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Derek Roy makes progress toward a return, hopes to come back in the playoffs

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When Derek Roy went down with a significant leg injury on December 23, it seemed like it was time to wave goodbye to the Buffalo Sabres’ slim playoff hopes. The Sabres were a paltry 14-17-4 at the moment in time, so it’s an understatement to say that things seemed bleak without their top center.

Yet the Sabres found a way to do just that, thanks in large part to increased productivity from other forwards, including winger Drew Stafford.  (Stafford scored 22 of his 31 goals this season after Roy went down with that injury.) Buffalo managed an impressive 29-12-6 march to the playoffs without Roy in the lineup.

Even if Buffalo managed to scratch and claw their way back to the playoffs, the team would probably like to have one of its most dangerous forwards back. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to make it back for the team’s first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Buffalo News reports that he’s increasing the intensity of his recovery process.

Roy hasn’t taken part in full-contact drills yet, although one interesting tidbit indicates that might change soon.

“”We’re just working on the power, just trying to get power back in the leg, and trying to get my first quick steps in,”” Roy said. “”I think that’s the hardest part, coming out of turns and fighting off opponents and whatnot so I’m going to have to work on that.””

His limitations?

“No hitting yet,” Roy said. “Doc’s orders. Until four months.””

When will it be four months since Roy underwent knee surgery?

Saturday.

While they lack a full-fledged superstar (with all apologies to the likes of sniper Thomas Vanek), the Sabres can be a dangerous team because they sport a varied attack. Roy would just make them that much deeper, if he can play at a reasonably high level.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Roy and Chris Pronger end up making an impact on the later stages of this highly contested series?

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.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.