Brian Campbell game-time decision for Blackhawks

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Thumbnail image for campbelldazed.jpgWith the Chicago Blackhawks largely snake-bitten in two of their three games against seventh-seed Nashville, word that Brian Campbell’s return being on the horizon must be welcome news for the offensively challenged team. Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago has the report.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell is listed as a game-time decision Thursday for Game 4 against the Nashville Predators.

It is possibly paving the way for Campbell’s first action since March 14, when he was hit by Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.

The sooner the better for Chicago, because their offense is ailing right now. John Glennon of the Tennessean provided a position-by-position breakdown regarding why the Predators are stifling the Blackhawks’ impressive offensive attack. Here are a few highlighted excerpts.

Goaltending. Outside of a few dangerous turnovers in the first period of Game 3, Pekka Rinne has been, well, impeccable.

One of his greatest strengths is that when he’s on his game, he gives up very little in the way of juicy rebounds. Chicago’s shots have been dying in Rinne’s glove or midsection as the Blackhawks wait in vain for rebounds.

Pekka Rinne is easily one of the most underrated goalies in the NHL, but perhaps the real surprise is that Antti Niemi has been a rock in net so far for Chicago. The Blackhawks cannot blame their goalie for their struggles (so far at least) but they can blame a goalie for their troubles. To some extent.

… Defensemen … But they’re also doing a good job in clearing rebounds and staying positionally strong. When Rinne has given up loose pucks following initial shots, the blueliners have been there to sweep them away. They’ve also done a good job of limiting slot opportunities. Chicago didn’t have many quality chances in the last two periods of Game 3.

Forwards. It’s a 200-foot commitment for Nashville’s forwards.

It might not always be fun to watch, but the Predators’ total commitment to defense keeps them in games and in the playoffs. Maybe someday Barry Trotz will get his due and receive a Jack Adams award.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.