Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis

Around the rink – Wednesday, January 5th

7:00 p.m.

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh

With Tampa Bay getting the win over Washington last night, all of a sudden this game is for the right to sit atop the Eastern Conference standings and both teams are treating it like one. Well, Pittsburgh hasn’t played since the Winter Classic so they’ll be itching to go. For Tampa Bay, a win over the Pens would be a mid-season crowning victory.  For Pittsburgh, they’ll be looking to rebound after a lackluster effort in the Winter Classic. To say there’s a lot of talent on display here would be an understatement with Sidney Crosby going head to head with Steve Stamkos.

Carolina @ NY Rangers

The Rangers host the Hurricanes looking to end a two game slide that saw their offense disappear. In those two losses they’ve got just one goal and for a team that’s got Chris Drury back in the mix and a healthy Marian Gaborik, it’s curious at best. Tonight will be the first game this year without Michael Del Zotto after he was sent down to the AHL. If the Rangers defense tightens up, they’ll be able to get a better handle on Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. Asking the slumping Rangers offense to get a few past Cam Ward, however, is a taller order. Carolina’s won three of their last four, but their last game was an overtime loss to Florida.

7:30 p.m.

Atlanta @ Florida

Believe it or not, this game features a pair of teams that are playing some good, tough hockey of late. We’ve talked a ton about Dustin Byfuglien and the Thrashers but of late, it’s the Panthers that are stealing games. An OT win over Carolina in their last game which was preceded by Tomas Vokoun’s fifth shutout of the year in a 3-0 win over the Rangers. How do things shake loose in this one depends on the power play. The Panthers power play is awful having scored just 12 power play goals all year. Byfuglien alone has six goals on the man advantage.

8:30 p.m.

Dallas @ Chicago

An old rivalry is renewed as both teams look to create a win streak. For Chicago, getting Jonathan Toews back into the lineup provided instant dividends in beating the Kings on Monday night. Dallas, meanwhile, looking to get more consistent as they’ve been trading off winning and losing games and how Kari Lehtonen handles things is a key to that. A better, more consistent Lehtonen means wins for Dallas. Getting James Neal back on track can do that too and after busting out with a goal on Sunday against St. Louis, perhaps the Stars can get their legs back.

10:00 p.m.

Calgary @ Vancouver

Vancouver will look to continue being the top team in the NHL by going up against a Flames team that had their four game win streak dissolved by the Islanders on Monday night. The Canucks are riding a six game win streak and looking dominant while winning. Opponents aren’t scoring on them and they’re efficiency in beating them is quite incredible to see as they’re able to roll four lines that can get it done. Basically, this is the kind of play Canucks fans would sell their first born to get during the playoffs.

Nashville @ Anaheim

While the Ducks are without Ryan Getzlaf still, one team that won’t feel any sympathy for them are the Predators. The Preds are without Cal O’Reilly, Matthew Lombardi, and until recently, David Legwand. Legwand’s return to action the last two games has seen him notch three assists. The names might not be as flashy, but they’re important to Nashville’s success. The Preds have won two in a row while the Ducks are on a three game win streak. Expect this one to be a tough, hard-fought game with a pair of teams that look to skate through you rather than around you.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.