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Riding the Zamboni – January 26th; Flames roll on, Kings win in shootout

Los Angeles 3 – San Jose 2 (F/SO)

In what was an important showdown between Pacific teams looking to get back in the playoff race and out of a collective funk, it was the Kings coming out on top in the skills competition. Jarret Stoll’s shootout goal gave the Kings the win, but it was Alexei Ponikarovsky who tied the game in the third for L.A. The Sharks rallied to take the lead in the second period after Ryan Smyth’s goal kicked off the scoring. Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi put the Sharks up 2-1 with goals 39 seconds apart in the second. The Sharks kept that lead until halfway through the third when Ponikarovsky leveled it. Jon Quick played shaky but strong stopping 22 shots and everything he saw in the shootout. Antti Niemi saved just 18 on the night.

Calgary 4 – St. Louis 1

David Moss scored twice to give Calgary their fourth straight win. The all-star break might be coming at the worst time possible for the resurgent Flames as they’ve gotten themselves back in the mix in the playoff race in the West. Miikka Kiprusoff was huge tonight stopping 28 shots to preserve the win. Phillip McRae scored his first NHL goal for the Blues.

Phoenix 5 – Colorado 2

The fans in Colorado went home about 12 shades of angry after seeing the Coyotes seemingly get the benefit of most calls in Denver en route to the win. Eric Belanger scored twice and Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist to get Phoenix the victory. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 29 in the win. Peter Budaj was chased from the start after giving up two goals in his first nine shots. Craig Anderson replaced him and allowed two more goals while stopping 25 shots. Matt Duchene and Ryan Stoa had the goals for Colorado as they continue to play inconsistently while the Canucks pull away in the Northwest.

Dallas 3 – Edmonton 1

The Stars have to be happy to see the Oilers these days. Dallas was able to rebound from their sound beating on Monday night to take out Edmonton thanks to Brenden Morrow’s two goals. Adam Burish added a third and Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots to earn the win. Dallas was able to solidify their lead in the Pacific Division with the win as they lead Anaheim by five points at the break. Edmonton, meanwhile, is the one team in the West that is distantly removed from the playoff race. Maybe they can ask to be moved to the East to fit in better there.

Detroit 3 – New Jersey 1

Detroit got the go-ahead goal from Valtteri Filppula early in the third while Johan Franzen scored his 21st of the season to give Detroit an important win heading into break. New Jersey thought they tied the game late in the third, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s rebound goal was disallowed seemingly because of the “intent to blow” rule. Jimmy Howard played strong all game saving 23 shots. Martin Brodeur stopped 26 in the loss.

Atlanta 1 – Washington 0

Boston 2 – Florida 1

It might not have been pretty but a win is a win for the Bruins. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scored, his 20th of the year, to lead the Bruins to victory over Florida. Bryan Allen was the only guy for Florida to beat Tim Thomas for a goal as Thomas saved 34 in the victory. Tomas Vokoun was no slouch himself stopping 33 shots. The Bruins go into the break with a four point lead on Montreal for the Northeast lead.

Vancouver 2 – Nashville 1

Carolina 4 – NY Islanders 2

With another snowstorm wrecking Long Island, a small crowd got to see Eric Staal score twice and lead the Hurricanes to victory over the Islanders. 4,976 fans braved the poor weather and saw Staal’s three point night show that he’s ready to captain his team in the All-Star Game on Sunday while potential All-Star draft pick Cam Ward stopped 23 shots to get the win. Michael Grabner scored his 15th goal of the year for the Isles while Rick DiPietro saved 27 shots in the loss.

WATCH LIVE: Game 2 of Islanders – Lightning, Penguins – Capitals

Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) starts to celebrate his goal against Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) and Kris Letang (58) during the second period of Game 1 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday, April 28, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Can Sidney Crosby and the Penguins even things up against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Will the Lightning avoid dropping both games at home against the Islanders? We’ll find out on NBC.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media(reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win

With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2

Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43) takes control of the puck in front of St. Louis Blues center Jori Lehtera (12) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 3-0. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Patrick Eaves won’t be able to play for the Dallas Stars against the St. Louis Blues in their upcoming Game 2.

The last time we saw Eaves, he was leaving the ice by gliding on one foot after being hit by a teammate’s shot. He needed help to the locker room and was seen on crutches according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.

The bad news is that Eaves cannot go. The good news is that the Stars can replace him with a player who boasts considerable offensive skill, as Valeri Nichushkin will take Eaves’ place.

Nichushkin wasn’t very effective in five postseason games so far, failing to score a point and only managed three shots on goal.

Still, if the frenetic pace of Game 1 carries on through this series, Nichushkin could very well make an impact.

Update: the Stars have other options at forward after making recalls:

Sheary’s in for Penguins in Game 2; Kunitz is a game-time decision

Pittsburgh Penguins' Conor Sheary (43) is greeted by teammates Brian Dumoulin (8) and Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring his first NHL goal, in the first period of the Penguins' hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Pittsburgh. Bruins' Brad Marchand is at lower right. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might look a little different in Game 2 on Saturday after that blistering Game 1.

As the team down 1-0, it’s not too surprising that the Penguins boast the more significant lineup questions, although they lean toward health concerns rather than performance tweaks.

Conor Sheary was able to return during Game 1 after Tom Wilson‘s controversial knee-to-knee hit, and he appears to be in for tonight’s contest as well. Chris Kunitz isn’t quite a guarantee, as he’s currently labeled a game-time decision.

For what it’s worth, Kunitz himself believes he’ll be in. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it sounds like Kunitz is taking extra safety measures going forward.

The Penguins stayed vague with Marc-Andre Fleury, merely claiming that he’s making “progress.”

Generally speaking, Matt Murray has been playing well for the Penguins. Of course, the scrutiny will rise if Pittsburgh loses Game 2 on Saturday.

The Capitals are also considering a tweak. CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that Barry Trotz is pondering replacing Dmitry Orlov with Taylor Chorney.

“They told me to be prepared as if I’m going to be playing,” Chorney said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

As you may notice, Chorney isn’t the only one in wait-and-see mode heading into Game 2, which you can watch on NBC.

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

The puck shot by Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel crosses the goal line as St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) attempt the stop during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

“We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

“They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

File that under “easier said than done.”