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Rivalry rekindled: Sweden, Finland will fight for 2011 World Championships gold medal

Surely their rivalry is more intense than the image in my mind’s eye, but whenever I think of the Swedish-Finnish feud, I think of the battle between cats and dogs. Yes, their battles are heated, yet they’re also kind of … cute.

Whether you agree or disagree with that sentiment, each country has entered the inner circle of great hockey nations. The Finns do it with more of a “worker bee” mentality while the Swedes provide greater high-end artistry, but both sides have built up a nice tradition of success in international competition.

With that in mind, it just makes sense that they’ll face each other in the gold medal game of the 2011 World Championships tournament.

The Swedes reached the final round by beating the defending 2010 champion Czech Republic by a score of 5-2 while Finland blanked Alex Ovechkin* and the powerful Russians 3-0. Russia and the Czech Republic will duke it out for the bronze.

Patrik Berglund scored twice while Mikael Backlund, Jimmie Ericsson and Marcus Kruger provided one goal each for Sweden, with Patrik Elias scoring the two Czech goals. Viktor Fasth stopped 35 out of 37 shots for the win while Ondrej Pavelec made 43 saves in defeat.

Mikael Granlund scored what might be the goal of the year with his lacrosse-style scoop while Jani Lajunen and Jarkko Immonen also connected for Finland. Petri Vehanen earned a 30-save shutout while Konstantin Barulin went 26 for 29 in the loss.

We’ll keep you up to date as the hockey world’s other big tournament comes to a close.

* – It doesn’t look like Ovechkin did any extra damage to an injured knee that made me think he should sit out the tournament, but he went without a point in his four games. So, quite literally, his presence was rather pointless.

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.