Dallas Stars

Columnist: Dallas Stars are like the Texas Rangers

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There’s an interesting piece from Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News (sorry, subscription only) about the similarities between the red-hot Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers, who will face St. Louis in Game 6 of the World Series this evening.

With the state of Texas wrapped up in Ranger-mania, it’s not surprising the local hockey team has followed suit.

Stars defenseman Mark Fistric is a regular visitor to Rangers Ballpark (usually spotted wearing his Josh Hamilton jersey) and head coach Glen Gulutzan is an admitted fan of Ron Washington’s.

So when Heika suggests the hockey team somewhat mirrors the baseball team — albeit during Dallas’ recent 2-1 shootout win over Phoenix — it’s intriguing.

If a young team wanted to shape itself in the image of another organization, the Texas Rangers wouldn’t be a bad role model.

After all, a deep lineup that mixes youth and experience seems like a good idea. So does a coach who connects with his players and builds chemistry. The result can be a squad on which any player can be a hero on any given night.

That’s kind of what happened with the Stars on Tuesday. Led by new coach Glen Gulutzan and an interesting group of players tossed together by general manager Joe Nieuwendyk in the off-season, Dallas showed in a 2-1 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes that it has playmakers throughout the lineup.

How about Adam Burish, for example? The gritty, energetic forward had been moved to the fourth line in recent games and watched as his role was reduced slightly. But when the team needed a jolt in the third period, Gulutzan moved him up to the top line with Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow, and he produced, scoring the tying goal with 1:01 remaining in regulation.

You could almost say he played the David Murphy role, a regular contributor stepping up when called upon to do just a little more.

The piece goes on to compare several other:

— Trevor Daley is Mitch Moreland (both unlikely heroes — Daley scored the shootout winner against Phoenix, Moreland homered out of the No. 9 slot.)

— Michael Ryder is Michael Young (both were bumped down the lineup.)

— Jamie Benn is Ian Kinsler (both provided consistent defense.)

— Sheldon Souray is Mike Napoli (both recently-acquired fan favorites.)

— Kari Lehtonen is the bullpen (both close the door.)

Heika also points out that Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk and Rangers GM Jon Daniels both went to Cornell. And remember when Nolan Ryan dummied Robin Ventura? That was straight out of a hockey brawl. OMG, THE SIMILARITIES ARE UNCANNY.

The Stars deserve a lot of credit for even being in this type of conversation. For starters, they’re bankrupt. They have the league’s lowest payroll and a head coach nobody’s ever heard of. After losing Brad Richards, their big free agent signings were a guy that had been in the AHL for a year (Souray) and Boston’s resident whipping boy (Ryder). Everybody figured they’d be a bottom-five team in the West — yet here they sit, tied with Washington for the second-most points in the NHL.

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.