happen when injuries occur.”

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Sissons has handled the circumstances well. “I’ve had a lot of challenges this year. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but these things happen in a young man’s professional career,” he said after the Predators’ morning skate. “And I just kind of stuck with it and was hopeful I’d get another opportunity, and I got one here in the playoffs and it’s been going well.”

When he was scratched he was told he needed to add offensive dimensions to his game. “Be more impactful on the ice, don’t just limit myself to being straight defensive specialist,” he said of the changes the coaches recommended. “Just be more impactful, and I wanted that out of myself and the coaches as well, and it’s been coming lately.”

He delivered in the last two games and will have to deliver again on Wednesday in order for the Predators to even the series before they go home for Game 3, to be played Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.

“It meant a lot. To just kind of keep my confidence rolling, it’s huge,” he said of his last two performances. “Obviously with Johansen out we need to be stepping up every night, guys like myself and Calle Jarnkrok and even [Mike Fisher]. Having him back is huge. They need us to step up in his absence big time.

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“I don’t know if something’s clicked. It has a lot to do with confidence, I’ll tell you that, just feeling the puck better, seeing the ice better. All those things come when you’re playing confident and I kind of started doing that at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.”

Despite their Game 1 loss the Predators were encouraged that they were able to erase the Penguins’ early 3-0 lead and limit Pittsburgh’s shots on goaltender Pekka Rinne. The Penguins have said they want to get the puck on net more effectively on Wednesday, and Sissons said the Predators are prepared.

“It just starts defensively,” Sissons said. “Yeah, we don’t expect to limit them to 12 again. That would be really unusual. But just keep those shots from the outside and let Pekka see those shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen


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