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Welcome the newbies: Traverse City fills the offseason void

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It’s still the offseason—but we’re finally starting to see some signs of life. In what has become an offseason to look forward to, eight teams will send prospects to this year’s Traverse City prospect tournament. This year’s participants include: first time contestant Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and St. Louis Blues. As usual, the tournament will take place at the Detroit Red Wings practice facility in Traverse City, MI.

It’s important to note that not all of the best prospects will be present at the tournament. Some talented European prospects will miss out on the fun because their seasons have started overseas. Also, collegiate prospects are also noticeably absent as many have started school and are preparing for the college season.

Here’s the full schedule for this year’s tournament. (Note: all times Eastern)

Saturday, September 10

Buffalo Sabres vs. Minnesota Wild (3:30 pm)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Dallas Stars (4:00 pm)
St. Louis Blues vs. New York Rangers (7:00 pm)
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings (8:00 pm)

Sunday, September 11

Buffalo Sabres vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (2:30 pm)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. St. Louis Blues (3:00 pm)
Dallas Stars vs. New York Rangers (6:00 pm)
Detroit Red Wings vs. Minnesota Wild (6:30 pm)

Tuesday, September 13

St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars (3:00 pm)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers (3:30 pm)
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Minnesota Wild (6:30 pm)
Buffalo Sabres vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:00 pm)

Wednesday, September 14

Placement Game #1 (3:00 pm)
Placement Game #2 (3:30 pm)
Placement Game #3 (6:30 pm)
Placement Game #4 (7:00 pm)

NHL Network will televise the Rangers vs. Blues game on September 10, the Stars vs. Rangers game on September 11, and the Hurricanes vs. Rangers matinee on September 13.

Sure, it may not be regular season hockey—but we’re getting there. Who knows, maybe this year’s Calder Trophy winner will come out of the tournament. After all, Jeff Skinner did last season. Finally, the darkness of the offseason is lifting and we can see the light of the upcoming season at last.

Some of the exciting prospects set to appear in Traverse City this season are Ryan Johansen, Jack Campbell, Tim Erixon, Justin Faulk, Zach Phillips, Zack Kassian, Brenden Smith, Stefan Della Rovere, Scott Glennie, and Ryan Murphy.  Here are the full rosters for all eight participants this season:

Buffalo Sabres roster
Carolina Hurricanes roster
Columbus Blue Jackets roster
Dallas Stars roster
Detroit Red Wings roster
Minnesota Wild roster
New York Rangers roster
St. Louis Blues roster

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.