Calgary Flames v Toronto Maple Leafs

Around the rink – Monday, January 17th

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in America and that means we’ll get some afternoon hockey to soak in on our day off from work. Here’s today’s rundown of games with all times being Eastern.

1:00 p.m.

Carolina @ Boston

It’s the front end of a home-and-home series between these two and the Hurricanes come in winners of four of their last five. Don’t look now but Carolina is just seven points behind Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division and one point behind Atlanta for the eighth spot in the East. All-Stars Eric Staal and Cam Ward are most responsible for the Hurricanes rise in the standings but dealing with the Bruins won’t be east. The B’s are coming off a tough loss on Saturday to Pittsburgh and will be itchy for redemption.

New Jersey @ NY Islanders

All right, so every game on the schedule isn’t a gem but the Islanders with Rick DiPietro back in goal are a much better team than they are without him. DiPietro is on a four-game win streak that had a five-game injury layoff in there to break things up after beating Buffalo on Saturday. For the Isles winning four in a row at all is outstanding regardless of the stretch of time. The Devils are looking to shake off a disappointing overtime loss to Florida on Saturday. These are the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference and as it is, the Isles are still eight points in front of New Jersey.

4:00 p.m.

San Jose @ Phoenix

San Jose snapped their losing skid on Saturday but beating divisional foe Phoenix would be a heck of a way to get into a groove. The good news for the Sharks is that their big guns all woke up against St. Louis with Dany Heatley getting two goals and Patrick Marleau helping out. Beating Phoenix will be a bit more difficult, however, as they come into the game winners of four in a row and scoring nearly five goals per game during that stretch. If the Sharks goaltending doesn’t tighten it up or the offense doesn’t return again, it could be back to the basement time for San Jose.

7:30 p.m.

Calgary @ Montreal

The Flames head into Montreal winners of two in a row after beating the Leafs in a lackluster shootout 2-1 on Saturday. The good news for Calgary is that both Henrik Karlsson and Miikka Kiprusoff did a good job of keeping opponents off the board in those two wins. The bad news is that their offense wasn’t really clicking and now they’ll have to deal with Carey Price. The Habs have won four of their last five and are fourth in the league in goals allowed. Times might be tough for the Flames tonight.

Atlanta @ Florida

Atlanta could sure use a win in this one. They’ve lost four in a row and nine of their last 12 games. What’s causing the problems? Poor defense and goaltending. Over those 12 games, the Thrashers have given up an average of 4.25 goals per game. It’s tough to keep up with anyone when you’re giving up that many goals per game and the consistent wear Ondrej Pavelec has had to take playing the majority of those games is showing. Sadly for him, Chris Mason is banged up and getting a break now might not be in the cards. Meanwhile, the Panthers are playing tough winning three in a row. The goaltending situation there is a bit different as it’s Scott Clemmensen getting it done of late instead of Tomas Vokoun. The Panthers will take the wins how they can get them as they’re seven points behind Atlanta in the Southeast.

8:30 p.m.

Los Angeles @ Dallas

The Kings will have to do without Wayne Simmonds who’s out with a knee injury suffered against Edmonton on Saturday night and having to deal with a Stars team that plays rugged won’t help matters. The Stars, despite everyone’s predictions, continue to rule the roost in the Pacific Division and they come into this one winners of three in a row and preventing goals all the way giving up just three goals in those three games. If the Kings are serious about getting back into the playoff hunt, knocking off Dallas would be a solid way to send that message that they’re not about to go away anytime soon.

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.