Magnus Paajarvi's hat trick steals the show in Taylor Hall's preseason debut

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While tonight’s Lightning-Oilers game was trumpeted as the preseason debut of Taylor Hall – the top pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft – another top Edmonton prospect stole the show. Magnus Paajarvi* took over tonight’s exhibition, scoring a hat trick and adding an assist on an Andrew Cogliano goal to help the Oilers win 5-2.

Here is an entertaining clip of Paajarvi’s first goal, which features the shifty winger catching some Lightning defensemen flat-footed and then getting very lucky that his fanned-on shot found pay dirt.

Now, that’s not to say that Taylor Hall was chopped liver in this one, though. The top pick scored an unassisted powerplay goal via a backhand shot 7:57 into the third period. Jen Sharpe of the Oilers’ official Web site described the scene in her live blog of the contest.

Midway through a Tampa Bay team penalty for too many men, Ellis skated out and attemped to clear the puck. But Hall while crossing the blue line, Hall pulled the puck out of mid-air, deked around the goalie, and tapped it into the net to make it 4-1 Oilers.

Hall received a standing ovation for his feat, and two minutes later, Paajarvi made the crowd cheer even louder. Despite being down a man, the Swede star skated up the right wing and fired past Ellis to score shorthanded, secure a hat trick, and register his fourth point of the game.

Taylor Hall had plenty of scoring opportunities before he found the net, but my guess is he’ll be pretty happy if other players such as Paajarvi end up being the team’s best players on some nights once the real games begin. Preseason successes can often generate delusional dreams among fans like a flirtatious stripper, but don’t blame Oilers fans for fantasizing a bit about the team’s newest prospects.

It’s been a while since they’ve had this much positivity to cling to.

* – I’m still disappointed that he dropped the “-Svensson” from the end of his name. This factoid should be integrated into his nickname in some way; maybe we could call him “The Anti-Hyphen” or “The Skate-ist Formerly Known as Paajarvi-Svensson” …? No? OK, I’ll retreat to my hockey dungeon then.

Note: We’ll have recaps of tonight’s other preseason games a little later tonight.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.