Dustin Byfuglien, Nik Antropov

Jets have no problems with Byfuglien’s conditioning

It hasn’t exactly been a great offseason for Dustin Byfuglien in the media this year. He’s still awaiting a legal resolution to an August 31 boating while intoxicated charge—which under most circumstances would be enough to ruin a summer. But many will remember that just as the legal charge made big headlines, it was Big Buff’s weight that was the big surprise. Here’s where he’s at: he played at 245 lbs last year; he’s currently listed at 265 lbs; he tipped the scales on the night of his arrest at 286 lbs.
Needless to say, there were some question marks as Byfuglien appeared for his first day of Jets’ training camp today. Not surprisingly, the defenseman took the questions head-on like they were an opposing forward:

“My weight’s always going to be the same. I have no problem with my weight. They’re (the Jets) obviously happy with my weight, I just got done (his physical).”

Then again, would you tell a 6’5” man, who weighs 286 lbs and is known for his strength that he’s overweight? No thank you.

More significant that Byfuglien’s comments were the remarks from the rest of the people within the organization. To a man, none of his coaches or teammates had anything negative to say about his conditioning—or anything else relating to Byfuglien. His new head coach, Claude Noel, said that he “looked great.” Teammate Mark Stuart explained that Byfuglien will always be a big guy if he wants to remain effective because of the style of game he plays.

The most telling comments came from Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd. This is his third city with the talented blueliner and he has a good grasp on Byfuglien, his conditioning, and the media’s response. From NHL.com:

“I think it’s something people have liked to talk about since he was in Chicago,” Ladd said. “He looks the same to me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with Buff, fitness-wise.

“You look at him and maybe think one thing, but you see him on the ice and see what he does at his size, and the speed that he has and what he can do, and it has never been a problem for me. He looks good, and once he gets on the ice, you’ll see what he can do.”

For anyone who has ever been a member of a team, it’s good to see his teammates have his back. The next step will be for Byfuglien to prove them right on the ice. No one is going to remember any of the positive comments on the first day of training camp if he looks sluggish throughout the preseason.

There’s no questioning that Byfuglien is a big guy who plays a physical style of game. He’s naturally big—which works because of his style of play that has made him an effective NHL player. But as people in Chicago will tell you, Byfuglien’s biggest challenges (and periods of inconsistency) occurred when he was the most overweight. He’ll need to find the healthy balance between big player who has a towering physical presence and the guy who isn’t in shape to play at the NHL level.

He says he’s fine. His team says that he’s fine. We’ll find out when the team steps onto the ice and he shows what he can do. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. No pun intended.

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.